us losing kids is through
want to see that happen,”
kids we have out are locked
on top of their grades. As
enthusiastic and the kids know
They are earning our trust.”
Monessen was always a big game
he played at Duquesne
coached youth football at
served as a middle school
Allegheny and was a varsity assistant
basketball,” he said of the clashes
they were always some of our
We want Monessen to rise
have done their damage to the
Jeannette and Monessen. Talk of
seasons — or no seasons
the summer began.
believe they can hang in there.
at-a-time thing,” Hall said.
really trying and putting in
to be here. We’re going to
until the end. I know I am not
director Gina Naccarato
during summer workouts show
over last year.
doing the right thing, knocking
trying to get kids to come out,”
problem with the small
or two kids get hurt, you
We’re taking it week by week.”
had to forfeit its last three
could only dress between 11
talking point, with inexperienced
players entering dangerous
one hit away from disaster.
Swope saw a rise in numbers
but watched them dip substantially,
played a part in his departure.
did was go door to door to
here to turn the program
We still have some kids
yet, but they are thinking
kids to be excited to hit the
time the teams have had
and it surely won’t be the
been through the same thing
out on the other side with
optimism for the future.
opponent of Jeannette and
years. The Eagles had around
years back and even resorted
Mapletown, Imani Christian,
Even with a short-handed roster and limited bench on the sidelines, Monessen hopes to see improvements from last year’s 0-7 season.
Springdale, Union and Carrick also have had
problems with teens — not the age of the players,
the total number of players on their teams — in
Vincentian and Cornell dropped programs because
they lacked players, the latter resurfacing
as part of a co-op with Nazareth Prep.
The last few years, Avella has changed
schemes to fit slim personnel and filled gaps
with out-of-position players.
The team rebounded to make the playoffs two
years ago. It lost to Jeannette in the first round,
“It’s a different mindset when you’re playing
the numbers game every year,” Avella coach
Ryan Cecchini said. “We protect our players in
practice. We can’t do a lot of full-contact stuff
because we don’t want to get anyone hurt.
“When you have an injury, you’re shuffling
the deck. I’ve had my backup QB play guard and
my guard move to fullback. It’s sink or swim.”
Avella had just 20 players over the summer, but
Cecchini said a large freshmen class will help.
Mapletown is another program that has battled
low numbers. Avella and Mapletown play each
other twice a year to try to even out the odds.
Like Jeannette, Avella recruited band members
Jeannette already has a half-dozen band
members out this year to fill roster spots. Five of
them never have played the sport before.
Batts half-jokingly said there might be a Bobby
Boucher-type lurking in the pack.
Jeannette’s Nathan Moore is a 6-foot-1,
280-pound lineman — and the drum major.
“Those kids are splitting time between band
camp and (football workouts),” Hall said. “Our
older guys are helping the kids who haven’t
played before. There is a lot of enthusiasm.”
Monessen also has a number of first timers
set to don shoulder pads and take on the rigors
of a season.
The team will be young with only one senior
on the pre-camp roster.
“We have a kid who hasn’t played since eighth
and ninth grade,” Brown said. “But he is working
hard and could be our center. When you have
kids like that, including some who have never
played, that’s the purest form of football. They
don’t have any bad habits. What you teach them
is what they know.
“I love the process. You can’t skip any steps.”
Concussions, AAU/summer basketball and fall
baseball have been used as scapegoats for football’s
declining numbers, as athletes simply have
more to do these days. Not to mention the growth
of the 7-on-7 circuit, which has its advantages too.
Some coaches think the passing workouts help
the game; others think the opposite.
One interesting thing about Brown is he did not
TRIB TOTAL MEDIA • SUNDAY, AUGUST 22, 2021 • 17
JEFF HELSEL | MON VALLEY INDEPENDENT
schedule any 7-on-7 workouts this summer as he
focuses on basics and team bonding.
“Maybe we’ll do that next year,” he said. “I
want to get them to understand real football
Participation is down from the ground floor up
at Jeannette and Monessen.
At the youth levels, both have ordered fewer
uniforms this year because there are fewer players
to wear them.
Jeannette has about 80 kids in its youth program,
and Monessen is down to three teams from
its usual five. One issue is Jeannette players
face a few years of a gap after youth football
because Jeannette doesn’t have a junior high or
That has caused some to play for leagues outside
of the district.
“I just want our kids to compete,” Hall said. “If
we get blown out and they competed and gave
their all, that’s all I can ask. Hey, they tried. I
don’t believe in moral victories, but hey, they
“The thing is this is Jeannette. We could have
12 kids out there, and they’d still expect us to win.
I always wondered about the shoe being on the
other foot. But now it’s on both feet.”
Bill Beckner is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bill at
email@example.com or via Twitter @BillBeckner.