Former PIAA football championship coaches offer advice to Penn-Trafford’s Ruane

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Tuesday, December 7, 2021 | 8:30 PM


As John Ruane prepares his football team for Friday’s PIAA Class 5A championship game against Imhotep Charter, the veteran Penn-Trafford coach has many things to worry about.

But former Franklin Regional coach Greg Botta and former Jeannette coach Roy Hall offered this suggestion: Make sure you enjoy the atmosphere leading up to and during the game.

“It might be a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” Hall said. “You have to take it all in. But it can be a lot of fun and rewarding.”

Botta and Hall would know. Both returned home from Hershey with PIAA titles.

Botta led Franklin Regional to the 2005 Class 3A title with a victory over Pottsville. Hall led Jayhawks to the Class A title in 2017, when they defeated Homer-Center. Hall also experienced the other side in 2020, when the Jayhawks lost to Steelton Highspire

Hall was an assist coach in 2006 when the Jayhawks lost to Wilson and in 2007 when they thumped Dunmore.

“We went out the night before,” Hall said. “We had a team meeting, a dinner and got the kids to bed early. The only worry was that most of our fans stayed at the same hotel. So that was a little bit of a distraction.”

Ruane said he’s taking his team out Friday morning. The team will stay overnight after the game and return home on Saturday.

Franklin Regional, despite numerous injuries, found a way to win its state title. Botta said the team was very focused and confident.

“I know John has everything handled,” Botta said. “He’s a great coach, and he has a tremendous staff. They’ll be ready to play. He has everything running on all cylinders.

“I know we didn’t do any hitting that week. It was all preparation and walkthroughs. You’ll work on what you feel will work the best and attack their opponent’s weakness.”

Botta said the biggest thing as a coach is to deflect all the distractions away from the players.

He also said: “I truly believe that football in Western Pennsylvania is better. You have to keep your players focused on the prize. I’ve seen them play few times, and John has them focused.

“You’re on a mission. He has a talented group, and they play well together.”

Ruane said only one coach on his staff, Dan Tarabrella, has coached in the state championship. So he was able to ask Tarabrella how McKeesport handled things.

Ruane said this will be a normal week for the team. The only difference is it will be the final week of the season, no matter what happens.

“We’re not going to shy away from the situation,” Ruane said. “We know how big of a deal it is and the environment that comes with it. As far as what we do, we’re not changing our practice plans or our routine.

“I don’t think we need to. I don’t think it will benefit us to do anything different than what we’ve been doing. We’re going to do what we’ve done all year except watch a little extra film.”

Paul Schofield is a TribLive reporter covering high school and college sports and local golf. He joined the Trib in 1995 after spending 15 years at the Daily Courier in Connellsville, where he served as sports editor for 14 years. He can be reached at pschofield@triblive.com.

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