On the football field, in the press box and in the game film room, a solid family connection is surrounding the recent success of the Glendale Area High School football program.
Deak Irvine, 59, the father of first-year Glendale head coach Matt Irvine, perhaps put things into perspective best.
"Being over here in the hills, most people know each other, and we work together real well,'' he said.
Mirror photo by Gary M.?Baranec
Glendale head football coach Matt Irvine (right) is assisted by his father, Deak Irvine, this season.
While Matt Irvine, 23, undertakes the challenge of becoming a head coach this fall, Deak Irvine is in his first year coaching the offensive and defensive lines at Glendale. Sheila Irvine, Deak's wife and Matt's mother, serves as the scoreboard timekeeper for Glendale's home games at Dr. Roy F. Baker Memorial Field.
The family ties don't end there for Glendale, however. Former Vikings head coach Gary Walstrom Sr., 61, Glendale's receivers and defensive backs coach, recently suffered a heart attack that caused him to cut back on his active coaching duties, at least temporarily.
Walstrom's son, Gary Jr., 23, serves as the team's defensive coordinator and also coaches the running backs and linebackers.
Betsy Walstrom - Gary Sr.'s wife and Gary Jr.'s mom - has videotaped the team's games for the past 15 seasons.
Gary Walstrom Sr., - who is also the school's principal - is doing well and is expected to make a complete recovery from his health crisis. He suffered the heart attack Sept. 17 and was taken by ambulance from Glendale High School to the Altoona Regional Health System's Altoona Hospital campus.
One of the arteries leading to his heart was 100 percent blocked, and Walstrom Sr. underwent successful surgery on that artery. He's due for another operation in the coming weeks on another artery that is 80 percent blocked.
"The second surgery won't be an emergency situation,'' said Walstrom Sr., who expects to return to on-the-field coaching before season's end. "I've been watching films and making up the play charts for the special teams in the meantime.''
Walstrom Sr. said that the family atmosphere surrounding the football program was evident the first time he saw the players after his operation.
"There were a lot of players with misty eyes,'' said Walstrom Sr., who served as Glendale's head football coach for five seasons in the early 1980s and has been on Glendale's coaching staff as an assistant for 27 other seasons. "The first card I got after my surgery was from the football team. We're all a family, the players and coaches.''
Although Walstrom Sr.'s absence will be keenly felt, the rest of the coaching staff knows that the show must go on.
"Being around the game for so long, Gary Sr. has been a big help,'' Matt Irvine said. "He can see different things and different plays we can try out. His being the principal helps, too, because he can keep an eye on the kids all day long in school.
"It [Gary Sr.'s absence] is going to take a hit on us,'' Matt said. "He's been our special teams coordinator, and he runs our scout teams. On both sides of the ball, the rest of us [coaches] are going to have to step up a little bit and split his duties.''
Gary Walstrom Jr. and Matt Irvine are life-long friends and former football teammates at Glendale, a school from which both graduated in 2007.
"We know each other well, and we all work together,'' Matt Irvine said. "On another coaching staff, there could be tension if a coach says something to another position coach. But there's none of that here.''
Deak Irvine always wanted to help coach football at Glendale. A truck driver by trade, Deak finally got his chance to help out the football squad this year.
"I enjoy it, it's a good time, teaching the young men here the importance of being responsible for their actions, and of being responsible to their teammates,'' said Deak, who served as the stadium public address announcer last year. "The coaches teach them how to work together, instead of just as individuals. We couldn't have a better coaching staff here. I never had the time to coach before, but I have a good boss at work who re-arranged my schedule so I could do it this year.''
Gary Walstrom Jr. and Matt Irvine were football opponents for two years in college - the former playing linebacker at Geneva and the latter playing center at Westminster - but they're both working together again now.
"It's nice that everybody's really on the same page,'' Gary Jr. said. "Matt runs the offense, and I run the defense, and when we get in a jam, we turn to my dad, because we know he'll have the right answers.''
Deak Irvine graduated in 1971 from Glendale, where he played various positions - "everything except quarterback and tackle,'' he said - on the football squad.
"My goal for this team is to get these young men to understand how good they can be if they set their minds to it,'' he said. "It's just an honor to bring some of the old-school football together with the new-style football, and to help teach the boys how to have fun while they play the game.''