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Springfield coach details work with Tigers

BEAVER TOWNSHIP — The past three seasons have been very satisfying for Springfield Tigers’ football coach Sean Guerriero, his staff and team.

His squad has posted a 29-2 overall mark, advanced to the Division VI state championship game a season ago and he has authored the best three-year run in program history.

Now in his 14th season at the helm of the Tigers’ grid fortunes, Guerriero is currently busy preparing his unit for Saturday night’s second-round home playoff game. The Tigers are the top seed in Division VI, Region 21 and had a first-round bye last weekend. They host Western Reserve, a team they defeated back on Sept. 4 (31-0). Springfield has not lost to the Blue Devils since the 2015 campaign.

Speaking to the Curbstone Coaches during Monday’s weekly session at Avion Banquet Center, Guerriero said being humbled his first four seasons as Springfield’s coach has only made him appreciate his team’s current run.

Guerriero has a 90-55 record at Springfield with a 45-8 run since the 2016 season. The Tigers, who have five playoff appearances, were the Division VI state runner-up last season with a 14-1 record.

However, Springfield was 15-25 in its first four years under Guerriero.

“I had just graduated from YSU in 2002 and my first job out of college, which was during the 2002-03 academic year, was strength coach at Gilmour Academy in Cleveland,” he said. “After that, I served as a teacher-assistant football coach at Girard High School before Springfield Local hired me as its head coach prior to the 2007 campaign.

“Those early years were tough because the competition level in the Inter Tri-County League was absolutely off the charts. Teams like Mineral Ridge, Crestview, South Range and United were in the middle of their great runs. We were a smaller program that had to fight week to week just to survive.

“You think you know everything, but I got humbled rather quickly. I was young, 27 years old, and must give a lot of credit to my defensive coordinator, Adam Slopek, who has been with me the entire time. There was a lack of accountability with the kids back then, starting with their weight room habits but we’ve been able to change that culture. Much of my staff has stuck with me over the years, and for that I will be forever grateful.”

Guerriero is a Struthers native and played football for the Wildcats as a freshman and sophomore.

When their levy failed and football as discontinued, he finished his junior and senior seasons at Poland High School — later earning four letters as a wide receiver at Youngstown State University where he toiled under former head coaches Jim Tressel and Jon Heacock.

Guerriero was a member of the Penguins’ 1997 NCAA Division I-AA national championship team as a red-shirt freshman. He also helped lead YSU to a runner-up finish in 1999.

During his playing career at YSU he began to think about teaching and coaching as a career.

“I learned so much from coaches Tressel and Heacock, about football and things away from the game that made you successful when your playing days were finally over,” Guerriero added. “That’s why I demand three things from our student-athletes — the reason we have been so successful.”

Guerriero’s demands include accountability and competitiveness. It’s not just on the football field, but then then buying into their roles as a member of his team.

“First, our kids have an accountability for which they are responsible daily,” he stated. “Not just on the football field, but in the classroom, community and in their daily lives. On the field, they must be assignment sound while in the classroom. They must be on time and study so they can get good grades. They must maintain that high standard as they represent their family, school and team.

“Secondly, they must be ready to compete — whether it’s for a position on offense, defense or special teams or for an inch, foot or yard for a first down on the field. It might also be for a college interview or a job in life. Just be prepared and compete daily.

“Third and last, they must buy into their role on the team. Whether a starter, role player or member of the scout team, a senior or a freshman, it doesn’t matter, everyone needs to understand their role and buy into it. When they have a purpose, they buy into that purpose and our kids know their roles.”

Guerriero said continuity on his staff has been one of the key ingredients for the Tigers’ successful run. In addition to Slopek, his varsity staff includes Mark Brungard (quarterbacks, defensive ends), Bill Miller (wide receivers, defensive backs), Joe Antonucci (offensive-defensive line), J.T. Lavender (wide receivers) and Kyle McCree (running backs, defensive secondary).

“Coach Tressel always said that when you surround yourself with good people, good things tend to happen and good things are happening with Tigers football,” Guerriero noted.

Next Monday, John Barnes, YSU women’s basketball coach will serve as guest speaker.

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