by Scott Kindberg
Another Sirianni Will Lead Southwestern
Jay Sirianni Returns To Alma Mater
It was then that Sirianni got an up-close-and-personal look at guys like Greg Card and Ron Snyder, players from the 1980s who he idolized.
“Those guys, to me, were heroes,” Sirianni said. “Besides my dad being my role model, those guys were role models. Those guys were real. They took me under their wing.”
And as Sirianni hung on Card’s and Snyder’s every word, he also was introduced first-hand to a little of Southwestern’s gridiron history. Ask him today about games from his youth and he’ll spit out details as if they happened yesterday.
“In 1983, Olean was ranked No. 1 in Western New York and we beat them 13-6,” said Sirianni, smiling slightly at the memory. “Andy Petroline blocked a punt and ran it back for a touchdown. I was 7 and I remember it vividly. It was so important to my dad.”
What’s important to the father is usually what’s important to the son.
In this case, there’s no doubting the importance the Siriannis place on everything Southwestern.
“Southwestern his always been a part of my life.” Sirianni said. It looks like it will remain that way for the foreseeable future.
For after four years of playing college football at Mount Union in Alliance Ohio, and another six years serving as a high school and college assistant (from Bemus Point to Annapolis Md. and points in between) Sirianni is back home, succeeding Chris Krantz who stepped down after 10 years at the helm.
“When my playing career was over and I got into coaching, my dream was to come here to coach,” Sirianni said.
Who says you can’t come home?
Sirianni now 28, teaches social studies at Southwestern and his classroom is adorned with several Pittsburgh Steelers posters and pennants. But don’t let that fool you. While he might even have a “Terrible Towel” or two laying around some-where, Sirianni’s true passion is high school and college football.
“Coach Krantz has really built up the program and has done a great job” Sirianni said.
“Those are some big shoes to fill. … Some people ask me if there’s a lot of pressure from the community and there might be, but it dulls in comparison to the pressure I put on myself because of the pride I have in Southwestern.
“I just look at these guys … and I put pressure on myself because I want them to succeed. My coaching staff and I work hard for these athletes and they, in turn, work hard for us.”
And just in case anyone needed convincing, Sirianni took the team to a 7-on7 passing clinic earlier this summer at Mount Union his alma mater and the home of the defending Division III national champions. In addition to receiving instructions from the Purple Raiders coaching staff, the Trojans also competed in the round robin, 16 team tournament.
Suffice to say, it was worth the trip.
All told, Southwestern posted a 4-1 record against Ohio schools, its only loss coming in the tournament semifinals’ 15-13.
“Our kids had a great time, we spent the night did some team bonding and got to live the college football life for a night,”
Sirianni said. “We stayed in the dorms together and watched (Mount Union) highlight tapes. The kids had a great time and they performed very well.
“We’re talking about next year already. We’d like to go early next year and stop at the Pro Football Hall of Fame (in nearby Canton) It’s good team bonding. Take 30 guys and bring us together as a family, as a cohesive team.”
It’s not unusual for Sirianni to stop at his parents’ house and watch old game films that his father has saved from when he was the Trojans coach. Keep in mind that video cassette recorders weren’t in vogue in Fran’s early years, so that means the younger Sirianni has to drag out the old projector and the screen.
“He’s ‘old-school,” Sirianniu said of his father. “He doesn’t want to convert them to video cassette.”
But the flim from Oct 28th 1976 is a classic which pitted the Dan Fafinski-led Trojans against Lake Shore, then the state’s fifth-ranked team.
“I was only 1 when (Fafinski) played,” Sirianni said, “but I know him and remember him because he always came back to see my dad. I always heard the stories about him cracking his helmet.”
So one day last year, Sirianni invited some of his players over to watch the film from that game, one which Southwestern won 8-6 thanks in large measure to Fafinski’s dynamic play.
“He was good," Sirianni said. “Geez he was good.”
One gets the impression that Sirianni, if he had time, could spend all day recounting game after game. “I really enjoy the history and following in my dad’s footsteps,” he said. “I’m proud and I know he’s proud.”
History will be center stage on Saturday when the Trojans open their season by entertaining Falconer, in the 78th renewal of the rivalry.
“It’s great for the community, great for the area and great for the kids to go through it,” Sirianni said. “It’s going to be a really good game and it’s going to be two teams that love to compete against each other.”
Asked if he had thought about what he’ll say to his team in the locker room prior to the game, Sirianni shook his head.
“I don’t think I’ll have to script anything,“ he said. “It will come from the heart.”