New coach, players looking to keep winning tradition going at Mt. Lebanon

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Monday, August 7, 2023 | 7:44 PM


Editor’s note: Starting today, Trib HSSN will preview one WPIAL conference per day until the start of high school football season Aug. 25.

Two years ago, the Mt. Lebanon football team was on top of the golden mountain.

The Blue Devils had just completed a perfect 15-0 season with the program’s eighth WPIAL championship and first PIAA title.

Now they are starting new.

Legendary coach Bob Palko stepped down as Blue Devils coach after last season, opening the door for Mike Collodi to take over one of the most successful programs in the district.

In eight seasons as head coach at Elizabeth Forward, Collodi built the Warriors into a successful 3A program, qualifying for the WPIAL playoffs his last six years and reaching the district championship game in 2020.

“I started the offseason training with the guys at Mt. Lebanon in mid-March, once I got hired and settled in,” Collodi said. “It was great and the guys worked extremely hard every day. The transition was smooth. Everybody has been very helpful.”

Mt. Lebanon has only four starters back on offense and three on defense.

“I think we are young and inexperienced,” Collodi said. “There were 12 seniors from last year that are moving on to play college football.”

However, don’t mistake youth and inexperience as a code for this being a down year for the Blue Devils.

“These guys are hungry, and it’s their turn,” Collodi said. “Some were part of the 2021 state championship and saw what it took to win.”

Mt. Lebanon returns its leading rusher from last season in senior halfback and linebacker Beckham Dee, an Air Force recruit. Collodi described Dee as big, physical, intelligent and intense.

“My personal expectations include 100 tackles this season and to hopefully be more of an offensive threat this year,” Dee said. “I expect my team to win the WPIAL championship.”

The team’s leading passer from last fall will not be back as junior David Shields — who threw a no-hitter in the WPIAL Class 6A title game — will focus on his baseball career.

The Blue Devils have two returning linemen in senior tackle/defensive end Connor Young, a Navy recruit and a member of the Trib 25 Preseason All-Star team, along with senior guard/defensive end Maddox Metzger.

Two other two-way starters to watch are senior running back/outside linebacker Fred Lasota and junior wide receiver/defensive back Noah Schareli.

“We have been working very hard and looking forward to putting pads on and competing this fall,” Collodi said. “I’m looking forward to this season and the opportunity to lead the Mt. Lebanon Blue Devils.”

Mt. Lebanon

Coach: Mike Collodi

2022 record: 5-6, 2-2 in Class 6A

All-time record: 619-290-30

SCHEDULE

Date, Opponent, Time

8.25, Gateway, 7

9.1, at Bethel Park, 7

9.8, Moon, 7

9.15, Central Catholic*, 7

9.22, at Seneca Valley*, 7

9.29, at Upper St. Clair, 7

10.6, North Allegheny*, 7

10.13, Peters Township, 7

10.20, at Baldwin, 7

10.27, at Canon-McMillan*, 7

*Conference game

STAT LEADERS

Passing: David Shields

93-160, 1,031 yards, 8 TDs

Rushing: Beckham Dee

86-326 yards, 3 TDs

Receiving: Garrett Pavlick*

27-459 yards, 2 TDs

*Graduated

FAST FACTS

• Mt. Lebanon and the WPIAL said goodbye to Bob Palko, one of the most decorated and successful coaches in district football history. He coached at West Allegheny from 1995 to 2018 and at Mt. Lebanon from 2019-22. He won a total of nine WPIAL championships, which is tied for most coaching titles along with Bill Cherpak of Thomas Jefferson. Palko, whose overall coaching record was 248-87, took a job in the athletic department at Penn State University.

• Mike Collodi becomes the fifth Mt. Lebanon football coach in the last 50 years. The former EF coach follows in a long line of successful Blue Devils bench bosses, including Art Walker for 21 years, Chris Haering for 17 years, Mike Melnyk for seven seasons and the last four with Palko manning the sidelines. The program has won eight WPIAL football championships and one PIAA crown captured two years ago in 2021.

• Forty years ago, Mt. Lebanon finished the regular season with a slightly above average record of 5-4-1. However, the Blue Devils turned it on in the postseason, beating Connellsville and Butler before shutting out North Allegheny in the 1983 WPIAL Quad-A Division 1 finals, 7-0, for the program’s fifth district crown. Lebo would make it back-to-back championships in 1984.

• This is the 95th season of Mt. Lebanon football. The Blue Devils (619) are at No. 12 on the all-time wins list in the WPIAL and the third most in Allegheny County behind Clairton (715) and McKeesport (711).

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