Camp Kovak, second stop – Trinity
Blogger's note: Part two of a short series on O-R sports writer Mike Kovak's travels through the football preseason.
When Ed Dalton stepped onto the practice field for the first time as head football coach at Trinity High School in Aug. 1999, he couldn't believe what he saw.
Somehow, in football-crazed Western Pennsylvania, Trinity, despite a sizable enrollment, fielded an inexperienced roster.
"Our first team had 50 kids of which nine played football before," Dalton said. "None of them played ninth grade football."
Among Dalton's early duties was to institute a youth program and create a different atmosphere. Before Dalton arrived at Trinity, the Hillers had won two playoff games.
If Trinity wasn't the laughingstock of WPIAL football, it was awfully close.
More than a decade later, things are decidedly different.
Trinity has produced a steady stream of Division I recruits, with the most recent being senior Ken Wilkins, who will play for Michigan next fall. The Hillers have also become postseason regulars.
Maybe the process took longer than expected but, now that Trinity has steadied itself, the Hillers want to take the logical next step.
"I don't know what it is that we don't have. We have the facilities. The kids work hard. We have talent," Dalton said. "At some point, you've got to become responsible for yourself."
The Hillers finished 5-5 last year and, thanks to a couple late wins, reached the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs out of the Big Seven Conference. Eight starters return on offense and defense but Thomas Jefferson remains the heavy favorite to win another Big Seven and WPIAL championship.
"What (TJ) has is what we want," Dalton said. "We need to come up and beat one of these teams. When that happens, we'll know what it takes to compete as a football team."