New Jefferson-Morgan coach focused on creating competitive culture

Tuesday, August 23, 2022 | 12:01 PM

Shane Ziats will be tasked with trying to turn around a Jefferson-Morgan football program that has won three or fewer games the last six seasons and hasn’t qualified for the playoffs in a decade.

He’ll start the process with a culture shift for 2022.

“I want to instill a competitive mentality,” Ziats said. “I’m just looking for kids that want to compete. It’s going to be tough to change everything all at once, but we’re going to start with getting the kids to compete. I want them to get upset when they lose or don’t win a rep. We want to instill that mentality into everything we do.”

Ziats’ coaching resume includes two college stops at Charleston (W. Va.) and Mansfield as well as high school stops at his alma mater, Beth-Center, University (W. Va.) and most recently as the offense coordinator at Waynesburg.

He had sessions with players four days a week over the summer and has already seen some of that competitive mentality within his players.

“The kids have responded well,” Ziats said. “We’ve created some scenarios where the kids compete against each other and together and we’re going to build on that going forward.”

Ziats said there were around 15 players that made most of the summer workouts and expected some others that had summer baseball and wrestling commitments to be there for heat acclimatization. The hope was to have 22 players on the roster for the first game.

The Rockets return starting quarterback Cole Jones as well as leading rusher Johnny Gilbert.

Jones, a senior, passed for more than 1,200 yards last year and 10 touchdowns. His top receiver, Colt Fowler, graduated, but senior Ewing Jamison will step into his role as the top receiving threat.

“Ewing is looking good,” Ziats said. “He’s looking like he’ll be one of the top players we’ll have. Cole is also looking real good. He’s picking up the offense well and learning what the scheme is and what we’re trying to do. Those two guys are who we’re looking at to lead our offense.”

Ziats is installing a spread offense with zone-read tendencies.

“When I was at University, that’s what we ran down there,” Ziats said. “We’re going to try to spread people out to get some speed in space and try to get some numbers in and out of the box.”

The Rockets are in their traditional conference, the Tri-County South, with rivals Bentworth, Beth-Center, Carmichaels, California, Mapletown, Monessen and West Greene.


Coach: Shane Ziats

2021 record: 1-9, 1-6 in Class A Tri-County South Conference

All-time record: 352-464-36


Date, Opponent, Time

8.26 Chartiers-Houston, 7

9.2 at Waynesburg, 7

9.9 Jeannette, 7

9.16 at California*, 7

9.23 Beth-Center*, 7

9.30 at Bentworth*, 7

10.7 Mapletown*, 7

10.14 at Monessen*, 7

10.21 West Greene*, 7

10.28 at Carmichaels*, 7

*Conference game


Passing: Cole Jones

80-162, 1,212 yards, 10 TDs

Rushing: Johnny Gilbert

104-360, TD

Receiving: Colt Fowler*

32-639, 8 TDs



• Jefferson-Morgan’s last playoff appearance was in 2012, a 42-14 loss to Neshannock. The last playoff win came in 2006, a 42-27 triumph over Duquesne in the quarterfinals before a 14-6 loss in the semifinals to Rochester a week later.

• The Rockets won back-to-back WPIAL championships in 1973-74. They defeated Western Beaver, 35-6, in ’73 and Midland, 20-0, in ’74. They were 19-0-1 in the two seasons.

• Jefferson-Morgan is tied with Rochester for the seventh smallest male enrollment number in the WPIAL at 76.

Note: Due to publication scheduling conflicts, previews for Tri-County South teams Bentworth, California and West Greene will appear on Trib HSSN later this week.

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

More Football

This week on Trib HSSN for week of Dec. 5, 2022
Big-play Union tops Port Allegany, advances to PIAA Class A football final
In storied Aliquippa football history, could these Quips show they’re best with another PIAA title?
PIAA Class A semifinal preview: Union vs. Port Allegany
Time to play The Birdie’s favorite game show: Leopardy!