Tim Bukowski soldiers on in friend’s stead as Southmoreland football coach

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Tuesday, July 12, 2022 | 8:30 PM


Tasked with taking over a program that initially was going to be in his friend and fellow assistant’s hands, Tim Bukowski is adjusting to his new role as head football coach at Southmoreland as a new season draws near.

Bukowski was hired in March after Ron Frederick died suddenly from a heart-related event a day after he was named head coach.

The tragedy rocked the program.

“I was with him that Tuesday,” Bukowski said. “He said his stomach was bothering him. That is the last time we talked. His wife called me Thursday morning hysterical and crying. It’s been so hard.”

Bukowski, the offensive coordinator, stepped up and did what his gut told him to do: He took over the Scotties to not only honor Frederick but also to maintain continuity in the program.

Frederick, 40, was the team’s line coach, steadying presence and hype man.

Southmoreland will wear helmet decals to honor Frederick, who will be recognized prominently during the Scotties’ first home game.

“I won’t coach a second without Ron on my shoulder,” said Bukowski, 54. “This was going to be his team. I hope we can go out and play well and make him proud. We need to be there for the kids. They were close with ‘Fred.’ It’s been tough for all of us, but we need to be able to move ahead.”

Southmoreland is in the thick of the 7-on-7 part of the summer. It will play Jeannette on Thursday and take part in Belle Vernon’s Gold Bowl on Saturday.

The Westmoreland County Coaches Association Larry Sellitto Memorial 7-on-7 passing tournament is next Thursday at Latrobe.

Bukowski will be one of five new football coaches in the area, joining Mike Arone at Derry, Ron Prady at Latrobe, Tom Paulone at Jeannette and Ben Hoffer at Yough.

A former Cal (Pa.), Charleroi, Clairton and Ringgold assistant, Bukowski helped the Scotties make two WPIAL playoff trips. He longs for a third.

“I have been an assistant for 30 years,” Bukowski said. “There is a lot more to this. There is more planning and dealing more with the boosters. I have to make sure I am the first one in the locker room and the last one to leave. I am enjoying the leadership role.

“The goal is to win a playoff game. That means everything.”

The Scotties won’t change much schematically or personnel-wise, with the coaching staff primarily the same.

Former head coach Dave Keefer and his brother, former assistant Mark Keefer, have rejoined the staff. Dave Keefer was head coach for four years, during which time the program turned a corner and made the WPIAL playoffs for the first time in 40 years.

“I went to (former quarterback) Anthony Govern’s graduation party, and the first two people I see when I get there are Dave and Mark Keefer. They said they wanted to come back. I was glad to hear that. They are two very good coaches.”

Bukowski called all of the plays the past four years. He will remain hands-on with the offense but will have an eye on defense and special teams, too.

An auto parts salesman, Bukowski is looking to get his team’s engine running smoothly.

“Offensively, we’ll have the same system,” he said. “We’re just looking for the right pieces. We lost some speed, especially at wide receiver. Offense is what I do and what I know; I’m studying year-round looking for schemes and plays to fit us. Now, I need to know the pulse of everything and to build camaraderie.”

The team finished 7-4 last season, falling to East Allegheny in the first round of the WPIAL 3A playoffs. The Scotties will play in a new-look conference with newcomer — and WPIAL 4A runner-up — Belle Vernon, along with Elizabeth Forward, Greensburg Salem, Mt. Pleasant and South Allegheny.

Assistant Jordan Pawlikowski, 26, has taken over Frederick’s job coaching the linemen — and also the team’s Twitter account, where he will carry on Frederick’s tradition of game-week hype and uniform reveals.

One addition at Southmoreland is strength and conditioning guru Zach Guiser, a Greensburg Central Catholic alum who played at Akron.

“He treats the kids like he is a coach out there, and they respond to him,” Bukowski said of Guiser. “He works them hard, refocuses them and brings a lot of energy.”

About 42 players are expected to make up the team.

“There is a good freshmen group, and we have a good midget program,” Bukowski said. “Dave helped build a positive atmosphere here.”

Southmoreland was 19-19 during the Keefer regime.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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