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INDUSTRY, Pa. — It looks like word spread quickly about Western Beaver’s new football coach.
After practice on Tuesday, as the players and coaches filed back into the locker room, a blue No. 6 Penn State jersey and a few photos sat on the coaches’ table.
The jersey belonged to a friend of an assistant, but was originally worn by the Golden Beaver’s first-year head coach.
Derek Moye signed the memorabilia as a the group shared a few laughs about the opportunity to meet and interact with a man who holds Penn State records and even caught a touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger.
“I didn’t know who he was,” said senior Noah Gray. “I heard some kids on the team saying our coach is a (former) Steeler, so I was pretty excited.”
“Someone had to tell me. But as I was looking him up, I said ‘oh okay, he played for the Steelers’, so I was excited about him being my coach,” said senior linebacker Daquan Bradford. “At first it was my dad because he heard from the other coaches, but then other people started to tell me (about Moye) too.”
Leave it to high school kids to make a 31-year-old first-time head coach feel, well, old.
“This generation I’m coaching now, it sounds crazy, but I’m a little bit older for them,” said Moye with a smile.
As the kids became familiar with Moye and who he was, they also started to see his work ethic and the intensity he brought to all facets of the game.
Moye (and this probably isn’t a surprise for a first year coach) attended the offseason lifting programs and began to show the team the expectations he had for them.
“He focuses a lot on our team chemistry, and how we need to get along better,” said Bradford, who is one of the Lincoln Park co-op players. “He focuses on us being a family, especially at practice. We need to practice as a family. If someone gets hit, you pick them back up and keep practicing. It’s making a big difference.”
Bradford is one of 12 Lincoln Park players in the second year of a co-op between the schools. Last season, nine Leopards were on the roster, which is encouraging for both the players and coaches.
“It’s good, but it’s definitely a challenge,” said Moye. “We have kids that are from different areas. Some kids are from Industry, and having kids from Clairton, it’s different. But kids are kids. Once they get together and talk, they realize they have things in common, and I think they’re getting along.”
“It’s getting better each year,” said Gray. “We’re playing with the same guys and we know what we’re doing together.”
The relationships appeared strong on the field, and the Lincoln Park players appear to be enjoying the opportunity in year two.
“Coming from a school that mainly focuses on basketball (Lincoln Park) to a school that mainly focuses on football, so me doing this, it’s a new experience. I need to put in the work and show these people what I can do and show them I can play football as well,” said Bradford.
Not to mention the coach he’s looking to impress.
“He practiced with profession football players both in college and in the NFL. So, usually now we’re practicing NFL and college practices, so he’s preparing us for the future. If things get tough, push through it.”
One look at Moye’s previous coaches show it’s not a surprise he’s looking to be the mentor-type.
From Gene Matsook at Rochester, the Paternos at Penn State and Mike Tomlin in the NFL, it’s easy to see the type of coach that Moye is accustomed to.
Even in his one year as an assistant coach with Aliquippa, he was with one of the best.
“When you coach at high school, that’s bigger than football, to set them up for life,” said Moye. “Football, yes, but if football doesn’t work out being able to offer different avenues.
“Someone who taught me a lot about that was coach [Mike] Warfield. You could tell how much he cared about the kids. Guys came in to talk to the team weekly, just some of the things he was able to do as far as getting outside influences to come in and talk to the team, it’s huge. It shows how much he cared.”
While it’s great to build the chemistry now, the goal for the team appears to be pretty uniform: get to the playoffs.
Western Beaver’s last playoff win came in 2008 (Moye’s first year at Penn State) and have a record of 39-61 since 2008.
The Golden Beavers have lost in the first-round of the playoffs twice in 2013 and 2017 and were moved from Single A to Double A last season.
The Midwestern Conference appears to be up for grabs, and Western Beaver likes the position they’re in.
“We expect to make playoffs,” said Gray.
“Coach is a cool guy, he just wants us to succeed,” said Bradford. “We’re trying to make it to the playoffs, and try to go higher. At least make it to the WPIAL and win that. That’s what my hopes are, I hope that’s what everyone’s hopes are.”