New coaches at Jeannette, Hempfield plan to continue their programs’ traditions of winning

Friday, April 1, 2022 | 5:47 PM

Tom Paulone watches his players condition in the weight room at Jeannette’s McKee Stadium on a bitter-cold March afternoon.

Training camp is more than four months away, but the Jayhawks’ new football coach has his players working.

Paulone’s eyes light up, and a smile covers his face as one Jayhawk after another gets a drill right. The excitement in his voice grows as they increase their reps on the weight benches.

“These are the weights that used to be in coach (Roy) Hall’s garage,” Paulone said. “This building wasn’t even here when I played. Coach Hall put his heart and soul into this program, and I hope I can do the same.”

Later that day, at Hempfield, softballs bang off the wooden floor inside the auxiliary gym as the Lady Spartans go through a practice after the cold forced them indoors. A closely watched clock beckons as defensive drills turn to situational training.

Like Hall, a familiar face and voice is noticeably missing.

“Coach (Bob) Kalp was my mentor, someone I admire greatly,” Hempfield first-year coach Tina Madison said. “He was my chemistry teacher. He was extremely organized, and I plan to be the same way.”

Following in the footsteps of coaches who had become fixtures in successful local programs is the task facing Paulone and Madison, who have taken over leading roles at their alma maters.

Paulone, 30, replaces Hall, who spent 37 years on the sidelines at Jeannette. A proud alum who served as head coach for 13 seasons, Hall won 116 games, including two WPIAL championships and a PIAA title.

He contributed to Jeannette’s WPIAL-record 767 wins.

“I was his first captain here,” said Paulone, a former Jayhawks quarterback who went on to play at Waynesburg. “It’s sort of surreal to be in this position. He will always be part of this program.”

Paulone’s grandfather, Aldo Paulone, is known for bringing legendary coach Joe Mucci to Jeannette from rival Greensburg Central Catholic.

A former Jeannette class president, Tom Paulone’s voice in the locker room is strong and firm, but at the same time, positive and reaffirming.

Jeannette is coming off a rare down year (1-9). The program was shaken when a number of transfers left to play elsewhere, a year after the Jayhawks won their 10th WPIAL title and finished second in the state.

A once-volatile environment appears to have calmed. Paulone has the program looking forward, not back.

“I want these kids that are here to love Jeannette again,” Paulone said. “I want them to love being a Jayhawk. They are here and willing to put in the time.

“I care about this town and all of the people who have come through in the past and put their fingerprints on the program. I can tell you I am going to try like hell. … I am going to give it all I’ve got.”

Paulone said regular offseason attendance has not dipped below 20 players. He has had as many as 36. Some also play baseball.

He expects to have only two seniors on the roster.

So, how many band members are playing this year?

“None, yet,” the coach said.

Kalp, 76, was one of the most successful coaches in the state. He won 431 games, seven WPIAL titles and four state championships in 25 years as head coach.

“People keep asking me, ‘What are you changing? What’s new?’ ” said Madison, 40, formerly Tina Skelly, a star pitcher at Hempfield and Penn State. “I tell them, not much. A lot is exactly the same. Hempfield is a winning program. If it isn’t broken … .”

Aside from practice uniforms, a new mile run Saturday mornings and the use of wristbands instead of old-school hand signs, Hempfield is still Hempfield. Practices are structured down to the second, just how Kalp liked it, and mistakes are met with accountability.

“It has to be this way,” Madison said. “We have 31 girls, seven coaches and two hours (per practice). It all has to be planned out, or it would be total chaos. The girls are used to this way and are comfortable with it.”

Madison won 52 games and struck out 598 when she pitched for Hempfield, with a microscopic 0.27 ERA. She also ripped a program-record 12 triples and won WPIAL (1998) and PIAA (‘99) titles.

She suggested Kalp throw out the first pitch before the season opener March 25 when the Spartans hosted Connellsville at Robert D. Kalp Field.

Madison was Kalp’s recommendation. She was one of his assistants last year as she coached the junior varsity girls.

With his longtime coaching colleague and friend, Ray Mello, ill, Kalp decided it was time to step down over the summer.

Kalp, Mello and Dick Albright formed a coaching pact decades ago and honored it.

Mello died in October at 82.

“A program doesn’t happen with two coaches,” Madison said. “You have to surround yourself with good assistants, and I feel like I have done that here.”

The new Hempfield staff consists of Madison, and assistants Rick Shaheen, Alex Belgiovane (another Kalp holdover), Ali Belgiovane, Bob Madison (Tina’s husband), Dean Howard and Mark Podkul.

Ali Belgiovane, a former standout shortstop for the Spartans who played at Pitt-Johnstown, is the junior varsity coach.

Madison, a work-from-home project manager for the Hitachi Rail company, said she talks to Kalp consistently to discuss the team.

“I call him three times a week,” she said. “It’s always great to talk with him. He is always welcome here.”

Paulone, who works as an industrial auctioneer for the M. Davis Group, was an assistant at Chartiers Valley for the last four years.

He plans to bring his gameplanning knowledge to the team, particularly on offense, with perhaps more attention to the X’s and O’s side.

“You’ll see on film,” he said. “We’re going to look different.”

Paulone is learning continuously about the game and studying as if he is chasing a master’s in high school football. That meant picking the brains of numerous coaches, including Mt. Lebanon coach Bob Palko, who went on to win nine WPIAL titles after leaving Jeannette as an assistant.

“We talked in-depth,” Paulone said. “I want to pick up as much as I can from these guys.”

He also talked with former Jeannette coach Bob Murphy; Rich Bowen, who coached him at Waynesburg; former Chartiers Valley coach Dan Knause; and others.

He also plans to enhance technology in the program through Hudl video and stats and make scouting opponents more streamlined.

“Preparation, preparation, preparation: That is what I am about,” Paulone said.

Madison, who lives in Greensburg, plans to coach for several seasons. She has 10-year-old twin girls, Jocelyn and Jayelyn, who are involved in softball.

She also coaches the Beverly Bandits 10U travel team out of Columbus, Ohio. The team has players from five states.

The Bandits practice and play on the weekends, which should not conflict with her high school team’s plans.

Paulone’s staff will consist of Hall holdovers Darius Brown and Bryan DeFelice, Terrance Stanton, who played at Central Catholic and Mt. Union and served as an assistant at Seton Hill, Jeremy Biller and Christian Rusnock (strength and conditioning) and Jose Estevez, who played at Saint Vincent.

Jeannette football and Hempfield softball are not the only area programs undergoing changes in leadership.

Other notable coaching changes in Westmoreland:

• Ron Prady replaces Jason Marucco as football coach at Latrobe.

Marucco led the Wildcats for the last eight years and faced Penn-Trafford numerous times.

Prady was an assistant at Penn-Trafford last season when the Warriors broke through and won WPIAL and PIAA Class 5A championships. Prady, a Penn-Trafford staffer for 10 years, coached linebackers.

He teaches junior high math at Latrobe, so he knows many of the players.

Latrobe will drop a class, to 4A, next fall.

“P-T has one of the best staffs in the WPIAL, and it was great to be a part of it,” Prady said. “I feel like I have seen it all offensively, from McKeesport’s triple option to Pine-Richland’s spread. The kids are excited.”

• At Southmoreland, Tim Bukowski goes from assistant to head football coach. Devastating circumstances led to the new hire.

Bukowski had planned to join Ron Frederick’s staff, but Frederick died of a heart attack a day after learning he was the recommended candidate for the job.

An offensive coordinator on the Scotties’ staff for four years under former coach Dave Keefer, Bukowski felt obligated to take over for his close friend and colleague.

“I want to continue to build what we have here,” Bukowski said. “I want to do it for Ron.”

Yough hired Mike Veychek as its girls soccer coach to replace Dann Appolonia, who resigned after a successful 10-year run as coach.

Appolonoa had a record of 134-46-6 and guided Yough to four WPIAL semifinal appearances and one trip to the finals.

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

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