DuBOIS — The DuBois Area School District named its new varsity football coach at Thursday night’s school board meeting and turned to a very familiar face in T.J. Wingard to be the man to lead the program into the new decade as well as a new league.
Wingard, a teacher and coach for 23 years, has spent the last 17 years at DuBois and been a part of the football program in some capacity since being hired as a teacher. He currently teaches social studies, U.S. history and economics at the high school.
A large portion of that time has been spent at the junior high level, but he also helped with the varsity program at different times. Wingard was DuBois’ ninth grade head coach for 10 years and also served as a regular varsity assistant for four years — two seasons each under Frank Varischetti and Justin Marshall, who Wingard replaces as head coach. Marshall’s teams went 8-23 in his three seasons.
“When I really knew the decision was made (to not retain Marshall) and school district was going to move on and look for a new candidate, I decided it was time to put my name in,” said Wingard. “I wanted to see if I could continue to make a difference with kids in education and in sports. And, it was the right time to do it (at varsity level).”
“We’re excited to have Coach Wingard on board and for this next chapter of our football program,” said DuBois Athletic Director Chuck Ferra. “He’s been a part of our program for a long time at every level and has earned this opportunity.
“I’ve known Coach Wingard a long time and am confident he will lead our student-athletes to success both on and off the field. I want to thank Coach Marshall for all he’s done for our program. He’s always been a class act and will always be a part of the DuBois Area football family.”
Wingard, a 1983 Curwensville graduate, also spent his first six years after college teaching and coaching at Lewisburg High School before moving back to the area. He spent a couple years as the head varsity baseball coach at Lewisburg, but this marks the first time he will be a varsity head coach in football.
Few first-time head coaches come with the experience Wingard, given his near two decades of coaching different sports, and he feels that will come in handy as he steps up to the varsity level.
“I know it sounds different, but those 10 years being head coach of the junior high program here, I was in charge of and responsible for as many coaches and kids as a varsity coach would be at a AA school,” said Wingard. “Leadership-wise, I ran that program for 10 years and was involved in head coaching at Lewisburg. I’ve also done a lot working with our Little League baseball program in town and run all-star teams that involve working with kids and parents.
“I know coaching junior high is different than coaching varsity. But, the responsibility of being a coach as far as organization, practice planning, working with the kids and parents and administration isn’t anything new to me. I’ve been there and done that in multiple sports.
“This is just upping the ante to a varsity program. My philosophy is going to be same. I think I’ve been in enough leadership positions that I can transfer a lot of that over.”
Wingard takes over a program coming off an 0-10 season on the field, although Beavers got a win after the season when Erie High was forced to forfeit its victory against the Beavers when it learned an ineligible player competed in that game.
“If you go winless, in your head I think you continue to think you’re winless,” he said. “It will be a challenge to get over that, and there is no magic formula. I think if we can create a system where we learn to appreciate hard work and cooperation and hold each other accountable — and that includes the kids and coaches together — we can try to build something we’re proud of.
“We’re going to make some sacrifices for each other and work really hard, and if we do that, I’m positive that some results will follow. Once that first win comes, I think it can erase a lot of it (the losing memories). Let’s face it, winning is important and we’re going to do our best to do that.
“I think we can do it with a lot of hard work and holding each other accountable while incorporating a lot of teamwork and mixing some fun in there too.”
When that first win happens under Wingard, it will occur in a new league as the DuBois makes the switch to the District 9 Large School Division after competing for several years in District 10’s Region 5 and later Region 7. Wingard believes the move will be a good for the Beavers.
“I know the move was talked about a lot and sometimes seen as controversial, but the best part about it is you’re playing more local games,” said Wingard. “I think the fan base will get more excited, and I think the kids are going to be more excited as well. Instead of traveling and hour and half to Franklin or Oil City, we’ll be playing at places like Punxsy or St. Marys. I think we’ll have a better following going to closer places like that, which will be good for the kids and school.
“People also seem to think since DuBois is in the D-9 Football League, that we’re just going to win. That’s not true. There are good football teams in the D-9 League, and we’re going to have to work our butts off to compete just like we would in any other league.”
As for his coaching staff, Wingard said he’s still in the early stages of forming it but plans to have a mixture of holdovers and newcomers.
“They key is having good people around you, and I’m going to build (staff) with good people around me,” said Wingard. “I’m looking to keep some people around that I know have bought in and are loyal to the kids and program. I think I’m also going to be really fortunate and honored to have some former players who are now old enough and are interested in coming back to help. That’s going to be kind of cool. It makes you feel good to know you have impacted some kids that now they want to come back and try to do the same.
“That’s my main reason for wanting the job. We’re all wired for who we are, and I’m an educator first. But, I’ve always felt there are ways to help kids some beyond what I’m teaching them in the classroom.
“Sports were so pivotal in how I was raised and who I became, and I believe they are another source of education and personal growth. Without sounding corny, sports can make you a successful person in life, and I’m just glad to be able to do this and work hard to make an impact on more kids.
“There were a couple coaches who made an impact on me when I was younger. Since I was a Curwensville guy, my old head coach Lyle Domico and (the late) Andy Evanko, who was my freshman coach, were two guys who 100 percent impacted me there along with Gene Thomas.
“Kent Toma was another when I student taught on the Navajo reservation in Arizona, as well as Jim Wetzel the football coach at Lewisburg when I was there. He was awesome.”