East Allegheny hoping to deliver 7th straight playoff berth
Wednesday, August 17, 2022 | 12:01 PM
Want a pizza? Dom can make it for you. How about a winning football team? Well, you’ve come to the right place. More times than not, East Allegheny has come away a winner since coach Dominic Pecora’s arrival in 2013.
Pecora and his Wildcats are angling for the WPIAL playoffs for a seventh season in a row.
Last year’s 6-6 mark was a .500 season for East Allegheny, but another trip to the playoffs helped to make things better.
“The thing we’re most proud of is we’ve been on a run to make the playoffs. It’s a big accomplishment for us to have built a program,” said Pecora, who through it all, has found time since its opening in 2009 to operate Dom’s Pizzeria and Sports Bar in Trafford.
Even during the football seasons, Pecora successfully has balanced his business dealings with his gridiron duties. Because of it, he certainly seems to be in perpetual motion.
One recent day, Pecora was juggling, oh, about a hundred million things. At one point, he was headed to the store for an order when his cell phone rang.
It was a reporter in need of East Allegheny’s 2022 team roster.
“Don’t have it yet. Not sure who’s where, who’s what,” Pecora responded, his full-throttle nature on full display. “Won’t have it until next week.”
In a flash, he was smoothing-over the ordeal with a synopsis of his thoughts on the upcoming season, and they included predicting his starting lineup.
“We have a very young team,” he said in stride. “I had a senior class last year that a lot of them were multiple-year starters. We definitely lost a lot. I still think we’re going to be OK.”
Pecora stopped long enough to catch his breath.
“I promise you,” he shot back, “the effort will be there. We have a program and not just a team. This group of kids knows there’s a tradition and they don’t want to be the ones to break it up.”
So it goes in the world of Dom Pecora, the restaurateur/high school football coach. The assembly line of seemingly nonstop chores makes up Pecora’s daily routine. His employees must follow along as do his players.
While East Allegheny is just 2-6 in playoff games under Pecora’s leadership, there’s that latest first-round victory last season against Southmoreland, the school where he coached before coming to East Allegheny.
But there’s no mistaking the disappointment in East Allegheny’s lopsided loss to eventual champion Central Valley in the WPIAL Class 3A quarterfinals. It is a reminder that Pecora’s work doesn’t end.
“We’re the makeup of a Double-A team playing in Triple-A,” he said. “That’s our challenge, physically and numerically. We were one of the smaller 3A teams last year.”
At least three players especially will be hard to replace, Pecora said, noting that wide receiver Mike Smith and linebacker Robert Washington have moved on to Division II Cal (Pa.), while defensive lineman Mekai Mitchell is at Division II Bluefield State.
East Allegheny could possibly win some games with sound play in the trenches if Pecora’s inclination is accurate.
“We’ve got a shot to have a better O-line than we’ve had in a long time,” he said. “Our line has been a thorn in our side. That’s hurt us. This year, we’ve got a shot to be better than we’ve been in a while.”
The core of the group consists of seniors Ryan Corbett and Rick Nazur and junior Justin Snyder.
Junior Mike Cahill moves to quarterback from wide receiver, where he was an all-conference selection last year. Cahill also has experience on defense at linebacker and safety.
“I’m hoping it will be a seamless transition,” Pecora said. “He’s new to the position, but he’s not new to being a starter.”
According to Pecora, he’s been expecting a committee of running backs to share the workload, a group made up of seniors Willie Banks and Dan Dorsey and sophomore Kamron Marshall.
A quartet of wide receivers could share much of the time, according to Pecora, who lists 6-foot-4, 205-pound senior Tre Jeter, fellow seniors Brayden Morrison and Nate Waleko and junior Brennan Rutledge as top-tier candidates.
Of course, Pecora was hoping that his promising offensive line will do its job precisely.
“The offense in general has to really step it up,” he said. “And you’ve got to hope the defense can have some pride. It’s going to be almost impossible to be as good there as our defense has been in the past couple of years. You’ve just got to hope the defense can have some pride.”
East Allegheny’s scoring defense of 17.6 points per game in 2021 ranked third in the Allegheny Seven (now Allegheny Six) Conference and sixth in the WPIAL in Class 3A.
Despite who he referred to as “the two best linebackers” he’s coached — Mitchell and Mekhi Manor were seniors last season — Pecora has high hopes for his linebacking candidates this year.
He’s been figuring the position to be the core of the East Allegheny defense, led by Waleko, Morrison and two other seniors, Calen Mills and Jaiquan Faulk.
“Linebacker has been dominant for us the last couple of years,” Pecora said.
On the defensive line, Pecora was expecting Corbett, Jeter, Mazur and Snyder to fill the spots, while in the secondary, it’s likely to look like Banks, Cahill, Dorsey and perhaps freshman Prince Tarrant could see the most time.
“We have a little bit of size, so I’m anxious to see what transpires,” said a determined Pecora with one eye on the team and the other on his business. “All in all, we’re trying to keep a tradition going.”
Coach: Dom Pecora
2021 record: 6-6, 3-3 in Class 3A Allegheny Seven Conference
All-time record: 322-255-23
Date, Opponent, Time
8.26 South Park, 7
9.2 at Jeannette, 7
9.9 Elizabeth Forward, 7
9.16 South Allegheny, 7
9.23 Greensburg Salem, 7
9.30 Valley*, 7
10.7 at Freeport*, 7
10.14 at Deer Lakes*, 7
10.21 Knoch*, 7
10.28 at Shady Side Academy*, 7
Passing: Michael Smith*
50-88, 893 yards, 13 TDs
Rushing: Michael Smith*
36-180, 3 TDs
Receiving: Prashaun Gainer*
34-451, 5 TDs
• East Allegheny last season captured its first road playoff victory in school history, beating Southmoreland, 36-11, in a WPIAL Class 3A first-round game.
• The Wildcats were eliminated in the quarterfinals, 41-0, by Central Valley, which went on to win WPIAL and PIAA Class 3A championships.
• East Allegheny has won at least five games in each of the past six seasons, including seven on three occasions (2016, ‘17 and ‘19).
• Five nonconference games, beginning Aug. 26 at home against South Park, kick off the East Allegheny schedule before the Wildcats start Allegheny Six (formerly Allegheny Seven) Conference play on Sept. 30 against visiting Valley.
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