Frank Morea, pillar of Kiski Area football program, dies at age 90

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Friday, August 7, 2020 | 5:00 PM


Richard “Dick” Dilts and Frank Morea were opponents on the football field in high school in the mid 1940s.

Dilts played at Butler, and Morea represented Vandergrift.

“We had a little verbal confrontation on the field one time, and later in college (at Slippery Rock), I heard his voice,” said Dilts, the legendary Kiski Area football head coach for more than three decades.

“I said, ‘I know you. I know that voice.’ We were friends ever since.”

The military veterans and Slippery Rock football teammates later reunited on the football coaching staff when Kiski Area formed in 1962, and they helped the Cavaliers to a stretch of success through the 1960s and into the 1970s.

Morea, whose dedication to coaching, education and community is, to this day, fondly remembered by all who knew him, died Sunday. The Shaler Township resident was 90.

“Before the (1962) season, Frank introduced me to this really good coach, Tony Nicholas,” Dilts said. “I got to liking Tony right away. In the long run, we all coached many years together. Frank, Tony and I were like brothers.

“The players were drawn to Frank. He would challenge the players, and they loved him for it.”

After graduating in 1948 from Vandergrift, where he lettered in football and basketball, Morea entered the Marine Corps and served until 1952. He earned a Purple Heart for wounds suffered during service in the Korean War.

Honorably discharged with the rank of sergeant, Morea excelled on the football team at Slippery Rock and later transferred to Pitt, graduating in 1960.

He returned to Vandergrift to teach and coach football. He recommended the school board hire Dilts as the new Kiski head coach.

Morea became the offensive coordinator in 1964, the same season the Cavaliers went undefeated. However, Kiski faced disappointment that season as it was not able to play for a WPIAL championship. Instead, Aliquippa defeated Monongehela, 7-0, for the WPIAL Class AA title. In those days, only the two surviving undefeated and untied teams with most Gardner Points were selected for a one-game WPIAL final.

“Those coaches turned the program from not winning many games to an undefeated football team in just a couple of years,” said Tony Nicholas, a 1966 Kiski Area graduate and a cousin of Coach Nicholas.

“It was one of the premier programs for a long time, and Coach Morea was a big part of it.”

Frank Morea Jr. recalled all of the Kiski Area football successes his father achieved, all of the wins and championships, but he also saw things from a different perspective.

Frank and Elinore Morea were married 51 years until her death in November 2007.

“My mother was incredibly supportive of everything my father did,” Frank Jr. said. “My father was willing to live in Shaler Township because my mother’s parents and family lived there, and she didn’t want to move away from there. He was all right with that. He made the round trip in the days before Route 28 was completely built. It was really a trade-off of love between the two of them. It was a team effort, and watching that really impacted my life.”

Kiski Area compiled a 67-6 record from 1967-72, including a WPIAL title in 1971.

Danny Albert, an offensive tackle for Kiski Area who graduated in 1971, played on the 1970 Cavaliers team in the WPIAL Class AAA title game against Mt. Lebanon. It was the first WPIAL championship game contested at Three Rivers Stadium, which opened earlier that year.

“Coach Morea was one of those guys who motivated you, and you wanted to perform for him,” Albert said.

Albert recalled the times when Morea would use a chain wrapped in athletic tape to help get the offensive backs to power up into the hole on running plays in practice.

“He would whack them on the butt with it as soon as the play got started,” Albert said. “You knew that if you didn’t get up in that hole, you would feel it. Of course, everyone wore tailbone pads and were protected, but you still didn’t want to get hit.”

In addition to his tenure as an assistant football coach, Morea taught a wide array of school subjects from his time at Vandergrift through his retirement in 1985. It wasn’t just football that stoked Morea’s passion for Kiski Area as he also served as an assistant athletic director.

“Coach Morea was a character. He pushed you every day, and games were like a day off because practices were so hard,” said Tim Toy, a 1978 Kiski graduate and offensive lineman for the Cavaliers.

Toy’s grandfather, Joe Bucci, was on the school board that helped assemble the first Kiski Area football coaching staff with Dilts, Morea and the elder Nicholas leading the way.

“He was a man of integrity. You became mentally tough as well as physically tough under his tutelage. Much of what I got from my experiences at Kiski and with Kiski football has been what’s helped me move forward and move on with the things I’ve needed to do in my own life.”

Morea was honored in 2011 for his contributions to Kiski Area and Cavaliers athletics with induction into the Kiski Area Sports Hall of Fame.

“I had the pleasure of serving on the hall-of-fame committee with him, and when we considered him to be inducted, he threatened to turn it down,” Albert said. “But we told him that if anybody deserves to be in this hall of fame, it was him. He finally did accept. It was great and well deserved. It was a wonderful evening.”

In recent years, Morea still enjoyed returning to the Vandergrift area to visit friends and soak in the local atmosphere. Albert enjoyed hosting Morea at his shop, Tees-N-Tops in Vandergrift.

“He would come in, probably up until about a year ago, and sit in the office and tell stories,” Albert said. “He loved to come to Vandergrift and shoot the breeze.

“He has always been a true Cavalier, and he loved to follow the current teams as much as possible. He bled blue and gold, no doubt about it.”

Sam Albert, hired as football coach at Kiski Area in 2017, said he grew up idolizing Coach Morea and Coach Dilts.

“They were years ahead of their time with their fitness and weightlifting programs and their concepts on football,” said Sam Albert, an Apollo-Ridge graduate whose family originally hails from Vandergrift.

“If you ask anybody, they’ll tell you Coach Morea was one of the toughest guys you’ll ever meet and the teams were so physical.”

“Every time I talked to him, he’d beat me up for 10 minutes. He would forearm me and punch me in the arm, in a good-natured way, all the while he was talking to me. He would often give me football philosophies, and I listened closely to everything he said.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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