South/West Xtra: Loebig takes over as Char Valley coach
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Niel Loebig knew all about the Chartiers Valley High School football team's reputation when he was a record-setting quarterback at South Fayette High at the junction of the 20th and 21st centuries.
"There's always been a great fan base there," said Loebig, who led Duquesne University to four successive MAAC championships from 2001-04 and was the only quarterback in Dukes history to throw for more than 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns per season for four years in a row.
"Success and winning will help [generate fan support]," said Loebig, who comes to Chartiers Valley as coach after serving on coach Jerry Schmidt's staff at Duquesne from 2006 through '10 and again this past season after coaching for one season in 2011 at Lely High School in Naples, Fla.
"We had high expectations at Duquesne, and our expectations will be high at Chartiers Valley," said Loebig, 30, a Collier Township resident. "Our expectations will be high in the way we meet, the way we practice and the way we play. We expect our players to do well in the classroom, on the football field and compete for the [Parkway Conference] championship."
Loebig outlined his plans to his Colts team at a Monday meeting. He will meet with the school's booster organization, people from the Chartiers Valley communities and assistants from the previous staff led by Chris Salgua that finished with an overall record of 2-7 and 1-7 against conference opponents this past season. Saluga coached 12 seasons at Char Valley and was the winningest coach in program history with a 60-61 record.
"I haven't picked a staff, but I'd like to see who would like to work with me," Loebig said. "I've sat down with a few of the assistants, but I also have some ideas about some people I'd like to bring in. I want a diverse group, but I'd like to keep some guys who have been there and actually work in the school."
Loebig works for the family-owned Loebig Contractors. He said he has enough time to be a successful football coach.
"[My family] knows how important this is to me," he said. "I didn't go to Chartiers Valley, but both of my parents did, and so did some of my relatives. This is like coming home for me."
Once Loebig knows his Colts players, he can determine the best plans to use offensively and defensively. Rosters change annually, but according to the 2012 roster, Chartiers Valley had 51 players potentially returning.
Josh LaPiana completed 75 of 183 passes for 1,036 yards and eight touchdowns as a junior. Another junior, Andreo Coury, caught 25 passes for 385 yards and was the second-leading scorer on the Colts team with seven touchdowns.
Both of the team's top rushers last fall, Micahel Boulos and Joe Ragni, are graduating. Ryan O'Connell, however, is slated to return. He rushed 17 times for 126 yards, an average of 7.4 yards per carry, as a junior.
Loebig was willing to share some basic thoughts on his football philosophy.
"I don't know if we'll have a guy who can throw a ball 30 times a game," the coach said. "But we'd like to have a multiple-type, no-huddle offense that is fast-paced. We want them to be able to do what we do best and execute."
Defense will be a huge priority, he said.
"We'll either have a four- or three-man front, depending on our personnel," he said. "We plan to rotate our coverages, and we plan to have a lot of pressure and blitz a lot."
For Loebig, his first priority is to get the bad taste of the 2012 season out of everyone's mouths and focus on restoring the pride that was a big part of Chartiers Valley football in the not-so-distant past.
Under Saluga, the Colts were in the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs for seven successive seasons from 2003 to 2009, reaching the quarterfinals in 2005 and 2007. After missing the 2010 playoffs, Chartiers Valley advanced to the first round of the Class AAA playoffs in 2011.
So "playoffs" and "Chartiers Valley" are not confined to the previous century. Loebig said it's the job of the Colts players and their coaches to make the playoffs an annual goal.
"We have to get them to believe in what we want to accomplish," he said. "This is something that's not going to happen overnight. But we want to be clear in what we're doing and get our message through to them."
For that to happen, Loebig believes, he and his staff must get to know the players and their families.
"I'm not going to be a tyrant," said the coach, who considers Schmidt and former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy his coaching role models. "I worked with coach Schmidt for six years, and he has an offensive mind. I learned from him just how valuable teaching is as a skill.
"As for coach Dungy, I don't know him, but I really look up to him. He wasn't a tyrant, and he never swore in front of his players once. He was a great teacher and a mentor, and that's what you need to be a good football coach."
Belief and trust will go both ways with him and his team, Loebig said.
"It's our job to build relationships with the players," he said. "We're going to meet with them, get to know them and get the community to know them. We plan to work with the community, and I know it won't happen overnight.
"For me, though, this is like hitting the lottery. I get to coach in my hometown, and I couldn't be more excited."
First Published January 31, 2013 12:00 am