New Yough football coach Chris Chunko tackling unorthodox offseason

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Saturday, July 11, 2020 | 10:34 PM


Unorthodox and fluid, the first few months of Chris Chunko’s rookie year as a head football coach have been a slow but surprisingly steady process.

The job did not come with a how-to manual, especially one that included a section on negotiating the effects of a global pandemic.

Football has become a year-round venture, and when the offseason schedule goes awry, a program can miss a beat.

Not on Cougar Mountain.

“Everyone is on the same level,” said Chunko, the new head man at Yough. “It doesn’t matter if you’re in your 30th year as a coach or a first-year coach. Nobody has dealt with this before.”

The covid-19 crisis has rocked sports, disrupting summer football workouts and rearranging how they operate with safety guidelines and precautions that do anything but condone contact in a contact sport.

Chunko, 51, came aboard in February, before the world got sick. How things have changed.

“It’s been challenging,” he said. “We came out like a house on fire (in the spring). We were getting great numbers, and then the covid hit. The kids have been great, but we still have a lot of things we want to implement.”

That includes a spread offense under Mark Adams, the Cougars’ new offensive coordinator and former Southmoreland coach.

Yough has seen the offense on paper, so to speak. But the players hope to start to running through the zigs and zags on the field this week — and eventually get a chance to debut in a teetering season.

“The kids have been on Hudl. We downloaded our whole playbook,” Chunko said. “And we’ve had 15 Zoom meetings. Twice a week we meet: one for offense and one for defense. We have shown the kids how to break down film. So at least we have been able to do something football-related. It’s been beneficial.”

Chunko, a Monessen grad who has served as an assistant at California, Charleroi, Ringgold and Uniontown, replaces Scott Wood, who was not retained after four years on the job at Yough.

“Coach Chunko and his staff bring a lot of knowledge to our team,” Yough rising senior standout receiver and safety C.J. Waldier said. “For example, he and many of our coaches have been with numerous winning programs. One of our coaches (Sean Bowen) was even a D-I QB at Youngstown State, so that will help benefit our QBs a lot.

“We haven’t really been able to do a whole lot … One thing I do know about him is that he wants to win and push us to our limits.”

Defense has been Chunko’s primary focus as he has been a defensive coordinator at his previous three coaching stops.

He added Bowen, Akeem Moore, Jake Beistel, Corey Crisman, Paul Suehr and Nick Militzer to his staff.

Moore, a former Duquesne University wideout who has coached at Chaleroi and Canon-McMillan, will be the defensive coordinator. Bowen is the son of Hempfield coach Rich Bowen. Beistel is a former Southmoreland standout who wrestled at Seton Hill.

“I call them my young guns,” Chunko said. “It’s a very well-rounded staff.”

Suehr was a longtime assistant at West Allegheny with Bob Palko and also coached at Greensburg Central Catholic.

Crisman played at Norwin, and Militzer was an assistant with Chunko at Charleroi.

“It’s been fun,” Chunko said of being a head coach. “I’m putting a lot more time in. It’s a lot less X’s and O’s now and more planning. Before, it was just football.”

Yough has been utilizing the weight room quite a bit in recent weeks but hopes to do more on-the-field work this week.

The Cougars are aiming to reverse course and get back to the WPIAL playoffs for the first time since 2013.

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

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