Different methods for B-C, Trinity
By Mike Kovak, Staff writer
When it came to turning a laughingstock into a perennial playoff contender, Trinity football coach Ed Dalton adopted some unusual methods.
And it has nothing to do with Dalton's unconventional use of timeouts during the first half.
"Back in 1999, I made the entire varsity staff coach the junior varsity and we played it like it was Super Bowl Sunday," Dalton said. "We had to have something to hang our hat on. The outside world would not give us an ounce of credit."
When it came to reviving a once-proud program, Beth-Center coach Ed Woods adopted a patient approach.
In addition to instituting his offense and defense, Woods created a mentality. For some players, it was the same mentality their fathers used when they played for the Bulldogs during the 1970s.
"Whether it's the playoffs or a regular season game, our kids go out and expect to win regardless of who we play," Woods said. "If they give us everything they have on every play, we'll be successful. Our kids better be totally exhausted when the game is over."
Dalton's unique approach and Woods' workmanlike attitude have turned Trinity and Beth-Center into a rare commodity - winners in the postseason.
Trinity (5-4) will play for its third WPIAL playoff victory in the past four years tonight when it travels to Indiana (7-2), the fifth seed in the Class AAA bracket.
From 1922 to 2004, Trinity had just two postseason victories.
"It was much more difficult to convince the adults that we could win than the kids. You can't overestimate how difficult that made things," Dalton said. "Now, when we struggle, we get criticized for struggling and that is way better. That's a good thing."
Finding any way to criticize Beth-Center in recent years would be difficult.
The Bulldogs (8-1) won the Tri-County South in their first year in the conference and, for the third time in four years, will host a first-round playoff game. They play Western Beaver (6-3), the third-place team from the Class A Big Seven Conference.
Not only has Beth-Center become an annual playoff team, but it has won three postseason games the past three years.
"We don't think about playoff games as being playoff games," Woods said. "I think it is an advantage being at home. Our kids have been on the same schedule as usual and I know we look forward to these games. This is what it's all about. We thrive on the playoffs."
The same can not be said for most of the teams from Washington and Greene counties.
Since 2003, area teams are a combined 16-52 in the WPIAL playoffs for a .235 win percentage.
Beth-Center (2006), Jefferson-Morgan (2006) and Monessen (2007) are the only teams to advance to the WPIAL semifinals during that span. California and Trinity are the only others to win at least two playoff games.
No team has reached the WPIAL championship since 2001, when Washington won the Class AA title and Fort Cherry played for the Class A championship. Wash High, the 2001 PIAA champions, was the last local participant in the state playoffs.
"I can't speak for other communities but if you look at our community, Wash High is down about a third of the students they had 10 years ago," Dalton said. "The demographics of the town have changed a lot during my time here. Our community is growing. There are housing developments going up everywhere."
Another number on the rise if years without local representation at the WPIAL football championships.
Six postseasons have elapsed since Washington and Fort Cherry played at Heinz Field. The six-year drought without a champion or runner-up is the longest in the area's history.
There have been lean years. In 1976, Avella played for the WPIAL Class A title, marking the 13th time in 15 years a local school was in that championship game. In 1986, California played for the Class A title, and Beth-Center played for the Class AA title.
In between, only Ringgold reached a WPIAL championship when it won the Class AAAA, Division 2 title.
"I'm not a guy who believes in cycles but I also know you're not going to be a championship team every year," Dalton said. "I'm not sure why it's down. It's certainly not because kids aren't working hard."
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