When the Campbell Memorial Red Devils made the playoffs last season for the first time since the 1999 campaign, there was a sense of elation and pride not seen in the former hotbed of high school football in over a decade.
The 7-4 season was even more satisfying to an assistant coach who had left Hubbard High where he is still a teacher and brought his son and family to Campbell to follow head coach Jeff Bayuk.
Mickey Sikora has been an assistant coach for 25 years under great teachers like Pete Pirone and Gary Zetts at Struthers, Ron Demesko at South and Bayuk when he made the jump to a school that hadn’t had a winning season in nearly a decade.
“Last year was amazing,” said Sikora. “To see how it was when we got here and to see how the kids responded to having a successful season and making the playoffs was unbelievable.
“It was also tremendous the way that the community embraced the team.”
Now Sikora has a new challenge after being named head coach at Campbell when Bayuk suddenly departed the program after last season.
It is his first head coaching position after toiling as an assistant and he is looking forward to the upcoming season for many reasons.
This is a special year for Sikora who has 16 lettermen returning including his son John, who was an All-Ohio selection at linebacker.
Q: You were a Struthers guy growing up, does it feel odd to be the head coach of the rival program that you grew up hating?
A: Not at all. My dad was a great player here at Campbell who played for the great John Knapick and he is in the hall of fame at Campbell so I grew up hearing all the great stories about Campbell and Struthers. My dad still comes to all the games and sometimes practices and that’s why I feel there is a lot of motivation for me to be here. I feel this is the right job for me and I am excited to be here.
Q: When you first arrived here at Campbell with Coach Bayuk four years ago, what are your memories of the situation?
A: When we came here we knew we had a lot of work to do as a staff. We knew we had some ability and talent with the younger kids. We knew that our staff had been around awhile and knew how to build a program and so we set out to do that. The key was keeping the kids attention and interest and taking things one day at a time to build on those talents and this is what it has led to.
Q: Now that you are a head coach for the first time, how has the transition been and is there pressure to continue the success that you helped build here with Bayuk?
A: “It was different being named head coach because I was always happy with my role in the program. Jeff [Bayuk] always delegated a lot of authority to staff members so I always felt like I was a head coach of the defense. Now as head coach I have to have a pulse on every aspect of the program. I am the overseer of everything and I am lucky to have a great staff. I don’t know if there is pressure on me now but I just want to continue to build on the things that got us here and keep the winning tradition alive. We have great kids returning and we are optimistic for a great season.
Q: What will it be like to coach your son in his senior season?
A: It’s easy to coach him. I say that because he is well accepted by his teammates. He brings a lot of intangibles to this program and he is a pleasure to coach.
Q: What does Mickey Sikora bring to the table as a head coach?
A: Stability and continuity. Someone who cares about the kids and has a lot of pride in what I do. I’ve been blessed to have learned from some of the best coaches in the area. The most important thing I’ve learned from them is how to build a program and to keep the consistency and stability to keep a winning tradition growing.
Q: What do you envision your first Friday night as a head coach to be like?
A: Being very excited. Being very excited and anxious.
Interview conducted by Chuck Housteau.