George Guido: Rare absence of WPIAL coaches leading NFL teams
Tuesday, February 19, 2019 | 6:10 PM
For the first time since 1966, no coach from a WPIAL high school will be an NFL head coach this coming season.
The last two vacancies were filled earlier this month when the Miami Dolphins hired Patriots assistant Brian Flores and the Cincinnati Bengals brought on Zac Taylor to replace Fort Cherry’s Marvin Lewis.
Lewis was the final NFL coach from a WPIAL school when he was let go by the Bengals after the season. Before that, Bishop Boyle’s Mike McCarthy surprisingly was canned by Green Bay.
The streak began in 1967, when Brentwood’s Joe Schmidt was hired by the Detroit Lions.
That ’85 feeling
It was the first playoff win for the Lancers since defeating Southmoreland, 54-41, in a Class 3A quarterfinal March 2, 1985.
That game was played in a venue that no longer exists: the original Penn Hills High School gym. The building was razed several years ago, and the site is part of the parking lot for the new high school.
I broadcast the game for a TV station that no longer exists: Westmoreland Cable Channel 3.
In that game, Deer Lakes coach Dave Thompson decided at halftime if the Lancers took the lead, the deep-freeze offense would go into effect.
The Scotties had a 24-22 halftime lead. Deer Lakes finally took a 29-27 lead with five minutes left in the third period on a reverse layup by Murray Gibson.
The Lancers held the ball for more than two minutes on their next possession, and senior Brent Bizyak hit a jumper from the corner to make it 31-27. The shot took place two seasons before the 3-point shot came into high school play.
“We took a chance,” Thompson said, recalling the game earlier this week. “I just made up my mind at the half: If and when we got the lead, we were going to hold the ball.”
Southmoreland obliged, sitting back in a zone while Deer Lakes patiently looked for open shots.
“We just ran our continuous weave offense with layups when they were available,” Thompson said. “Little by little, we built the lead to double digits.”
Gibson led the Lancers with 20 points, and Bizyak had 12.
Sophomore Mark Palmer chipped in with 10 points. Palmer, 1987 Alle-Kiski Player of the Year, attended Saturday’s game. He lives in Mt. Lebanon where his son, Mike, is a senior guard with the Blue Devils.
Deer Lakes went on to lose the ’85 semifinals to Ellwood City but qualified for the PIAA playoffs for the first time. It lost its opening-round game against Sharon at Westminster College.
The Lancers girls team had the more memorable season, winning the WPIAL title then going on to win the PIAA title over Palmyra in Hershey.
To date, it’s the only Alle-Kiski Valley girls team to win a PIAA basketball championship.
Thompson is still in the coaching ranks, guiding the Riverview boys junior high squad this past season.
More drought news
With Deer Lakes finally garnering a playoff win, Riverview has the longest local playoff drought.
The Raiders defeated Chartiers-Houston, 54-47, on Feb. 22, 1999 and haven’t won in the postseason since. With some promising players coming up from Thompson’s junior high squad, Riverview has a chance to snap its streak.
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