TRI-COUNTY LEAGUE Leetonia to celebrate 100th season with new stadium
Art Altomare is coaching the Bears for the 26th time.
By MARK W. MILLER
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
LEETONIA -- It will be an exciting time for Leetonia High School as the Bears embark on their 100th year of football and inaugurate a new stadium on Sept. 18 against Sebring.
Coach Art Altomare starts his 26th season as coach and is in his second term as Leetonia's mayor. He juggles the two positions with confidence.
He has been Leetonia High's physical education and health teacher for 30 years.
Under his direction, the Bears compiled a 6-4 record a year ago and Altomare's career mark is 132-118-2.
"I felt bad that last year's seniors didn't have the opportunity to play in the new stadium," Altomare said. "Our juniors and sophomores are anxious to play in our beautiful new stadium and complex."
The stadium has new locker room facilities and a weight room.
Leetonia has 36 players on its roster, with 11 seniors returning.
"We lost some key players last year, especially our quarterback Matt Custer," Altomare said. Custer, a two-year starter, was honorable mention all-state and a Tri-County League first-team selection.
"We have some good kids coming back, including Aaron Merrill," Altomare said.
Merrill, a senior, started as a freshman at linebacker. The 6-0, 249-pound three-year lettermen has started at fullback since his sophomore year.
Altomare said that Merrill is the only player in his 26 years of coaching that started every game since his freshman year.
"He can become the first performer in Tri-County League history if chosen again as a TCL first-team selection this year," Altomare said.
"Merrill is not an individual player, but a team player, and his leadership is instrumental for our other players," Altomare said.
Altomare said that this year's team is coachable group of kids that doesn't complain and does what the coaches ask of them to do.
Leetonia has to play its first three games on the road.
"We'll have to wait three weeks before we can open at home in the new stadium with hopefully 300 former Leetonia players and coaches returning for the contest with Sebring," Altomare said.
"I am really happy with our administration and school board in making the complex a reality," Altomare said.
"Columbiana, Crestview and Lisbon have strong teams with a lot of talent coming back and should be among the favorites to win the TCL and hopefully we'll be in the mix of things," Altomare said.
Altomare says he still enjoys coaching, that it's part of his life.
He said he has a garden that he grows in the summer and lifts weights for relaxation.
"I enter produce tomatoes, cabbage, peppers, etc. at the Canfield Fair every year," Altomare said.
"One of my highlights has been coaching with my son Matt, 27," Altomare said.
Matt is an assistant coach for four years as defensive coordinator.
A graduate of Youngstown State, Matt competed in football at Malone College as a defensive back for one year before transferring to YSU.