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Chaney coach search begins

By Joe Scalzo

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

By Joe Scalzo

Three-year veteran John Protopapa did not reapply for the football position.

YOUNGSTOWN — Chaney High School is looking for a new football coach.

John Protopapa did not reapply for the position after going 3-27 the past three seasons.

The Cowboys went 1-9 this fall, with their lone win coming against Slippery Rock (Pa.), 30-10 in Week 8.

Protopapa took over for longtime coach Ron Berdis and led the program through the transition of merging students from Woodrow Wilson High and Chaney. Wilson closed following the 2006-07 school year.

“We really thank John for his service and what he did for us at Chaney,” said Ed Matey, director of athletics and physical education for the Youngstown City Schools. “There were a lot of problems to work through and it’s always difficult when you’re combining two schools.

“John did a great job of getting a good number of kids out for sports.”

No teachers inside the district applied for the opening, so the school will first open its search to teachers outside the district, Matey said. If no qualified candidates apply, the school then will consider non-teachers outside the school district.

One coach who won’t be applying is Ron Berdis, who went 128-73 over 20 seasons at Chaney before stepping down in December 2006.

“I might get back in [coaching], but it isn’t going to be there,” said Berdis, who still teaches at Chaney.

Berdis, however, said he would like to have some input on the next coach. He was not part of the selection committee three years ago because school officials felt he was too close to the program.

“I hope I have some input,” he said. “Hopefully they get the best guy for the job.”

Berdis had wanted to see his longtime defensive coordinator, Alan Mikovich, hired as his successor in 2007, but the school board turned to Protopapa because he was a teacher inside the school district while Mikovich was not.

Mikovich, a Chaney High graduate who coaches running backs and linebackers under Phil Annarella at Fitch, said he no longer is interested in the Cowboys job.

“I haven’t really thought about it, but my initial [reaction] is, no,” said Mikovich, who teaches at Jackson-Milton High but whose children attend Fitch High School. “I’ve been down that road. I’m in a pretty good situation now.”

Protopapa, who did not return a call seeking comment, has been the head coach at Rayen, Lowellville, East Palestine and Campbell. He went 24-9 from 2000-02 at Lowellville, then went 6-14 in two years at East Palestine and 2-18 in two years at Campbell.

Once an area power, the Cowboys have not had a winning record since Berdis went 5-4 in his penultimate season. Chaney has not been helped in recent years by a brutal schedule that often included games against Division I schools such as Fitch, Boardman and Warren Harding.

The Cowboys also routinely play a majority of games on the road. This year’s schedule included just one game at Stambaugh Stadium — against Slippery Rock.

“The scheduled needed to be worked on,” Matey said. “We’re trying to play a schedule that’s more on the level of what we should be playing with the enrollment the school has now.”

Chaney also is looking for a varsity baseball coach.

Applications for both positions are available at the board of education offices at 20 W. Wood St. Application deadline is Dec. 18.

For more details on the football position, call Matey at (330) 744-6955. For details on the baseball position, call Chaney athletic director Diane Reha at (330) 744-8508.