Pittston Area opens his first season in charge of the Patriots football program tomorrow morning when the Fall Sports Season officially kicks off.photo by BILL TARUTIS
A virtual unknown to the Pittston Area community eight months ago, new Patriots gridiron boss Mike Barrett has already made a name for himself within the PA locker room as the high school football season is set to kickoff tomorrow with the official opening of the Fall Sports Season.
That alone, should speak volumes among the Pittston Area faithful.
The former Mid Valley and Valley View assistant coach has brought a renewed energy and a dedication back to the program that its current players are happy to experience – some of them for the first time.
“There is a lot of new energy in the Cefalo Center,” said senior Evan Hahn, a two-way starter during last season’s 0-10 campaign. “He is in the Cefalo Center every day for hours upon hours, putting us to work, watching film, everything you can imagine. He has brought a lot of hard work back to the program.”
Junior Jordan Houseman has also noticed the change from last season.
“He works with us, lifts with us,” said Houseman who burst on to the scene last year as a sophomore playmaker. “All he does is put time in with us. He’s here every day and that work ethic has rubbed off.”
The new coach’s work ethic has not only rubbed off on Hahn and Houseman, but on the entire program as over 60 players are routinely part of the football team’s daily workouts according to Hahn.
Those numbers are something Barrett was counting on when he was hired.
“It’s a big school and there are a lot of kids we are dealing with,” said Barrett, a middle school teacher at his alma mater, Valley View. “But the kids have done an outstanding job since January. They have hit the weight room hard. They have been here all summer. They have done everything we have asked them.
“There is a lot of excitement around the program.”
That excitement also has to do with the positive energy Barrett brings with him from playing and coaching for one of the more storied programs in Northeastern Pennsylvania. That energy, along with being able to relate his players as one of the younger coaches in the area, has grown the confidence of a team that seemed to have no direction last season.
“I’ve been around coaching a while but it is my first head coaching job,” said Barrett who has coached under the legendary Frank Pazzaglia since 1997. “It is a learning process. But our approach was to bring a positive attitude here, to be here for the kids all of the time. I wanted to have an environment where the kids had a place to come whenever they wanted. And they have really been accepting of that.
“We have a great, great staff that gets along very well. We like to (have fun) with the kids, but when its time to take care of business, we are all business. You have to have a good mix. You have to be able to come down to their level at times and tell them, ‘Hey, we all understand what it is to be a kid. We’ve been in your shoes and we aren’t going to ask you to do anything we don’t think you can handle.’”
The Patriots open the Wyoming Valley Conference season on the road on Sept. 3 at Tunkhannock at 1 p.m. The game was originally scheduled for Friday, Sept. 2, but a problem with the lights at Tiger Stadium has pushed kickoff back to Saturday afternoon.