Dalton left his mark on Trinity football
1/22/2011 3:30 AM
Kyle McWreath was a promising sophomore on the cusp of playing a major role as a starting linebacker for the Trinity High School football team. Ed Dalton was McWreath's coach and the Hillers' athletic director when he called McWreath into his office for a meeting.
An injury threatened to diminish McWreath's role and Dalton wanted to discuss a few possibilities.
"He sat me down in his office and told me there were two roads I could take," McWreath said Friday. "He told me I could milk the injury all year or I could lift weights, rehab, fight through it and be a player. The lesson he taught me that day was to be positive. I got better and ended up starting. It was all uphill from there."
Ty Billie, a classmate of McWreath, played his last football game in a Trinity uniform when the Hillers lost at West Allegheny in the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs.
It's a game, and a varsity career that almost never happened.
"I was going to quit my eighth-grade year. I didn't think I had a future in football," Billie said. "Coach talked to me and told me to stick with it. At the time and as a kid that age, I was like, 'Yeah, whatever.' But I stuck with it and by my sophomore year he was pushing me to be my best."
Stories like those of McWreath and Billie date back to 1999, when Trinity hired Dalton as football coach and athletic director.
Dalton did not have his contract as athletic director renewed following the completion of the 2009-10 school yea. Thursday night, the Trinity Area School Board voted 5-4 to open the varsity football coaching job, one held by Dalton the past 12 years.
The decision ends one of the most successful, entertaining and occasionally controversial coaching tenures in the history of Trinity football.
"Really, I'm just thankful for all the time I had, and the experiences I had with all the people who I stood side by side with through the years," Dalton said. "I've chosen not to be sad."
Dalton arrived at Trinity during a time when the football program was viewed as one of the WPIAL's worst. Numbers on the roster and in the win column were low. In Dalton's first year, Trinity went 1-9.
The Hillers improved to 5-4 in 2000 and 7-2 in 2001, making WPIAL Class AAAA postseason appearances both years. The quick improvement matched Dalton's track record at previous stops in Purchase Line, Mt. Pleasant and Altoona.
"I like building. I was a frontrunner only once, at Mt. Pleasant. They had been down for a few years when I got there, but everything was already in place," Dalton said. "I think we built a program here. Clearly, it's in much better shape than it was."
Trinity won playoff games in 2005 and 2007, the first when the Hillers upset No. 2 seed Penn Hills in the first round of the Class AAAA playoffs - a moment Dalton ranks as one of his favorites. Two years later, with a team led by future NCAA Division I recruits in Andrew Sweat, Mike Yancich and Brandon Weaver, Trinity beat Mt. Pleasant in the first round before losing to Montour in the Class AAA quarterfinals.
"That's probably the one team we had here that should have won more," Dalton said. "Other than that, I think we usually overachieved."
Dalton, who created a stir early in his tenure by ending the Trinity-Washington rivalry and creating a youth league, compiled an overall record of 59-56 at Trinity, which includes a 2-7 record in the postseason. Those two wins doubled the total playoff wins in Trinity's football history, which dates back to 1922.
Success often gets measured in wins and losses, but one area in which Dalton excelled was placing players in college. He sent nine players to Division I programs and 75 to various levels of college football.
"Once they got there, that's up to them if they stick or not," Dalton said. "That's about six or seven kids a year over the course of my career. That is almost a third of my players who continue to play, and I know some of them would have never gone to college without football."
McWreath and Billie each plan on playing college football, and both could land at Robert Morris or another Division I-AA school. Each credits Dalton with making the recruiting process easier to understand and handle.
"For me, it started as a junior and he put together a highlight tape. He's always breaking down film for guys," McWreath said. "He has recruiting meetings to teach you how to talk to coaches, what to ask and how to look. He just pulls for everybody."
What upsets players like McWreath and Billie is that their underclassmen teammates won't get to work with Dalton much longer.
"I don't know what I'm going to do next," Dalton said. "Coaching is my life, and I can't imagine not continuing to coach. I do like warm weather and my daughters are finishing college in the next year or so, so I'll wait and see what comes up." Copyright Observer Publishing Co.