Terry Verrelli has a 199-98-3 record as the Greyhounds' coach for 28 years.
By RICK ELIA
NEW WILMINGTON -- The football field at Wilmington Area High School has had an artificial surface for only three seasons, but don't let that fool you.
The Greyhounds have been on a magic carpet ride for a lot longer than that.
Piloted by head coach Terry Verrelli, Wilmington has won six District 10 championships and had three runner-up finishes since moving from the WPIAL (District 7) in 1994.
Before that, Verrelli's teams captured back-to-back WPIAL titles in 1987 and 1988. Wilmington advanced to the AA state championship game in 1988, falling to Bethlehem Catholic, 26-11.
After the Greyhounds' 42-7 victory over Sharon Friday night, Verrelli stands only one win away from 200 career victories. His record during his 28-year tenure as Wilmington's coach includes just 98 losses and three ties.
Not bad for a guy who had never heard of Wilmington High until he applied for a job there coming out of college more than three decades ago.
Curwensville is a small rural community in central Pennsylvania. There Terry Verrelli grew up and found a natural outlet in athletics.
"All we did was play sports," he said. "They didn't have the activities they have today. I played football and then went into basketball and then went right into baseball."
After graduating from Clarion University in 1970 with a science teaching degree, Verrelli went looking for a job.
"I had no idea where Wilmington was. I never heard of it or anything, but it was on the [jobs] listing. I applied for the job and got the job."
That opportunity led naturally into coaching. Verrelli served as junior high coach from 1971-1975 under then head coach Ray Cebula and was offensive coordinator for Cebula's successor, Dan Sherwin, for two seasons.
After Sherwin resigned, Verrelli decided to apply for the head coaching position. The rest, as they say, is history.
Verrelli's first team in 1978 had just 26 players, most of them seniors, and finished with a 6-4 record.
"For a good five, six years there it was a struggle," he said.
Eventually, the numbers grew, and so did the win total -- a credit to Verrelli's persistence.
"People are patient here," he said. "They give you a chance. I'd be lying if I said there weren't times that I thought, 'Well, this is it. This is way too much to deal with.' All the people and the problems. Somehow, I kept going."
Didn't coach in 1991
Verrelli sat out the 1991 season after encountering a variety of health problems. It turned out to be a chemical imbalance, for which he was prescribed medication.
"Some chemical in the brain is gone, and your nervous system says there's a problem when really there isn't," he said. "They figured it was due to stress.
"I get back on this medicine during football, and then I get rid of it. I still have symptoms every once in a while, but it never escalates" to where it was in the past.
The Greyhound program has produced 12 all-state selections and nine Division I players since Verrelli took over.
"I don't think the kids have changed" over the years, he said. "I think obviously there's a lot more for them to do. I think when they buy into something there is no difference from back then and now."
Got support from wife
As far as buying into something, Verrelli admits that without the support of his wife of 31 years, Carnie, his head coaching career might have never occurred. The couple has two daughters -- Kristin and Patricia.
"When the job opened up," he said, "I sat down with her and said, 'Look, I just want you to understand, if I take this job I do it 100 percent. There's times I'm not going to be around, but I'm not going to slight the program if I take this job. So if you don't agree with that it's no problem. I won't take the job. I'll stay as an assistant.'
"She said, 'No, I understand.' It's been that
way ever since I coached. There's no question that she is certainly the reason I've lasted so long."
Long enough to be, at age 59, one win away from history.
"I think to me it's just being proud that I've lasted so long," he said. "That I stuck with something that long to be able to get 200 wins. I just feel great about being part of something that positive, and that's all I am, just one part of those 200 victories.
"I'm just glad people stuck with me, and I was able to get to that point."