After heartbreaking finish, Thomas, GCC reflect on football season

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Monday, November 29, 2021 | 10:54 AM


A couple of weeks removed from an unthinkable, devastating end to the 2021 football season, Greensburg Central Catholic coach Marko Thomas has had some time to reflect on the heartbreak he and his team went through.

Within a four-day span, the Centurions had to deal with the deaths of two members of the coaching staff.

William “BJ” Farrell, a 41-year-old defensive line coach, died Oct. 31. Just days later, while driving to Farrell’s funeral, offensive line coach Joseph Oslosky, 44, died in a car accident.

“It was just the worst two weeks that you can possibly have as a coach,” said Thomas, who just finished his first season leading the team. “We get the news of one, and then the other one, four days later, on the way to the funeral.

“It’s tough to deal with it one time, but to have it twice in one week, was just unreal.”

Thomas, however, credits the comforting response from all over.

“The school was phenomenal. They had counselors there the next day,” he said. “We have a great group of parents who really support these kids and stepped up and got these kids what they needed.

“Then the districts all throughout (Westmoreland County) and even further. I bet we had 60-70 different districts that reached out and offered condolences, trying to figure out what they can do to help.”

Even still, help is arriving. The football team at Leechburg — a conference rival that topped Greensburg Central just two days before Farrell’s death — offered words of support and raised money to buy gift cards to send to the families of Farrell and Oslosky.

“It’s very touching to see how many people were out there that cared and reached out to try to support these guys,” Thomas said. “It helps with the healing process. It was definitely a tiring week and something I don’t ever want to see again.”

Despite the tragedy of losing two beloved members of the coaching staff, the Centurions players elected to play that Friday, losing to OLSH, 28-8, in the WPIAL Class A first round.

“I think that was their outlet,” Thomas said. “We didn’t do much practicing at all that week and didn’t prepare anywhere near where we would’ve for a regular week. We couldn’t focus on football.

“But the kids wanted to play. They wanted to go out and do right by their coaches. And they fought just the way we expected them to. That whole first half, man, they put everything they had out there and kept that game close.

“I just think that the exhaustion caught up to us. But they can’t look back at that game and say they didn’t give it their all.”

While Greensburg Central Catholic’s season will forever be defined by the shocking way it ended, it was a fairly successful one for the team on the field.

The Centurions finished 6-5, with a 4-3 mark in a tough Eastern Conference. Three of the team’s five losses came by a single score.

“I was proud of how our team played,” Thomas said. “Those games we lost, we kicked ourselves in the butt with a lot of bad penalties. There were a lot of things that we could control that screwed us up a little.”

Thomas was particularly pleased with what he referred to as the “crutch” of the team in the early weeks of the season, its defense.

“I thought our front three really played well,” Thomas said of the unit that allowed just 14 points per game. “They had to take on double teams and take on attention to free up our linebackers, who I thought played pretty well, too. Then our secondary, they didn’t give up too many catches. The guys weren’t afraid to make a play and stick their noses in there.”

Thomas is excited about who will return to the field for his second season. While the team will lose 11 seniors, all of whom were contributors, it does return a healthy crew of current juniors, sophomores and freshmen.

Tyree Turner, a sophomore, passed for 875 yards and eight scores while rushing for 216 more yards and seven more touchdowns. Nate Dlugos, a junior, also spent time at quarterback and was the team’s top receiver, despite playing only three games at wideout. Jaydin Canady, another junior, led the team in rushing despite dealing with an injury.

And while Thomas will be tasked with fortifying the offensive lines, he likes how his team looks heading into the offseason.

“We’ve got a lot, skill wise, coming back,” he said. “We can build on that.”

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