New coach likes South Allegheny’s chances: ‘The talent level is outstanding’

By:
Thursday, August 18, 2022 | 12:01 PM


He earned his chops in “The First State,” but Darwin Manges says he’s back where he belongs.

“I cut my teeth in Delaware. I’m not ashamed of that,” he said.

But Manges insists his foundation in football lies in Western Pennsylvania.

“It’s always going to be here,” said the product of Ringgold, who played on the school’s 1982 WPIAL Class 4A championship team.

South Allegheny’s first-year coach has begun preparing the Gladiators for a chance at back-to-back WPIAL playoff appearances, hoping his more than 20 years of coaching at Delaware powerhouse high schools and two stints as a college assistant at Division III Wesley (Del.) will pay off.

“I’ve been pretty blessed in my career,” Manges said. “I’m excited to be back home, and now, I’m settled in.”

He returned to Pennsylvania in 2019 to take over at Ringgold, his alma mater. After three fruitless seasons with the Rams, however, he’s on the move again, finding himself at another WPIAL post on the outskirts of McKeesport.

While winning games is nothing new for Manges, his Ringgold teams continued the program’s recent struggles, combining for a 6-22 record and extending a string of losing seasons to five.

“It’s a fresh start (at South Allegheny). We’re going to try to catch a run,” he said after taking over the reins from Frank Cortazzo III, whose latest team qualified for the WPIAL Class 3A playoffs despite finishing with a losing record (4-7).

Manges said he thinks South Allegheny’s cupboard is well stocked.

“The talent level is outstanding,” said Manges, whose coaching resume includes a Delaware Class 4A championship game appearance with Dover, which posted an 11-1 record in 2001, losing to Newark, 28-24, in the title game.

“Everyone wanted to see that matchup,” he said. “We were so close to winning it, up by four, but lost it at the end.”

Newark was coached by another Western Pennsylvania product, Elizabeth native Butch Simpson, who in 2015 ended a 39-year career at Newark with 283 victories.

Manges is excited for South Allegheny’s prospects of a breakout year. He’ll be counting on returning players such as 6-foot-2, 214-pound quarterback/linebacker Eric Wehrer and 6-3, 214-pound running back/defensive end Dashawn Carter, a Youngstown State commit.

Both are seniors.

“I’d put Dashawn in the upper echelon of WPIAL players returning this year,” Manges said. “He’s a guy who can really control the line of scrimmage. He’s been a very positive role model, works hard, understands the things he needs to work on. He’s a coachable kid who wants to do better.”

Manges said Wehrer’s work ethic is contagious.

“He works out two to three times a day, a total gym rat,” Manges said. “He can throw the ball all over the yard. He can make throws. He’s a strong, athletic kid. We’ll be calling on him to do a great deal this year.”

Others he singled out are sophomores Camden Lewis (6-2, 210) and Brandon Guest (6-1, 194), a pair of tight ends/linebackers, as well as sophomore running back/safety Cam Epps.

“We have a very strong sophomore class,” Manges said.

Where South Allegheny needs help, he said, is along the lines on both sides. He called the situation “green” with Logan Steiner (5-11, 236) representing the lone returning senior lineman.

“We’ve got some big, strong kids who are hungry to learn,” Manges said, while also mentioning McKeesport transfer Ty Remolds, a 6-4, 210-pound sophomore, as a candidate to anchor the line.

“They’re just not too experienced,” he said. “It’ll be on-the-job training. Hopefully, they’ll get their feet wet early and continue to grow.”

South Allegheny

Coach: Darwin Manges

2021 record: 4-7, 4-2 in Class 3A Interstate Conference

All-time record: 188-350-6

SCHEDULE

Date, Opponent, Time

8.26 at Yough, 7

9.2 Freeport, 7

9.9 at Imani Christian, 7

9.16 at East Allegheny, 7

9.23 Shady Side Academy, 7

9.30 at Belle Vernon*, 7

10.7 Southmoreland*, 7

10.14 at Elizabeth Forward*, 7

10.21 at Mt. Pleasant*, 7

10.28 Greensburg Salem*, 7

*Conference game

STATISTICAL LEADERS

Passing: Eric Wehrer

36-71, 431 yards, 4 TDs

Rushing: Kavan Markwood*

126-678, 10 TDs

Receiving: Kavan Markwood*

14-132, 1 TD

*Graduated

FAST FACTS

• South Allegheny, despite an 0-5 record in nonconference games, last season qualified for the WPIAL playoffs for the first time since 2012. The Gladiators dropped a Class 3A first-round decision to Keystone Oaks, 34-0.

• The Gladiators’ scoring offense (20.3 ppg) in 2021 was nearly even with its scoring defense (21.1).

• First-year South Allegheny coach Darwin Manges, in his final year last season as coach at Ringgold, led his alma mater to a victory over the Gladiators.

• South Allegheny, which remains in the Class 3A Interstate Conference, begins the year with three road games among its first four opponents, all nonconference foes.

Note: Due to publishing scheduling conflicts, the previews for Interstate Conference team Elizabeth Forward will appear on Trib HSSN next week.

More Football

Trib HSSN State High School Football Rankings for Sept. 27, 2022
Trib HSSN Football Team of the Week for 2022 Week 4
This week on Trib HSSN for week of Sept. 26, 2022
Penn Hills heats up behind strong play from offensive, defensive lines
High school roundup for Sept. 24, 2022: Xavier Nelson sets receiving records in Bishop Canevin win