New Castle News

Closer Look

January 15, 2013

High School Football: Commesso hopes to lead Shenango back to winning ways

NEW CASTLE — Mike Commesso had no doubt that his time had come.

The Shenango Area School Board hired the 39-year-old Mohawk High graduate and Hopewell High assistant as Shenango’s head varsity football coach last night.

The vote was unanimous from the board’s nine members. He will make an annual salary of $6,177.

“Being a head coach is something that I always wanted to do,” Commesso said. “The timing seemed right. I had been at Hopewell for 12 years. I was running the defense for the last five. I just felt like I was prepared to make the next step. I grew up in the area. When I saw that Shenango was open, I thought it was a good opportunity.”

It was an easy vote for the Shenango school board, which was impressed with the leadership qualities Commesso brought to the table.

“I think Mike is going to do an outstanding job. He has a personality that is infectious and I think the kids will take to him right away. He’s a real motivated individual. I think he’s going to do well,” Superintendent Dr. Michael Schreck said. “Everybody wants to have a football coach who can bring a winning season or winning program to the township. We think Mike is the guy to do that.”

A 1991 Mohawk graduate who played football for the school, Commesso is familiar with the school districts in Lawrence County. That familiarity helped land him his first head coaching role.  

“It was a long process. There were three different interviews,” he said. “There were a lot of opportunities to talk about my experience and my desire to take over a program with some of my strategies and vision. I’m glad they saw that I was capable of doing that. I’m glad to be here.”

Commesso brings with him 18 years of coaching experience. He began his career with a season as an assistant wide receivers and defensive backs coach at Union High School. He spent six years at the same position at Mohawk, under his father and then-head coach Lew Commesso, who coached the Warriors from 1997-2002.

“He was able to take a program that had never gone to the playoffs to the postseason two times in that six-year period,” Commesso said of his father. “He did a lot of good things in a short amount of time. He always used to talk about the big picture. He talked about seeing the big picture and not thinking short term. He’s going to be around to give me advice. He’s still someone that I lean on a lot.”

After his time with Mohawk, Commesso started as the special teams coach with the Vikings before moving to the defensive coordinator position five seasons ago. The Vikings finished last season 5-6 overall and surrendered 22.5 points a game.

“Offensively, we’re going to run something similar to what we were running at Hopewell. We’ll be run-oriented with a mix of play action,” he said. “Defensively, we’ll be running a 3-4 with a lot of aggression.”

 Shenango athletic director Jan Budai said he felt Commesso’s defensive philosophies would be the best fit for Shenango’s football program.

“We’re elated right now. We’re anxious to get started. I know he is too,” Budai said. “I can’t say he was the favorite going in. We had 22 people apply for the position. We had a few out-of-towners that were, of course, looking for a teaching position that we could not offer them. After evaluating everything, we came up with 11 candidates who we thought would fit the program. From that process, we narrowed it to six, then to four before we ended up with our candidate, Michael.”

Commesso graduated from Geneva College where he received a bachelor of arts degree in history. He is a Hopewell Township resident where he lives with his wife, Lindsey Ewing Commesso, 27, and their 2-year-old daughter, Aly. Commesso will continue teaching in the social studies department at Hopewell High while making the 40-mile trek to Shenango to coach the Wildcats.

“It will not really be a problem with the times that both schools are dismissed,” he said. “Besides some gas mileage and some tolls, it’s not going to really be too bad.”  

Shenango struggled last season under former head coach Ryan Mayo, missing the playoffs with a 2-6 Big Seven Conference record, 3-6 overall. Mayo, who resigned in November, had a 21-34 record over six seasons with the Wildcats.

“I know Ryan Mayo. I know he’s a good coach. I know that there’s a good foundation here,” Commesso said. “I’m excited to get started. The challenge of playing in this conference, I’m excited about that as well.”

(Email: a_petyak@ncnewsonline.com).

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