HS football position by position breakdown: Scouting the new head coaches
By: Chris Harlan
Thursday, August 23, 2018 | 5:33 PM
Rarely does a high school receive an application from a hall of fame coach with six WPIAL football titles, so Ringgold didn’t hesitate.
The Rams happily hired Mike Zmijanac in April, about two months after Aliquippa’s school board took a surprising vote and replaced him after more than two decades as coach.
Zmijanac takes over a program that finished 3-6 last season and missed the WPIAL Class 4A playoffs. But in three previous seasons, Ringgold went 27-7 and reached the WPIAL semifinals twice.
His hire ranks as the most notable this summer, but a number of schools have changed coaches since last August.
Also new since last summer are Albert Gallatin’s Drew Dindl, Aliquippa’s Mike Warfield, Bishop Canevin’s Chris Lucas, Blackhawk’s Zack Hayward, Brownsville’s Scott Fichter, Burrell’s Shawn Liotta, Butler’s Eric Christy, Charleroi’s Lance Getsy, Deer Lakes’ Tim Burk, Freedom’s Russ Barley, Indiana’s Brandon Overdorff, Northgate’s Mike Fulmore, Quaker Valley’s Ron Balog, Riverview’s Todd Massack, Shenango’s Jimmy Graham, Southmoreland’s Dave Keefer, Sto-Rox’s LaRoi Johnson and Waynesburg’s Chad Coss.
1. Mike Zmijanac
Zmijanac had a 237-36 record with six WPIAL titles and one state championship in 21 seasons at Aliquippa. He led the Quips to the WPIAL finals each of the past 10 seasons before the school board voted to replace him. He replaced Nick Milchovich, who resigned after four seasons.
2. Mike Warfield
Warfield, an Aliquippa graduate and former Quips player, was hired in March to replace Zmijanac. He played quarterback at Catawba College from 1987-91, and was an assistant coach at Central Valley for the past two seasons.
3. Ron Balog
Balog, a former youth coach and Central Catholic assistant, was hired in April to replace interim coach Jerry Veshio. Balog coached Central’s freshman team the past two seasons. He takes over a Quakers team that won WPIAL and PIAA titles last season.
4. LaRoi Johnson
Johnson, a first-time head coach, led a high-scoring attack at Imani Christian last season as offensive coordinator. The Saints averaged more than 40 points and finished as WPIAL Class A runners-up. He replaces Jason Ruscitto, who went 10-29 in four seasons.
5. Shawn Liotta
Liotta traded drives to Albert Gallatin, where he went 3-15 in two seasons, for a job close to home. He’s coached for 19 years, mostly at the high school level, but also had a nine-year stint in arena football. He replaces Dave Bellinotti, who went 8-21 in three seasons.
One to watch
The Royals won’t play WPIAL football this fall, but Wiley was hired in June to reboot the program. He coached the past four seasons at Northgate after stints at Penn-Trafford and Deer Lakes. The football program started in 2012, but didn’t have enough players last year.
Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris at email@example.com or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.