Laurel High has found its man.
Brian Cooper replaces Pat Cuba at the helm of the Spartans football program. Cuba resigned last month after leading the Spartans to a 7-3 record and the program’s first playoff appearance since 2009.
“I’m excited,” said Cooper, is a history teacher in the Shenango Area School District. He says he will continue to coach girls track at Shenango. “It’s a great job and a great opportunity. I’m looking forward to continuing that tradition. I’m looking forward to meeting the kids and getting to know them. I don’t know a lot of them right now, but I know the community. I live in the community, so I’m excited to keep that tradition going.
“I’m anxious to start meeting with coaches and get my staff established. I want to get the program in place and meet with the kids, so we can get ready for the summer program. I feel like there’s a lot to do and I’m ready to get started.”
Cooper, 44, went 37-44 in eight years at Shenango before stepping down prior to the 2007 season to spend more time with his wife of 18 years, Bobbi Lyn, and children Juliana and Brady.
After taking a year off, he returned to the sidelines in 2008 as an assistant at Wilmington under head coach Terry Verrelli. He also has coached Pop Warner football in the Laurel district.
“I thought about it long and hard,” Cooper said. “Everything seemed right. Before, it didn’t. I enjoyed coaching at Wilmington and the responsibilities I had. I enjoyed being a part of my family’s life, but now, my kids are at an age that I can devote the time and committment to coaching. The opportunity was there and I wasn’t sure it would be there again.”
Cooper isn’t worried about getting a late start with offseason workouts.
“We can’t control what’s behind us,” he said. “We have to keep pushing and get ready for the upcoming season. Why worry about things that are in the past? All we can control is this point forward. I’m anxious to get going, so we can get ready for the upcoming year.”
Due to his committments to the Greyhounds’ football program, the new Spartans coach doesn’t know much about his players.
“I don’t know a whole lot,” Cooper said. “Friday nights, I was coaching football at Wilmington and on Saturdays, I was helping with Laurel’s Pop Warner program. I know what we have in the younger groups. As far as the varsity goes, I know they had a great season last year, but I haven’t gotten to see them play. I have heard a lot of positives about the weight room and the kids in there. I’ve seen a few of them in track and I’ve been impressed with their speed and their strength. I haven’t gotten to see them on the football field, yet.”
Cooper does have some familiarity with the teams Laurel will be playing this fall when it moves up to Class AA, joining Mohawk and Ellwood City in the Midwestern Athletic Conference.
“I know the competition,” he said. “When I was coaching at Shenango, that’s where we were at. We were playing Beaver County football, playing Aliquippa and Beaver Falls, so I know what I’m getting myself into.”
Under Cooper’s guidance, Laurel likely will showcase some Wing-T on offense, but he says he isn’t handcuffing himself to it.
“Everything will be based off the Wing-T, but at the same time, I’ll put ourselves in the best position to win,” said Cooper, who anticipates using a 4-4 defense. “My last year at Shenango, we had the leading passer in the WPIAL (Rocco Colavecchia) so we threw the football a lot. The first year I was calling plays at Wilmington, we were big, so we were a power football team. I’m going to do whatever it takes to win.”