Former OLSH coach brings positivity, focus on fundamentals to Ellwood City

Saturday, August 20, 2022 | 12:01 PM

Looking to turn its program around after three consecutive winless seasons, it’s hard to imagine Ellwood City could have found a coach more suited for the job than Dan Bradley.

In 2015, Bradley took over an Our Lady of the Sacred Heart program that was coming off an 0-9 season.

In his first year at the helm, the Chargers went 7-3 and made the playoffs. During Bradley’s six seasons at OLSH, the team never had a losing record, went 49-19 overall, won a WPIAL championship in 2018 and reached the WPIAL finals last year.

Now that’s a 180.

But don’t look for Bradley to write a how-to manual — or even a how-to pamphlet — outlining his methods for resurrecting high school football programs.

There’s no magical secret to his success.

Philosophically, Bradley just wants to bring a dose of positivity.

“I think the first priority is to just let them know that things are OK. It’s not as bad as it seems,” Bradley said. “From day one, the kids have shown up and worked really hard. You would never guess being in that locker room or weight room that they haven’t won a game in three years. They definitely don’t work like an 0-25 team. They work their butts off, and we’re going to win some games.”

With X’s and O’s, Bradley wants to focus on fundamentals.

“A lot of teams run similar plays. It’s just who executes,” he said. “We want to have a general understanding of what we’re trying to do offensively and defensively, be disciplined in our technique, our reads, defensively our coverages, and just take one step forward at a time.”

Bradley feels he has a core group of returning players who can help the team move forward.

Most notably, he’ll lean on a pair of physical seniors on both sides of the ball — linebacker/receiver Brighton Mariacher and defensive end/tight end Aaron Hobel.

Bradley said roster numbers are good — in the 40s — but that includes a preponderance of freshmen and sophomores. A large group of young athletes that includes Declan Gray, Luciano Gagric, Elijah Palmer-McCane and Maddox Singer will be counted on to make plays.

Bradley said he left OLSH for Ellwood City after last season because he was looking for new challenges, and it was time for a change.

The hiring of a veteran coach with Bradley’s track record shows one thing for sure: Ellwood City is committed to its football program, and that includes the installation of turf at Helling Stadium.

“I think they’re committed to football. I think they’re committed to athletics in general,” Bradley said. “The basketball team won the WPIAL two years ago. The baseball team has been solid. Girls teams are outstanding. It’s football’s turn to step up to the plate.

“We’ve made some changes to the locker room. We’ve got turf field being installed. I couldn’t ask for more from an administrative standpoint, the support I’ve gotten from the principal, the athletic director, the superintendent, the school board. It’s been outstanding.”

Ellwood City

Coach: Dan Bradley

2021 record: 0-8, 0-7 in Class 2A Midwestern Athletic Conference

All-time record: 430-573-44


Date, Opponent, Time

8.26 at Brentwood, 7

9.2 at Union, 7

9.9 Carlynton, 7

9.16 at Freedom*, 7:30

9.23 Western Beaver*, 7

9.30 at Mohawk*, 7

10.7 at New Brighton*, 7

10.14 Beaver Falls*, 7

10.21 at Neshannock*, 7

10.28 Riverside*, 7

*Conference game


Passing: Declan Gray

15-28, 171 yards, 3 INTs

Rushing: Zach Gatto*

74-191, 2 TDs

Receiving: Peyton O’Brien*




• Ellwood City’s last win was the final game of the 2018 season, a 34-26 victory over Brentwood.

• Coach Dan Bradley’s career record is 80-33. He coached at Sto-Rox and Ambridge before moving to OLSH in 2015.

• Ellwood City is closing in on the 100th anniversary of the school’s lone WPIAL football championship. In 1925, the team went undefeated and unscored upon. Ellwood City’s first football season was in 1907.

• Among active WPIAL teams, Norwin is the all-time leader in losses with 588. Ellwood City is second with 573.

Jonathan Bombulie is the TribLive assistant sports editor. A Greensburg native, he was a hockey reporter for two decades, covering the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for 17 seasons before joining the Trib in 2015 and covering the Penguins for four seasons, including Stanley Cup championships in 2016-17. He can be reached at

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