New football coach Eric Kasperowicz wants to repeat Pine-Richland success at Mars

Monday, August 8, 2022 | 8:18 PM

Last names were written on strips of tape and stuck to the forehead of Mars football helmets, a tool to help new coach Eric Kasperowicz and his assistants learn the names a little quicker.

It’s an old school tactic but one he hadn’t used much since his early days at Pine-Richland.

“Here, it’s tremendously helpful,” Kasperowicz said. “Instead of calling a kid ‘kid,’ you can at least address him by his name and add a little personalization. Coming here and learning 80 new kids is tough. But by now, you know them all just about.”

The Planets organized voluntary workouts all summer but held their first official practice with Kasperowicz in charge Monday when high school football teams statewide started a week of mandatory heat acclimation. Teams must hold five noncontact practices in helmets and shoulder pads before tackling is allowed.

Mars started a three-hour workout at 8 a.m.

Kasperowicz no longer wore the green of Pine-Richland, now adding more blue to his wardrobe, but after a tumultuous exit from Pine-Richland, the two-time state champion coach was starting over with a new program just down the road from his old place.

The two schools, Pine-Richland and Mars, are about four miles apart.

“It’s exciting to be back out here doing what we love to do, working with these guys,” said Kasperowicz, who reunited with seven of his former Pine-Richland assistants. “A brand new place. The excitement is awesome. Kids are working extremely hard. My staff is doing a great job. I’m excited.”

Full-contact practices won’t start until next week and teams must wait until Aug. 20 to scrimmage, but the Mars players got a feel for the days ahead under the new coaching staff.

“It was actually really fun,” senior Noah Nesselroad said. “We’ve been practicing three to four days a week all summer with no pads. We finally got the pads on today and a lot of us were excited. Obviously, it was just to get heat acclimated, so we can’t hit. But we are so pumped for next week.”

Nesselroad, a slot receiver and cornerback, credited Kasperowicz for having an immediate impact on the team.

“It’s a breath of fresh air,” he said. “It’s obviously a change of everything we’ve done. Being a senior, we’ve gone through three years of the same old thing. It’s way different.”

Kasperowicz was controversially ousted at Pine-Richland after the 2020 season and spent last fall as a volunteer assistant at Pitt. He reapplied to coach at Pine-Richland last spring and was turned away, so Kasperowicz looked elsewhere.

He was hired in April to take over a Mars program that went 2-8 last season in Class 4A. The possibility to coach his son, Eric Jr., a rising sophomore quarterback, was a motivating factor to coach high school again.

Kasperowicz moved his family to Mars and his son transferred there. Eric Jr. was confirmed as fully eligible by the WPIAL last month and is in line to start for the Planets this fall.

“He grew up on the sidelines his whole life,” Kasperowicz said. “As a father and a high school football coach, you can’t help but think about what it would be like to coach him. That’s what was stolen from me at Pine-Richland. If it wasn’t that important to me, I would have stayed at Pitt.”

Kasperowicz takes over for longtime coach Scott Heinauer, who won more than 200 games at Mars since becoming coach in 1992. The school board opened the job in January and Heinauer didn’t reapply.

Mars had a string of winning seasons before last year’s two-win finish. However, in the postseason, the Planets are seeking their first playoff win since 2015. Kasperowicz compared it similarly to the situation he inherited at Pine-Richland.

“It’s a good challenge,” he said. “Everyone wants to know: Can they go to Mars and build what they built at Pine? We’ve been there. We’ve done that.”

He went 85-18 in eight seasons at Pine-Richland with four WPIAL championships and two state titles. He said there’s no pressure now to prove anything they haven’t already proven, but he recognized the team’s success will be watched closely.

“We’re not hiding,” Kasperowicz said. “We’re going to be out there and put a good product on the field — and a hardworking product — whether we win or lose, time will tell. But our kids are going to play hard, they’ll play fast, and it’s going to be exciting football to watch.”

Still, he added: “We didn’t come to lose.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at or via Twitter .

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