Not so long ago, former NFL and Penn State linebacker Shane Conlan and his family were looking for a place to nest, a community where they could settle down and build new roots.
Chuck Knox, his coach with the Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams near the end of his career, suggested Knox’s hometown Sewickley.
Knox’s love for Sewickley could turn into one of the best things to happen to the Quaker Valley football program and coach Jeff Besong.
Conlan brought with him his son Patrick, who could become a three-year starting quarterback for the Quakers.
With Shane on the sidelines as a volunteer linebackers coach last season, Patrick started as a sophomore, throwing for 789 yards and three touchdowns for Quaker Valley, which was 5-4 after a 4-1 finishing stretch.
With the impending graduation of running back Korrtezz Martin, who rushed for 1,306 yards and 16 touchdowns, Patrick, 15, may get a chance to show off his arm even more next season.
Plus, Besong has made an addition to his staff that he believes will help the passing game, hiring former Seneca Valley coach Ron Butschle.
How Butschle ended up at Quaker Valley is an interesting story.
During the football season, Quaker Valley held a fund-raising event for Butschle’s son Nate, 2, who suffers from a rare disease known as Langerhans cell histiocytosis in which excessive white blood cells grow and can damage tissues and organs.
Besong’s group raised $600 for Nate’s treatment, and Butschle wrote him a letter of thanks. When Besong called back, the two coaches had a long conversation.
“The next thing I know, we are talking football,” Besong said. “A couple of weeks later, I heard Seneca Valley had made a bad decision and it was our blessing.”
Butschle, actually, resigned after five seasons at Seneca Valley, looking for a new start to his coaching career. He may or may not have had the chance to return, but he decided to take his career into his own hands and let someone else put up with a head coach’s headaches.
Butschle will bring with him to Quaker Valley the same spread offense that he used at Sto-Rox and Seneca Valley, helping to get Sto-Rox into the Class A title game at Heinz Field in 2003.
“He is just phenomenal,” Besong said. “This year, with Ronnie, we are definitely going to air it out. That’s why we hired him. He is a great addition to our staff.”
Conlan, who is 6-foot, 190 pounds and still growing, could benefit, too. Two of Butschle’s former pupils are two of the best quarterbacks in recent WPIAL history Adam DiMichele of Sto-Rox and Seneca Valley’s C.J. Brown.
ARRIVE EARLY, OR STAY HOME
The WPIAL had two venues in mind for the Class AAAA basketball semifinal game Wednesday night between Peters Township and Seneca Valley Canon-McMillan and North Allegheny.
The league originally said it would use Canon-McMillan, meaning a shorter trip for No. 1-seeded Peters Township and its fans to a gym where the Indians are accustomed to playing. Peters Township won there, 77-59, earlier this season in a Section 4 game.
After all, the No. 1 seed should be worth something.
So, why will the game will be at North Allegheny, a beautiful, spacious gym where No. 4 seed Seneca Valley plays every year in Section 3, including a 54-50 victory earlier this month?
The WPIAL saw how well the Seneca Valley fans packed the place Saturday in a quarterfinal game at North Allegheny. All that was missing were the milk jugs filled with nickels that used to be a staple of Seneca Valley football fans in the 1990s.
Seneca Valley and Peters Township can expect a bigger, louder crowd at North Allegheny than would have greeted them at Canon-McMillan.
If you are wondering how many of the eight classifications will send all four of its top-seeded teams to the semifinals, the answer is one (Class A boys).
Sewickley Academy, Serra Catholic, Neshannock and Clairton 1 through 4 reached their Final Four. Upsets occurred everywhere else.
Three other classifications sent three, but the Class AAAA girls are sending only undefeated Mt. Lebanon, the No. 1 seed. Gateway, which had to win a preliminary-round game to earn the No. 15 seed, eliminated No. 2 Butler, 45-43, in the first round, another example of the WPIAL ignoring geography. That game was played at Plum, which is much closer to Monroeville than it is to Butler.
Kudos also to the South Park and Our Lady of Sacred Heart girls, who pulled themselves up from No. 12 in Class AAA and AA and now get to face No. 1s New Castle and Sto-Rox with a berth in the title games on the line.
The Butler and Beaver girls and Latrobe, New Castle and Beaver Falls boys are the No. 2s that didn’t reach the Final Four of their respective classifications. Beaver lost to No. 10 South Fayette in Class AA, and Latrobe (No. 7 North Hills), New Castle (No. 7 Moon) and Beaver Falls (No. 10 Monessen) were upset in the quarterfinals.
All eight No. 1s are still alive.