Marko Thomas makes quick adjustment to surroundings as GCC’s head coach

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Wednesday, July 14, 2021 | 3:35 PM


Marko Thomas took over the Greensburg Central Catholic football program not quite knowing what to expect. But just the same, he was eager to peel back the curtain.

He has been pleasantly surprised by his fresh surroundings, quickly establishing a connection with his new team.

The coach at Connellsville the past four seasons and an assistant at several other area programs over the years, Thomas had worked only with public school teams in larger classifications, which prompted his curiosity.

His open-mindedness was worth it.

“I knew it would be different, being single-A and everything,” Thomas said. “But things have been great. When I arrived here, everyone was so positive. The kids have been upbeat. They’ve been great. They have bought in.”

His mother, Joanne, graduated from GCC. She recently dug out an old GCC license-plate cover, which has made its way onto Thomas’ vehicle.

“I don’t feel like a stranger to GCC because I have family that went here,” said Thomas, a former star wide receiver at Penn-Trafford and Geneva.

Thomas, 40, replaced Bret Colbert, who was not rehired after two seasons. GCC went 2-5 last season and fell well short of expectations.

With much of the same talent that added value to the team during a covid-plagued 2020 season back, GCC could be a WPIAL contender.

Now that he is much closer to home, Thomas can concentrate more on family and his jobs. He is a sixth grade teacher at Yough, and he and his wife, Kerri, run Early Foundations, Inc., a preschool and day care center in Harrison City.

The business has seen an uptick in attendance in recent months. The Thomases know a little about watching kids. They have three young children — Landon, Jaxon and Nolan — and a fourth boy is due to arrive in October.

“My wife is 1,000 times happier,” Thomas said of his new coaching gig. “Now I am only 18 minutes from work, not 40-some. Oct. 1 should be interesting. It’s going to be C-section on a Friday. We play at Springdale.”

Thomas already has his players creating some competitive electricity. He has them working to be the most accountable player on the team.

The coach keeps standings as players earn points for their contributions to the team — making sure players in their pod get to practice on time, cleaning up equipment or picking each other up during practices. Those are just a few examples.

Winners get team swag.

“I did this at Connellsville,” Thomas said. “It’s a way to bring the guys closer. We have kids here from Penn-Trafford, Jeannette, Monessen, all over the place. … They are getting to know each other better. They are supporting each other.”

GCC looks to have talent and depth at receiver and defensive back but how the group meshes will decide how successful it can be.

The players have taken to Thomas.

“We love him. He brings more energy every day,” senior receiver and linebacker Joe Blahovec said. “He really enjoys his job. He doesn’t do it because he has to.”

Thomas gained three transfers from rival Jeannette, all of whom are expected to play key roles for the Centurions: juniors Ryan Kimmel and Jaydin Canady and senior Taishaun Jamison.

Jeannette has seen an alarming number of players defect to other schools, a development that could open the door for GCC in the Eastern Conference.

“I haven’t had a single problem with any of those (Jeannette) guys,” Thomas said. “They came in ready to work. They are giving their best and showing they are leaders.”

A staff is complete and ready to work, as well. Leading the defense is Sonny Thomas, a staple in WPIAL football for more than five decades.

Marko’s father, 77, begins his 53rd season.

“I’m a glutton for punishment,” Sonny Thomas said with a smile.

“He says this is his last one,” Marko Thomas said. “But he has been saying that for 10 years.”

The other assistants are Tyler Zimmer, a former All-American at Seton Hill, Joe Oslosky, Jade Maher, B.J. Farrell and Gary Tarbuck. Goydich and Tarbuck were assistants at Monessen last year.

Oslosky, a former center, played with Thomas at Penn-Trafford.

Maher and Farrell coached with Thomas at Connellsville.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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