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New Westmoreland County football coaches Keefer, Liotta hit ground running

August 24, 2018

Southmoreland coach Dave Keefer, during the Westmoreland County Coaches Association annual 7 on 7 tournament, at Greater Latrobe Area High School, in Unity Twp., on Thursday, July 19, 2018.

Lightning flashed across the sky, followed by the hiss and crackle of thunder and heavy rain. Not quite how Dave Keefer envisioned his first afternoon practice at Southmoreland football training camp.

“It wiped us out,” Keefer said, after guiding the Scotties through a morning session where players could wear pads and hit for the first time. “But that’s OK. It was a hiccup. We’re putting in a new offense and defense, so it was kind of a good thing because we got to do some chalk-talk (indoors); we still have a lot to do with the X’s and O’s stuff.”

Keefer is beginning his 27th year of coaching football, but his first as a head coach. He is one of two new head coaches on the gridiron at Westmoreland County schools. The other is Burrell’s Shawn Liotta, an arena league coaching veteran and Springdale graduate who had stints at Clairton and Albert Gallatin before taking the Buccaneers’ job.

Liotta conversely will bring a much more complex playbook to Lower Burrell.

Monday erased some of the monotony of seven-on-seven passing tournaments and heat workouts, necessary evils to many coaches who simply can’t wait to see what their players look like in full gear and as a complete unit.

“As the summer goes along, it kind of drags a little bit, and you really look forward to getting out there the first day in full pads,” Liotta said. “To kind of see your whole team out there kind of start to take shape is exciting. The first day of camps in Western Pennsylvania high school football, everybody’s got championship dreams, everybody’s excited. It really is a special time.”

Keefer, a longtime teacher, track and field and golf coach at Southmoreland, said the Scotties will run a more simplified offense, a rather dummied-down approach that reflects their coach’s philosophies.

The Scotties were 0-9 last season and drop down to Class 2A, where they will be one of the larger schools in Century Conference territory.

“I’m a simple-stupid kind of guy,” said Keefer, who took over for Mark Adams. “No hesitation. I’m a smashmouth football coach. I want our guys to take the snap, react and get running down hill.”

Keefer spent time as an assistant at Southmoreland, Mt. Pleasant and Greensburg Central Catholic.

“It’s going good, and I’m really excited to have (Keefer) coach us this year,” incoming senior running back/cornerback Ronnie Robinson said. “He brings toughness to the team. For me, being a senior, I’m fed up with losing and his mentality is, ‘win, win, win’ and he has that attitude.”

The playbook, the coach hopes, won’t be the only big change in Alverton. He wants this to be one of those culture-changing ventures. The Scotties last made the WPIAL playoffs in 1979.

“What motivates me is fear or failure,” he said. “I am a different type of coach, and the kids are getting used to that. But we’re keeping everything positive.”

Liotta, who took over after Dave Bellinotti resigned, knows all about the fast-paced nature of arena football, so he places focus on pace at practices.

“It takes a couple minutes to jump into gear and get it going, but once you start getting the tempo down, it starts to go by quick,” Bucs senior Austin Mele said. “The energy around everyone is just higher.”

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