After 14 seasons as Hopewell head coach, Dave Vestal left for Seneca Valley
When Dave Vestal became head coach at Hopewell in 2001, it didn’t take long for him to turn the Vikings into a WPIAL Class AAA powerhouse. Vestal lost his opener at West Allegheny, then didn’t lose again until a rematch with the Indians at Heinz Field.
The following season, led by NFL linebacker Paul Posluszny, Hopewell won WPIAL and PIAA championships. Along the way, the Vikings beat a Perry Traditional Academy team that hadn’t allowed a point all season. Vestal was named the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review coach of the year.
Now, after going 1-17 the past two seasons, Vestal is ready for a new challenge and taking over as head coach at Seneca Valley. He replaces Don Holl, who resigned in November after six seasons.
“I can’t believe 14 years has gone by, first of all, because it’s just flown,” Vestal said. “To me, it meant a lot to stay at the same school because you had so much pride and felt established. That’s why it’s going to be tough to leave Beaver County because this is all I’ve known. You look at the Jim Renders, Bob Palkos and George Novaks, who have been there for so long. It’s been tough. It’s time for a new challenge.”
Vestal believes whoever replaces him at Hopewell has a chance to be successful, given that the Vikings return a large junior class. He dealt with some difficulties this past season, ranging from injuries to insubordination, not to mention playing in a Parkway Conference that featured WPIAL finalists Central Valley and West Allegheny.
“When I first came in, we obviously had immediate success,” Vestal said. “Just looking at our conference and how it’s grown and seeing the talent level, it’s really at a high point now. We competed.”
One thing that helped his cause with Seneca Valley is the familiarity. Not only did Hopewell scrimmage Seneca Valley every year for the past eight seasons, but Vestal worked with Seneca Valley principal Mark Korcinsky when he was an assistant principal at Hopewell in 2001-02.
“It felt right in my gut when I went up there,” Vestal said. “It was neat reconnecting with him. I think a lot went into it. I really like the area, the facilities are outstanding. I think it was the right job at the right time, a situation that just felt right in my gut. Usually when I walk into a place and it feels right, it usually is.”
It’s going to be interesting to see how Vestal fares outside Beaver County, where he has spent two decades, and deals with coaching at the largest school district in the WPIAL. He plans to waste no time in making himself visible in the community, by attending Seneca Valley’s basketball games this week and implementing a strength-training program on Wednesday.
“I want to make sure I’m visible and get to know the players and their parents,” Vestal said. “They can expect a positive, energetic, enthusiastic passionate football coach who wants them to grow as a player and a person. Getting to know your players and let them know that you care about them is invaluable.”
After winning big with backs like Posluszny and Rushel Shell, who set the state’s career rushing record, Vestal made it clear that he still believes in running the ball but isn’t married to the Wing-T or wildcat offense.
“I still think it comes down to winning that line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball,” Vestal said. “I need to go up there and take a look at the players we have and make sure the system fits those players. You’ve got to use your quarterback as a weapon, as a runner. You want to make them a dangerous player.”
Of course, Vestal knows that Seneca Valley has lost talented players in recent years to Central Catholic and now has an additional challenge with Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic moving its campus to Cranberry. He understands that it’s going to be vital to connect with the district’s youth football program, given that Vestal grew up in Boardman, Ohio, where the public school has to compete with Cardinal Mooney.
“I know SV has had some success the past six years,” Vestal said. “When you talk about enrollment, the opportunity to go in and recruit our district, recruit our school. That’s exciting to talk about those numbers. When you put that together with the facilities in place, it’s a challenge but it’s exciting.”
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