Dayton Shugarts says he's learned a lot in 74 years, but there's one thing he admits he hasn't learned yet.
"I never learned how to say no," Shugarts says.
That's the reason Shugarts is back at the helm of the Mount Union High School football team this season. The man who has lived through much of what his players might consider history - the Kennedys, Martin Luther King and the moon landing - has the Trojans off to a historic start: Mount Union takes a rare 4-0 record into Friday's ICC Gold home game with 3-1 Bellwood-Antis.
"I didn't envision being 4-0. It feels great," Shugarts said. "I don't know if we're better than I thought we'd be or the teams we played aren't quite as good as I thought they'd be."
Shugarts, who still works as a substitute teacher at the school, was asked to return to help groom a new coach after the late Alan Hartman was diagnosed with brain cancer and Corey Wertz decided to leave the interim post to return to devoting all his energy to Trojan wrestling.
It's the third time he's coached Mount Union, the first coming right after the golden era of eventual CFL all-time great John Helton in the mid-1960s.
Although he's almost 60 years older than his players, Shugarts said he's found a way to bridge the generation gap.
"I have grandchildren very close to their age. One graduated from Penn State in 2004, and two granddaughters, one who goes to Penn State Altoona, the other is in high school," Shugarts said.
"People tell me this generation is going to pot. But my generation, back when we were jitterbugging and following Elvis Presley, they said we were going to pot. We all survived. It's going to be OK. As the older generation, we have to be the ones to adapt to what they are doing. They're never going to adapt to us."
Shugarts will find out how good his team is this week.
"I know what Bellwood is. I know what they are," Shugarts said. "We can beat them, but we have to play a perfect game."
This and that
Ferndale has been forced to forfeit Saturday's home game against Meyersdale because of a lack of players, according to a report on WJAC-TV earlier this week. The Yellow Jackets forfeited last week's game to Shade at halftime when they were down to 11 players after starting with 14; Shade was already ahead 26-0.
Ferndale is hoping to get its roster numbers up to where it can finish out its schedule. It has a bye next week when it was supposed to play Rockwood, which called off its season before it even started due to lack of players.
Not all the WestPAC news has been so negative, though. Alex Charlton, a Berlin Brothersvalley sophomore with Down syndrome, scored a touchdown in a game two weeks ago against Ferndale. Charlton's inspirational 1-yard run was set up when Tyler DeArmitt stepped out just before reaching the end zone.
It would have been DeArmitt's first TD of the year.
"The kids told me at halftime 'Hey, let's get him a touchdown. Let's get him a touchdown,'" Berlin Brothersvalley coach Doug Paul told the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat. "We set a special play and I said that if we get around the 1-yard line, we'll run the play."
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