Highlands searches for new football coach after Girardi steps down

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Thursday, March 31, 2022 | 5:28 PM


Dom Girardi stepped down as Highlands football coach Thursday, ending a five-season tenure with the Golden Rams.

Girardi said he came to the decision over the past week and cited changes at home and at work that would take more of his time away from his coaching responsibilities.

“I kept moving forward under the impression that I could continue to make this work,” said Girardi, who stressed all the changes are positive.

“The more I thought about it, the more I realized I wouldn’t be able to give the full commitment that it takes and that the kids deserve. As much as I didn’t want to step away as I have enjoyed my time here at Highlands and loved the kids, I just knew it was the right decision.”

Girardi was hired in April 2017 to fill the position left open by the departure of Sam Albert to Kiski Area.

He compiled a 21-26 record in his five seasons with the Golden Rams. He helped guide the program through the uncertainties of a 2020 season affected by the covid pandemic and led the team to the playoffs last season for the first time since 2015.

Highlands started the 2021 season 4-0, survived a three-game losing skid and clinched a spot in the WPIAL Class 4A tournament with a three-game win streak to close the regular season.

The Golden Rams lost to New Castle, 31-19, in the first round.

Girardi said he takes a plethora of good memories with him, includings working with the kids.

“They bring you life,” he said. “You get as much from them as you hope to give as a coach. That’s especially true when you bring in a young player, a freshman, into the program and watch them grow not only as a football player but become a better student and a person overall. You watch them repeat positive things you say to them. It’s very rewarding to see that you have that impact on them.”

With several key players back from last year’s youthful group, Girardi said he is confident the team will make another strong run in conference play and challenge for a return to the WPIAL postseason.

“They will be a veteran group,” Girardi said. “Last year, we had a lot of young kids with little playing experience. They caught on quick and grew and learned. I couldn’t have asked more from them when it came to that. When I left the kids, I kind of left them with a challenge to not left this change slow them down. I told them that I believe in their abilities and that they can get the job done, no matter who the coach is.”

Girardi said that down the road when the time is right, he could see himself returning to the coaching ranks.

Athletic director Drew Karpen said an internal and external search has begun to find the next Highlands football coach.

“Don meant a ton to the program,” Karpen said. “We’ve improved every year. For him, it wasn’t just about the wins and losses. While those are meaningful, he also was making sure he was doing what was best for each individual student-athlete.

“He’s definitely going to be missed, but I completely understand his decision and support it all the way. I know it didn’t come easy for him. Right now, we just look to move forward to find the best person to lead the football program.”

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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