North/East Xtra: Coach returns for Northgate Part II

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Second chances don't come often for too many people, but for T.J. Wiley, the former -- and new -- football coach at Northgate High School, a second chance is what he believes he has been offered.

Wiley resigned as Northgate's coach in 2012 to take the same job at Deer Lakes. His move followed a 2012 season that saw the Flames miss the playoffs when they lost their final regular-season game to Avonworth, 25-24.

But after a year at Deer Lakes, which saw the Lancers go 0-9, Wiley learned the football job was open at Northgate. He applied for the job and was appointed in February.

"I left Northgate for family opportunities that just didn't pan out," said Wiley, a 34-year-old Shaler resident. "Things changed, and I did miss the relationships and bonds we had when I was there. When the opportunity presented itself, I felt that's where I needed to be.

"I came back because I had never been more fulfilled professionally than when I was at Northgate," he added. "I realized I made a mistake [in leaving Northgate], and there aren't many times you get a second chance."

Right after being appointed as the coach, Wiley went to work on re-establishing a relationship with a team that featured many players he had coached in 2012.

"We had a prior knowledge of some of the returnees when they were younger," he said. "There was familiarity on their side and on our side as I'm bringing the same coaches I had when I was there before. I enjoyed working with the Northgate kids, and I knew the impact we had on their lives."

Wiley said not everyone was happy that he was coming back, but he said numbers have risen as the team has moved into summer workouts with the first game less than two months away against defending WPIAL and PIAA Class A champion Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic on Aug. 29 at the Flames' Alumni Memorial Field.

"The kids know my expectations and what they are getting into," he said. "We hit the ground running in February and we were lifting and doing offseason conditioning three times a week through the winter and the spring.

"We gave them a couple of weeks off, and now we're into summer conditioning and we'll be at some 7-on-7 tournaments this month. So far, we've had a good offseason."

Quarterback Johnny Camello returns for his senior season, and Wiley expects big things out of his 5-foot-10, 160-pound quarterback.

"He came into a game in his freshman year against [Our Lady of the Sacred Heart] when [previous quarterback Jon] Girvin got hurt, and he threw two touchdown passes to win the game. He has played in some big games, and I have complete confidence in him."

Wiley expects leadership, too, from Shane Adams, a 5-11, 165-pound senior two-way lineman, Romello Snyder, a 5-10, 160-pound senior wide receiver, Darion Trimmer, a 5-9, 150-pound senior defensive back and Cam Kozak, a 5-10, 165-pound senior who is expected to see time at receiver, either inside or outside linebacker and serve as the team's place-kicker.

"Kicking was a problem for us two years ago," he said. "We were 5-1 at one point [in 2012], but we couldn't make extra points. This year, we should be able to make extra points."

Wiley's top two assistants will be his father, John, who will be the team's offensive coordinator, and defensive coordinator Hank Marziale. The Flames expect to have a multiple approach out of a spread offense. Defensively, the team will line up in a 4-4. He's confident in both coordinators.

"They've both coached for more than 40 years," he said. "And both were head coaches at one point, so that's a great help to me."

The Flames will compete in the Black Hills Conference, and it's a league that features some new opponents as well as some familiar ones.

"It will be a good conference from top to bottom," he said. "We'll have to be prepared thoroughly and be ready to play."

That includes the opener against the Trojans on Aug. 29.

"We're not going to cower or hide under a rock," he said. "It's a rivalry game, and it will be fun to open with them. I don't need to hype this game to the kids. We're opening with the defending state champs at home. It's a great opportunity for our program."

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