yellow polo hat Successful Hornet grid coach going home to Western Pa
HAMILTON After spending the last six seasons resurrecting Hamilton High West’s football program, Keith Hartbauer has decided to return to his football roots.
The second winningest coach in the history of Hornet football, Hartbauer will return to the western Pennsylvania where he grew up to become head coach at Peters Township High in McMurray, Pa.
Hartbauer coached Hamilton for seven years, posting winning records the last six as the Hornets won six straight CVC titles and got to the Central Jersey III playoffs each time.
Although most of his staff and some administrators knew the move was coming Hartbauer did not want to discuss his decision until meeting with his players.
“Sometimes you don’t realize the impact you have on kids until a moment like this,” said Hartbauer, who grew up in Somerset, Pa. (a Pittsburgh area suburb) where he quarterbacked the football team. His parents now live in McMurray, five minutes from his future job.
Peters, a Class 4 A school that competes in the WPIAL, plays in a 15,000 seat astroturf stadium with lights. It had 32 applicants for the coaching position, with Hartbauer and ex Jets center Jim Sweeney the finalists.
“When I’d go home to visit my family I’d pass the school (Peters High) and jokingly told my dad if the coaching job ever opened I wanted to apply. I happened to be in the right spot at the right time.
“All our family is back there that was the deciding factor,” said Hartbauer, whose wife Kelly also grew up in western Pennsylvania. “Now our parents can see the grandchildren (Kory, Kari, Kaitlin and Kylie) every day, not a few times a year.
Hartbauer will teach health and physical education at his new school, the same courses he has taught the past four years.
“The past seven years here have been some of the greatest years of my life,
that’s why it’s so hard to leave,” he said.
“We’re losing a good man. We have big shoes to fill,” principal Dave McWilliam said.
“We’re hoping to have a lot of top quality applicants. Our kids and community deserve to have a very good football program continue,” said McWilliam, who hopes to interview applicants within the next month and have a new coach “on board soon.”
Hamilton’s top assistant Steve Gazdek won’t be a candidate for the job since he is the athletic director. One potential applicant could be McCorristin coach Bob Harris, a former Hamilton Hall of Fame football player.
“The foundation is set. The program can continue to win,” said Hartbauer. With seven starters on defense and six on offense returning from a team that shared the CVC Colonial crown the Hornets will be one of the teams to beat next fall.
A 1988 graduate of Slippery Rock (Pa.) University, he came to Hamilton as athletic trainer in 1992 and became head coach when Dave Prutow left after the ’93 season. Hartbauer took over a program that had won just two of its previous 19 games.
At the time Hamilton officials were criticized for selecting a new coach with no prior head coaching experience, but within a year Hartbauer proved their bold move was the perfect one as he launched the Hornets on a run of championship seasons unmatched in school history.
In his ‘rookie’ season Hamilton went 2 7, but over the next six years averaged eight wins a year.
On the way to posting a 53 19 record Hartbauer moved into second on Hamilton’s alltime win list behind the 79 54 4 mark the late Bill McEvoy compiled in 15 year Hall of Fame career.
In addition to turning the Hornets into the CVC’s team of the ’90s, Hartbauer had 18 of his players go to college, including eight to Division I or I AA programs Tim Upshur (Purdue), Tim Selmon (Virginia Tech), Greg Mukerson (Temple), Shawn Hackett (West Virginia), Terrance Glover (Penn State), Brian White (Villanova), Detrik Watson (Fairfield) and Keith Harper (Monmouth).
Hartbauer earned Trentonian Coach of the Year honors after the 1995 and ’96 seasons, while four of his athletes won Player of the Year honors. Named Coach of the Decade in the CVC,
the popularHartbauer also played a key role in the promoting youth football leagues in the township which proved to be an excellent “feeder system” for his program.