Shaler senior class meets challenge of coaching staff
Win and the Shaler football team would earn its first bid to the WPIAL playoffs in seven years.
A loss wouldn’t eliminate the possibility, but would make things murky for the Titans.
Whatever the math, second-year Shaler coach James Ryan was excited about the position the Titans were in last Friday on Senior Night against Fox Chapel.
“I mean, the message of the week is win and you are in,” Ryan said. “The one thing I said to them was the opportunity they have is something senior classes from the past would have loved to have and to take advantage of it.”
Being in this position was an honor for the seniors. This group helped snap a 24-game losing streak and pick up a win at home for the first time in six years.
Despite having lost five of its past six games, Shaler (3-6, 2-4) still had an opportunity to earn a playoff spot.
“With this senior class, their goal was to change the culture,” Ryan said. “Not to just say it, but do it. Any change they decided to make to the program for the better. It wasn’t something they said, they did it.”
What has been an important factor for the Titans this season has been delivering on their promises. Shaler’s coaching staff set up a number of areas of improvement for the Titans to be successful.
Ryan feels this year’s group of seniors, and players throughout the program, have met the challenge. When Shaler was reclassified to Class 5A, everyone felt a playoff berth was a possibility.
“Stepping up against good football teams,” Ryan said. “I think they are focused, their efforts at practice, all the things we’ve been trying to correct just as far as overall. It’s everything. Everything we told them, they took seriously.”
Before taking on the Foxes, Shaler had some tough times against two of the top three teams in the Northern Conference. The Titans were knocked around by first-place Penn Hills, 51-7, before losing a 21-7 decision against rival North Hills.
Shaler scored first against North Hills, on a 6-yard pass from Darin Mizgorski to Matt Bendel and had the game tied at halftime, but were worn down in the second half.
North Hills held the ball for 18 minutes and scored twice to earn the win.
Many of the Titans started the season hoping for their first win at home in six seasons.
With a win over Fox Chapel, Shaler had an opportunity to extend its season.
“Play a solid football game from start to finish,” Ryan said. “I’m confident we are the better team and we have to play better than them. You can’t take opponents lightly because you never know.”