Trib HSSN 2022 Head of the Class: Football coach of the year in all 6 classes
Sunday, December 18, 2022 | 7:38 PM
Western Pennsylvania was well-represented at the PIAA football championships this fall, with five teams from District 7 and 8 advancing to play for state titles.
Those teams certainly featured talented players, but they also relied on coaching and leadership to reach the pinnacle of Pennsylvania high school football.
The following have reached the HSSN Head of the Class for this past season and are our coaches of the year in each of the six classifications.
Art Walker, North Allegheny
Walker lifted a WPIAL championship trophy for the sixth time this fall, leading North Allegheny to the Class 6A title with a 35-21 win over Central Catholic. It was the Tigers’ fifth WPIAL crown but first since 2012. North Allegheny (11-2) then lost to State College in the PIAA quarterfinals. Walker just wrapped up his 18th season at North Allegheny. He has a career record of 231-68 over 25 seasons, which includes two WPIAL titles as head coach at Central Catholic. He has led the Tigers to 170 victories.
Jon LeDonne, Pine-Richland
It was quite an introduction to the Pine-Richland faithful for LeDonne, who guided the Rams to WPIAL and PIAA Class 5A titles in his first season. After a 1-3 start, the Rams won 12 straight games, including a 34-3 victory over Upper St. Clair in the WPIAL final at Norwin for the program’s sixth district championship. The Rams then defeated Cathedral Prep and Cocalico in the PIAA playoffs before beating Imhotep Charter, 28-14, in the state title game. LeDonne took over Pine-Richland this season after building a 46-13 record in five seasons at Penn Hills, including WPIAL and PIAA titles in 2018.
Mike Warfield, Aliquippa
Warfield is making a repeat appearance in this space after again guiding Aliquippa to the WPIAL Class 4A title and a trip to the PIAA championship game. The Quips, playing three classifications higher than their enrollment, finished 13-1 this season and reached the WPIAL championship game for a 15th straight season. The Quips averaged 37.9 points while allowing just 11.6. They defeated rival Central Valley, 34-7, in the WPIAL title game and, after beating Allentown Central Catholic in the PIAA semifinals, lost to Bishop McDevitt, 41-18, in the state final to end a 25-game winning streak. Warfield is 60-6 in five seasons as Aliquippa’s coach.
Matt Humbert, Belle Vernon
After finishing as the WPIAL runner-up the past two seasons, Humbert’s Leopards got over the hump this fall, defeating Avonworth, 24-7, in the WPIAL Class 3A final at Acrisure Stadium for the program’s second WPIAL title and first since 1995. They then knocked off Central in the semifinals and edged Neumann-Goretti, 9-8, in the PIAA championship game to cap a 12-2 season and capture the school’s first state football crown. Humbert is now 79-19 in nine seasons at Belle Vernon and 110-32 overall including four years at Ringgold.
Donta Green, Westinghouse
Westinghouse just completed the best season in the program’s decorated history, and Green was a major reason for the success. The fourth-year coach and 2005 Westinghouse graduate guided the Bulldogs (14-1) to their 38th City League championship with a 40-8 win over Allderdice. It was their third City title in the past four seasons. The Bulldogs then went on a stunning run through the PIAA playoffs with wins over Chestnut Ridge, Berlin-Brothersvalley, Central Clarion, Farrell and Steel Valley before falling to powerhouse Southern Columbia, 37-22, in the PIAA championship game. It was the first trip to a state title game for a City League team since Perry was a runner-up in 1997.
Kim Niedbala, Union
Niedbala also had quite a debut season with his new team. Like LeDonne, Niedbala brought immediate success as Union claimed the school’s first WPIAL title since 1959 with a 26-0 victory over top-seeded Bishop Canevin in the Class A final at Acrisure Stadium. The Scotties (12-4) then beat Port Allegany in the semifinals before falling to Steelton-Highspire, 22-8, in the PIAA championship game. Niedbala had past assistant coaching stops at Mt. Lebanon, West Allegheny, Edinboro University and Clarion University. His father Rich Niedbala won three WPIAL titles at Western Beaver (1976, ’83 and ’94).
Bill Hartlep is the sports editor of the Tribune-Review. You can contact Bill at email@example.com or via Twitter @BHartlep_Trib.
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