Baldwin’s new coach Dana Brown seeks out multi-sport athletes
Wednesday, August 9, 2023 | 12:01 AM
Dana Brown knows the task he and his staff face.
Baldwin’s first-year head coach takes over a program that’s coming off a 1-9 season and was 0-5 in the Allegheny Six Conference.
The Highlanders were outscored 420-148 last year and haven’t reached the playoffs since 2019.
Brown replaced Tim Sweeney, who went 5-20 in three seasons as Baldwin coach, and he has a game plan in place.
“To change the culture, make football a priority,” Brown said. “Reach those kids that are on the border of playing, have them understand that the best decision they can make is to be a multi-sport athlete.
“We also have to put in the extra work to make sure our kids are staying in our district and not transferring out.”
Brown works as an assistant athletic director at McKeesport. He was hired at Baldwin on Feb. 1.
“It’s all part of God’s plan,” Brown said. “For the first month (after being hired), I was kind of like a kid in a candy store. Super excited, couldn’t sleep, pressuring myself on things that I shouldn’t have. I had to take a step back and realize this is something that I’ve been preparing for all my life.”
Brown has a legion of assistants to help in this journey, including his dad, Dana Brown Sr., and Jawan Bryant, the Fighting Highlanders’ new offensive and defensive coordinators.
Rounding out the staff are Chris Reilsono (RB), Jared Dumm (WR), Nelton Neal (OL), Jon Moniger (assistant OL), Steve Lloyd (offensive assistant), Jimmy Canello (LB), Lee Barlow (DL), Juan Butler (special teams coordinator/DB), Khalil Perdue (defensive assistant) and Tymar Sutton (QB, LB).
And Brown’s basic coaching philosophy?
“Simply put, it is to create and nurture an environment where athletes can learn and grow holistically,” Brown said, “not just on the field, but as young men, as well.
“To go out there and compete for four quarters, with the capability to compete for an additional four. Do this every game and the rest will take care of itself.”
Baldwin’s returning starters are seniors Andrew Sharp (RB/LB), John Kozar (QB/DB), Keith Mincin (RB/LB), Tyler Carter (OL/DL) and Evan Gude (WR/DB), along with juniors Cenzo Pacella (OL/DL) and Jaden Duttine (WR/DB).
The 5-foot-10, 200-pound Sharp was a first-team all-conference selection last season at the running back position. He is a third-year starter and former varsity wrestler.
“My expectation is to have a winning season and open up some eyes about Baldwin,” Sharp said. “Baldwin (football) is different this year. We have great team chemistry.”
Sharp rushed for almost 800 yards and nine touchdowns last season. He averaged 79.4 yards on the ground per game and averaged 5.8 yards per carry.
Sharp led the squad in all-purpose yardage with 794 rushing, 107 receiving, 318 on kickoff returns and 3 on an interception return, giving him 1,222 yards on the season.
He hopes to eclipse 1,000 yards on the ground this fall.
“With our new head coach, a lot of this offseason has been learning the new playbook,” Sharp said.
Kozar (5-10, 170), who also participates in track and CYO basketball, agreed.
“Our new coaching staff has given us so many opportunities,” he said, “and I strongly believe this team will surprise a lot of people. We have been working on our pass game and have improved a lot because we have been playing in a lot of 7-on-7s against other teams. We also are in good shape because we condition a lot.
“I think the strength of this team is our senior class because we have a lot of experience. My expectations for the team this year are to win a lot of games and make the playoffs.”
Other players expected to make major contributions for the Fighting Highlanders in 2023 include sophomores Nico Macurek (QB/DB) and Vince Broccoli (TE/DL), junior Dom Brown (TE/LB) and freshman prospect Landon Frantz (OL/DL).
“Nico Macurek will compete for the starting quarterback job,” said Brown, who at age 32 is one of the WPIAL’s younger big-school coaches.
Brown was an all-conference defensive lineman for McKeesport and played in the Big 33 Football Classic in 2009. After continuing his career at Kent State, he worked as a volunteer assistant with the Tigers for a few years before officially joining the staff in 2017 as a defensive line coach.
“I’m excited for the opportunity,” Brown said. “I know I’ll be one of the youngest coaches. That’s an exciting part for me, because I’m a competitor.”
Coach: Dana Brown
2022 record: 1-9, 0-5 in Class 5A Allegheny Six Conference
All-time record: 339-412-26
Date, Opponent, Time
9.1 at Thomas Jefferson, 7
9.8 Upper St. Clair*, 7
9.15 North Allegheny, 7
9.22 at Bethel Park*, 7
9.29 Peters Township*, 7
10.6 at Canon-McMillan, 7
10.13 at South Fayette*, 7
10.20 Mt. Lebanon, 7
10.27 at Moon*, 7
Passing: John Kozar
56-117, 865 yards, 6 TDs
Rushing: Andrew Sharp
137-794 yards, 9 TDs
Receiving: Keith Mincin
21-303 yards, 5 TDs
• Baldwin’s leading receivers a year ago were Mincin (21 receptions, 303 yards, 5 TDs), Davonte Jones (7-161, 1 TD), Gude (11-151), Sharp (9-107) and Duttine (11-97, 1 TD). Mincin, Jones, Gude and Sharp are seniors this season; Duttine is a junior.
• Defensively, Mincin finished with a team-high 62 total tackles, including 51 unassisted, along with 14.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions with 108 yards in returns, and one fumble recovery. Sharp, Joe Carr, Kozar and Duttine were next in line in tackles.
• Last year’s team members continuing their football careers at the next level include Victor Iaquinta (Mercyhurst), Logan Murphy (Cal (Pa.)), Bobby Benton (Grove City) and Brady Hartman (Saint Vincent). All four are linemen.
• The Fighting Highlanders accounted for 21 touchdowns last season; opponents scored 59 TDs.
Staff writer Chris Harlan contributed.
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