Seton LaSalle football team hopes to rebound with new coach

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Wednesday, August 21, 2019 | 8:59 PM


Seton LaSalle is ready to get back to the top.

The Rebels think they have the guy to take them there, too, in Mike Zmijanac.

Zmijanac was coach at Aliquippa for 21 years and racked up a 237-36 record, along with six WPIAL championships and one PIAA title. When the school board decided to replace him before last season, he took over at Ringgold. After an 0-10 season there, Zmijanac retired but came back when the Seton LaSalle job opened up.

“Everyone at Seton LaSalle has treated me well,” Zmijanac said. “The players have been very receptive. We’re making progress, I believe. What we’re doing is new for them. Most of them are really bright kids, and they are picking up on it pretty quickly. It’s not very complicated, but it’s new.

“I think I put together a really good coaching staff. The kids seem to be buying into it. But it all comes down to what happens once the games start. Everyone is optimistic in the preseason.”

The Rebels are thrilled to have Zmijanac and some of his longtime Aliquippa assistants on the sideline this fall.

“It’s been easy to adapt. We are a lot more motivated. Coming into this season after an off year last year, I think we are motivated and hungry,” Seton LaSalle senior receiver Max Schipani said. “Everyone has more of a team concept and is playing together.”

A 48-0 loss to Mohawk in the first round of the WPIAL Class 2A playoffs left Seton LaSalle with a 5-6 mark — the program’s first losing season since 1997. The Rebels are eager to start a new winning streak.

“What they did before and who did it doesn’t matter to me. It’s a whole new coaching staff and a whole new philosophy and, hopefully, a whole new attitude,” Zmijanac said. “I haven’t watched one second of last year’s tape. The only things I’ll look at, when the time comes, are the opponents.”

Last year, Joe Ranft and Schipani split time at quarterback. Ranft could take the reigns this year with Schipani as a top target, along with James Yanders, Ethan Dursi and Alex Jones, Jr.

“Joe Ranft has been working his butt off this season. He is ready to have a big year. He has done a good job being a leader,” Schipani said. “I think the coaches did a good job recognizing what our strengths are. I think we’ll throw the ball a lot this year. We have a good receiving corps. It’s a deep one, too.”

Gabe Finale, who rushed for 658 yards last year, returns as the top running back. Ryan Elliott could see carries, too.

Mike Orsi is the lone senior lineman.

“He has been leading the guys, especially in the weight room,” Schipani said. “The young guys have been stepping up and coming every day and getting stronger in the weight room.”

The Rebels are eager to open their schedule.

“It’s a whole different ballgame then. Practice is one thing, but Friday nights are completely different,” Schipani said. “You have to have a whole different mindset. It’s a fun time, though. Playing football with your buddies in high school, you should have fun doing it and we want to win, too.”

Schedule

Coach: Mike Zmijanac

2018 record: 5-6, 4-3

All-time record: 362-250-13

Date, Opponent, Time

8.30, at Burgettstown*, 7

9.6, at Brentwood*, 7

9.13, South Allegheny*+, 7

9.20, New Brighton+, 7

9.27, at Fort Cherry*, 7

10.4, Avonworth^, 7

10.11, South Side*#, 7

10.18, at Serra Catholic*, 7

10.25, Carlynton*^, 7

*Class 2A Three Rivers Conference game

+At Thomas Jefferson

^At Peters Township

#At Dormont Stadium

Statistical leaders

Passing: Joe Ranft

49-99, 678 yards, 5 TDs

Receiving: Shane Thrift

17-206 yards, 2 TDs

Rushing: Gabe Finale

116-658 yards, 8 TDs

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.

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