McGuffey looks to get swagger back after up-and-down year

Sunday, August 21, 2022 | 12:01 PM

Ed Dalton hasn’t lost his swagger. Or, so it seems.

The veteran McGuffey coach appears as enthusiastic as ever as he enters his 34th season as a high school football coach. But, coming off his first losing season in 10 years at McGuffey, Dalton minces no words.

“We are embarassed by our performance last season,” he wrote prior to the start of the annual heat acclimation week for high school teams in early August

Later, Dalton lamented the Hilltoppers’ slow start to 2021, when they rallied to a 5-5 regular-season record and qualified for the WPIAL playoffs for an eighth consecutive time.

“We played poorly at the beginning of the year and kind of lost our swagger,” he said. “We’d been used to winning seven, eight, nine games a year. It was tough to take.”

McGuffey closed with a 5-6 record following a 41-2 drubbing from Laurel in a Class 2A first-round game.

But, McGuffey loses just two starters from a team that might best be described as a “nevertheless-another-playoff-team,” and Dalton is somewhat encouraged by his current roster.

A majority of players return and there are 13 freshman on board. McGuffey enters the year with 10 returning starters each on offense and defense.

“We have some teancious linemen,” Dalton said. “Our whole backfield is back. We have a spare almost everywhere … not sure you want to play every spare.”

He also is encouraged by the offseason workouts.

“We’ve done good in the summer,” he said.

It’s been a juicy few weeks at McGuffey since high school teams hit the field in early August. Dalton’s good-natured chirping has his players’ attention, it seems.

“We have an opportunity to compete at the highest level,” was one remark early on.

It got better:

• “Our (conference) will be better this season. Our (nonconference) schedule is challenging. It might be the best in Class 2A.”

• “We think we can compete with anyone.”

• “We were within one play of sharing the conference title.”

About that returning backfield?

“The totality of our backfield could be awesome,” Dalton said.

Senior quarterback Phillip McCuen returns to run McGuffey’s triple-option offense, which also includes running backs Ethan Dietrich, Kyle Brookman and fullback Eric Donnelly, all seniors.

“Phillip McCuen is outstanding running the flexbone,” Dalton said.

Senior Cody McKee, one of those “tenacious” McGuffey linemen to which Dalton was referring, “has a chance to be really good,” he said of the 6-foot-4, 275-pound McKee. “Cody needs to take the next step.”

Sophomore Reno Presto was a starter for McGuffey last season as a freshman. The 6-2 Presto entered camp at 250 pounds, looking to improve on a strong first year.

“Maybe an FCS kid at some point?” Dalton said, suggesting a Division I school is in Presto’s future.

Two more seniors, Travis White and Tristan McAdoo, are expected to be McCuen’s favorite receiving targets.

Dalton, who is also McGuffey’s athletic director, scheduled three Class 3A opponents this season. The Highlanders open their schedule against visiting Southmoreland. Ringgold follows with the a trip to McGuffey before the Highlanders visit Mt. Pleasant.

Dalton previously coached at Mt. Pleasant for two seasons from 1992-93.


Coach: Ed Dalton

2021 record: 5-6, 4-2 in Class 2A Century Conference

All-time record: 292-424-25


Date, Opponent, Time

8.26 Southmoreland, 7

9.2 Ringgold, 7

9.9 at Mt. Pleasant, 7

9.16 Brentwood*, 7

9.23 at Waynesburg*, 7

9.30 Sto-Rox*, 7

10.7 at Charleroi*, 7

10.14 Keystone Oaks*, 7

10.21 South Park, 7

10.28 at Washington*, 7

*Conference game


Passing: Phillip McCuen

30-67, 443 yards, 6 TDs

Rushing: Kyle Brookman

93-741, 12 TDs

Receiving: Jeremiah Johnson*




• Dalton is in his 34th season as a head coach, most of the time with WPIAL schools. Dalton is entering his 11th year at McGuffey, where he’s posted a record of 63-38. Overall, he’s averaged nearly 6½ victories each season with stops at Trinity and Mt. Pleasant, as well as Altoona and Purchase Line in District 6, prior to coming to McGuffey in 2012. His overall coaching mark stands at 208-136-1.

• Dalton is the father of Avonworth athletic director Andrea Patton.

• A total of 16 McGuffey players returning this season were starters in at least one game each last year.

• McGuffey is part of the Century Conference, which has added Brentwood and Sto-Rox from the Three Rivers Conference. Beth-Center, Chartiers-Houston and Frazier all dropped in enrollment classification to Class A and joined other conferences.

Note: Due to publishing scheduling conflicts, the preview for Century Conference team Charleroi will appear on Trib HSSN later this week.

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