New coach brings enthusiasm, swagger to Monessen football program

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Saturday, July 18, 2020 | 3:52 PM


Poised to lift the Monessen football program back to prominence, new coach Shane Swope is bringing the strength of a construction worker, the tact of an architect and the touch of an artist to a program in need.

“There is no reason we can’t be up there with the likes of Clairton and Jeannette,” Swope said. “We need to get our work ethic back. We have the athletes. We want to get people back in here to see us play.”

Monessen has a proud tradition of winning football. It is one of just 11 WPIAL programs with more than 600 wins (668). But roster numbers have trended downward in recent years with the team ending last season with 13 players — six of them seniors.

Alum Mikey Blainefield, a former standout who played at Georgetown, resigned as coach after three seasons.

The team went 7-3 two years ago and nearly knocked off Jeannette in the WPIAL Class A quarterfinals. The Greyhounds were surprisingly competitive last season (4-6), all things considered.

But perception shifted around the program, which has just two winning seasons since 2013. Rumors swirled there might not be a team in 2020.

Swope, who had just four years of assistant coaching experience under mentor Scott Wood at Yough, his alma mater, decided to make a run at his first head-coaching gig.

Initially, he was going to take the offensive coordinator position at Carmichaels but was drawn to the Monessen opening.

“I’m all in,” said Swope, who is moving his family into the school district. “When I was hired, I started calling kids and went door to door with teachers when they were delivering lunches. I was looking for football players.”

Swope did not fear the low numbers. He embraced the challenge.

His commitment is evident in a 27-player turnout in summer workouts and a renovation of the team’s locker room at Memorial Stadium.

Cosmetics are also a big part of the change Swope craves.

With help from family members and his assistants, Swope pounded nails and painted walls to reboot an otherwise dingy space.

“When the kids saw it, they were blown away,” Swope said. “It looked like it was built in 1982 and hadn’t changed since. It needed a little TLC.”

Swope, who can do more than draw up plays, painted two murals on the walls, one with a large greyhound and another with the word “family” in calligraphy.

The numbers 15062, Monessen’s zip code, also appear on the wall, with a king’s crown over the first digit.

“It’s been good working with him for so many months so far,” senior running back and linebacker Isaiah Beltram said. “He’s going into depth with his offense and defense. He’s got a good coaching staff with him. The new locker room is fire.”

Swope credits Wood for his fervor to become a head coach.

“I owe everything to Scott,” Swope said. “He prepared me for more than just the coaching side. I felt like I was ready to branch out.”

Wood said Swope was the only coach on his staff for four seasons. Wood was not retained at Yough this year.

“He has a ton of energy, and he was always willing to learn,” Wood said. “The kids at Monessen will benefit from him.”

Coaches and players across the state hope there is going to be a season with the covid-19 pandemic still beating loudly, but the PIAA announced last week the plan is to “stay the course” and play fall sports on schedule.

Refreshed Monessen can’t wait to take the field.

The team will wear white pants, another change, and a sleek new helmet has a Greyhound logo with a stripe down the middle in a dog-chain pattern.

The zip code also is emblazoned in the helmet.

Swope obviously is out for a chain reaction.

“We’re also going to have a turnover chain and a title belt for our offensive and defensive MVPs each week,” Swope said. “The kids are excited. They have been giving 100% since Day 1 on every rep. I haven’t been around a team that has done that.”

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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