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Opportunity, 'Cats find Longnecker

March 03, 2009|By MARK KELLER

WILLIAMSPORT - When Randy Longnecker stepped down as head football coach at Waynesboro Area Senior High School in 1999, he figured sooner or later he would go back to football.

Ten years later, he's returning to the sideline.

On Monday, Longnecker was named as the ninth football coach at Williamsport High School, replacing Adrian Custer, who resigned last November after six seasons.

"I always had the desire to go back and at least be a head coach one more time and the opportunity presented itself here," Longnecker said.

It's a sort of homecoming for Longnecker, who is a guidance counselor and the head tennis coach at the school. He got his first coaching experience at Williamsport as an assistant under Ray Montini in the late 1980s.

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Williamsport athletic director Stan Stouffer said Longnecker's maturity and head coaching experience weighed heavily in the decision.

"Basically, we liked Randy's answers to some of the tough questions we asked in the second interview," Stouffer said. "We believe he would be a good mentor to the other two final candidates who we hope will stay on as assistant coaches."

Stouffer confirmed that Ryan Grabill, a former Wildcats quarterback who now coaches the JV boys basketball team, and Mike Rechtorovic, the school's wrestling coach and an assistant under Custer, were the other two finalists for the position.

Longnecker was the head eighth-grade coach at Waynesboro for two years, was elevated to freshman head coach for two more years before becoming the Indians' varsity coach in 1997. He compiled a 4-26 record in three seasons.

He takes the Williamsport job aware of the challenges that he faces. The Wildcats have never made the postseason and have not had a winning season since 1999.

"The expectations in the interview process were that they wanted an organized, well managed program and to be as competitive as possible," Longnecker said. "It's always difficult to answer why teams aren't successful. I take the Joe Paterno approach: Work towards excellence and wins and losses take care of themselves."

Stouffer pointed out that there have been only 12 winning seasons in Williamsport's 38 years of varsity football and six of those came between 1971 and 1978.

"We've had six different head coaches since (1978) and six winning seasons. We're looking for Randy to try to turn the program around and build a winning program, but it's not going to happen overnight," Stouffer said. "It's going to take building with a freshman class coming in, kids sticking with the program, accepting the program and working hard and hoping Randy has the wherewithal to turn it around."

Longnecker will have a full plate for a few months. He plans to fulfill his commitment as tennis coach this spring while implementing a training program for the football players and interviewing candidates for his coaching staff.

"I'm going to interview some that are already on staff to see if our principles and convictions match up," Longnecker said. "And we'll have some new staff. I've had some approach me and I've called several people to interview over the next couple weeks.

"Any time you change coaches you're kind of behind the 8 ball, especially in the weight room. But we'll get the kids back in for the rest of the school year and the summer and we'll expect them to show up for camp in shape."

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