Derry names Skillings next football coach

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Thursday, June 4, 2020 | 9:09 PM


Vince Skillings was an all-state running back at Derry from 1974-77.

Now Skillings, 61, returns to his alma mater to coach his beloved Trojans. It’s his first head-coaching job.

Skillings was hired by the Derry Area School District’s school board to replace highly successful coach Tim Sweeney, also a Derry grad. The vote at Thursday’s school board meeting was 7-0.

Sweeney energized a program that went 0-10 and was outscored by more than 50 points per game in 2013.

He was 49-18 in six seasons at Derry. The Trojans reached the WPIAL playoffs the past four seasons, the championship game in 2018 and the semifinals three times.

Skillings hopes to keep the program moving forward.

“I’m glad to be home,” Skillings said addressing the school board. “I thank God for this opportunity, I thank the search committee and I thank the school board for hiring me. I’m proud to be home, so let’s go win the WPIAL.”

Derry athletic director Brett Miller said the board loved Sweeney’s passion for and commitment to the game and his intensity.

“Vince has that same passion for the kids,” Miller said. “He wants them to understand about life after football. He has a defensive mentality.”

Skillings immediately will start building a coaching staff. Miller said he’ll begin with the current staff.

“Vince was the right fit for Derry,” Miller said. “He beat out two coaches that were head coaches in the WPIAL.”

Skillings was a standout defensive back for four seasons at Ohio State before being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the sixth round of the 1981 NFL Draft.

He had 13 career interceptions for the Buckeyes, including six as a sophomore safety, when he was named All-Big Ten.

He earned second-team Big Ten honors as a cornerback in 1979 and ’80. He had three interceptions his junior season and four his senior season.

Skillings said he learned a lot from legendary coach Woody Hayes.

“Many people thought he was a tyrant and out of his mind,” Skillings said. “But he loved his players and loved his community. He’d take us to hospitals to visit the patients, and it was very impactful. The only thing he ever promised me was a degree if I followed their plan.”

A hamstring injury cost him a roster spot with the Cowboys in 1981. He had a tryout with the Buffalo Bills in 1982 before playing eight games over three seasons in the Canadian Football League for the Montreal Alouettes and Montreal Concordes. He also had a tryout with the Los Angeles Raiders in 1984.

But football was in his blood, and he returned to coach at Edinboro, Cal (Pa.), Ligonier Valley, Westerville South (Ohio), West Oaks Academy (Fla.) and most recently at United.

Skillings said he learned a lot from United coach Kevin Marabito and his son Brett.

When the Derry job opened, he talked to Kevin Marabito about the opportunity.

“I didn’t know if I was ready,” Skillings said. “Coach Marabito assured me I was. I was a little surprised that Tim went to Baldwin. If I can, I want to build on what Coach Sweeney established here.

“I feel very confident I can do the job. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at pschofield@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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