Youngstown State served as the setting for an entertaining preseason football scrimmage, as well as a renewal of acquaintances.
Saturday at YSU’s Watson and Tressel Training Site, Farrell and Hickory, along with Youngstown-East, put on the pads in preparation for the 2019 season. As would be expected, there was some good and not so good for all three clubs.
Reigning PIAA Class 1A champion Farrell’s Steelers asserted themselves. One highlight was a 60-yard touchdown play. Brian Hilton hauled in a screen pass from Christian Hartley and out-sprinted defenders to the end zone.
“A speed screen. We call it a ‘tunnel screen,’” related 1st-year Steelers’ skipper Anthony Pegues. “Just a little step back, round off, and we take it up field. Christian Hartley started out for us (at quarterback), looked really sharp, controlled our offense and got us in and out of plays. Looked good,” Pegues praised.
“I think they performed well,” Pegues said regarding the Steelers. “Came out with a lot of energy, played well, did what we asked them to do. Looked good (Saturday). All in all it was a win-win. We saw a lot of guys, evaluated lots of guys. Overall, it was a good day.”
Roaming the Steelers’ sideline was former Farrell head coach Lou Falconi. He offered several observations, including one regarding Hickory’s new head coach: “I love Billy Dungee. He’s a perfect fit for Hickory,” Falconi said.
“It means a lot,” responded a smiling Dungee. “Coach Falconi is a mentor. Of course, he was my high school football coach. He gave me my first opportunity (as an assistant coach) for a few years. Just havin’ Coach Falconi around. ... He stopped by (a Hickory) practice the one day. He’s always a jokester.
“But it means a lot comin’ from him, and even just the opportunity to compete against Farrell – obviously, the defending state champions and probably’ll be the state champions again. But just exciting to see Coach Falconi and Farrell, also,” related Dungee, who essentially was encouraged by his Hornets’ effort.
“Defensively, I was very pleased, especially going against Farrell and Youngstown East – two dynamic offenses with a lot of talent, not letting anybody get in the end zone,” Dungee began, adding, “Offensively, a lot to clean up, especially communication. Lot of young guys up front, and our pass protection is just getting that (communication) down. But for the most part, I was pretty pleased. We got some guys banged up, and that’s the main concern. Hopefully, none of those are serious and we can get rested up for Sharpsville,” Dungee added.
“Really, the biggest thing for me, with a new coaching staff, is our communication (with the headsets). That’s what you lose without that second scrimmage, so we’ll just try and simulate that as much as possible in practice. But I’m pleased for the scrimmage. I think we were physical – our thing is ‘fast and physical.’ I thought we played fast, I thought we played physical. The thing is just gettin’ better in our execution,” continued Dungee.
A plus for Dungee is having former West Middlesex High School head coach Ed Roberson on his ‘Stingers staff.
“Phenomenal! Especially with him coming back for his second year as defensive coordinator,” Dungee said. “On that side of the ball, you can tell they’re a lot further ahead of (the offense) right now because there’s continuity, and he has familiarity with the kids and they have a familiarity with him.
“So he’s awesome! Even a better man than as a coach. And that was one of my criteria looking for coaches: Great guys, first; great teachers, and then great football coaches,” Dungee related.
For Farrell, Pegues is perfect, also. The former Steelers’ standout and Grambling University player related,
“It’s just familiarity. I know these kids, I know their family, I know their circumstances, I know what they go through day and night, how they go through school. I like to say I was one of these kids, so it’s been an easy transition for me because I was one of those guys.
“Lot of pride, lot of pride. Treat these kids like my own. I actually call them my kids. I love ‘em to death. Just a lot of pride there,” continued Pegues, who has his sights set on a Steelers’ defense of their commonwealth crown.
“Yes. We’re still doin’ the same things we did. We do things a little bit different here (at Farrell), but just gonna try and keep it goin’” Pegues added.
Pegues and Dungee are Farrell kids. Playfully, Pegues pointed out, “We go back ... wow! I grew up on the five-hundred block of Hamilton; he grew up on the four-hundred block of Fruit. I’ve, petty much, known him all our lives. Actually, I was probably the first person that got him started playin’ football behind the church, so we go a ways back.”
“Hey, it’s mutual,” a giggling Dungee countered. “But the funny thing with ‘Coach Amp’ (Pegues) is ... we’ve been playin’ together since I was eight years-old; he was twelve. He’d be back there beatin’ my brains in in ‘Fumble Rumble.’ But he’s a close friend of mine. We talk almost every day. Coached for six years together at Farrell, we bounce stuff off each other.
“He’s older, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he did teach me a couple things, but,” Dungee decisively declared, “I’m sure he would admit that I taught him a couple things along the way, also.”
Just a little good-natured ribbing among Farrell friends, both of whom are embarking on the next phase of their coaching careers.
ED FARRELL is assistant sports editor for The Herald. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.