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HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Veteran coach takes over as coordinator

by on August 29, 2013 6:55 AM

SALTSBURG — Saltsburg isn’t moving its home games indoors this season, but things will look different this fall when the Trojans have the ball.

Veteran arena football coach Shawn Liotta, as the Trojans’ new offensive coordinator, has brought his spread offense to Saltsburg.

“It’s got a lot of run-and-shoot principles, a lot of jet sweep, veer option, all those kind of things rolled into a little package,” Liotta said. “We try to give you some different formations, exotic looks. We want to make you defend a lot of things. We want to make sure that we have answers for different types of defenses.”

Liotta last worked in the area as the head coach at West Shamokin from 2005 to ’08. He has coached arena football in the springs and summers for the past seven years, mainly with the Erie Explosion, who he led to a 12-0 record and a Continental Indoor Football League championship this year.

“He’s a phenomenal coach, phenomenal mind and works excellent with the kids,” head coach Tim Frassenei said. “He’s a good guy to be around, a good base of knowledge.

“(His offense) is more of a single-back look. It’s more of a wide-open, spread type of offense, and it has a nice combination of everything. It has a little bit of power football involved with it. It has some spread football involved in it. It has some outside game. It has some quick-passing game. It has some deep-passing game. It’s a well-balanced offense.”

“I’ve been fortunate to go coach at a lot of different schools,” Liotta said. “We’ve been able to tweak it and evolve it through the years. … You can tailor it to whatever talent you have.”

Last fall, Liotta was the offensive coordinator at McKeesport. He was the running backs coach at Duquesne University for two years and the head coach at Line Mountain High School for another, and he spent time at several other schools. He knows it’s important to get the kids to grasp the concepts in the playbook, and he did his part to take care of that.

“It’s new to all of us, but Coach Liotta’s doing a great job of putting the offense in,” quarterback Tyler Frassenei said. “He does a great job of explaining it to us. He uses our terminology now. He’s changed a lot for us, and that helps us a lot.”

“It doesn’t matter what you call something, it’s the execution of the play,” Liotta said. “To me, it wasn’t a big deal. It was easier for me to adapt my terminology a little bit so they could pick things up.”

Liotta asks a lot of Tyler Frassenei, who has run and passed with success previously. In turn, Liotta will take on the task of getting the Trojans to protect their quarterback, which was an issue last season.

“We’re running a different protection,” Liotta said. “I don’t know what kind of protection they ran in the past, but our protection is a sound protection.

“We teach the quarterback where to throw hot, so if he’s getting pressure he knows right now where he’s got to dump the ball ... This is not an offense in which we hold onto the ball really long.”

The players are taking to Liotta’s scheme.

“Now you see more guys in their playbooks,” running back Steve Richards said. “You wouldn’t see that before. You see guys more focused on what they have to do. … They study the game more.”

“Sometimes that new material, that little bit of a change, boosts or motivates you,” Tim Frassenei said. “Sometimes you know what you’re doing, and that’s a good thing, but I think sometimes change makes you think, and when you start thinking, you start analyzing, and when you analyze, then you get better.”

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Eli Nellis is a sports writer for The Indiana Gazette.
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