Twin Valley football banking on two-headed approach The district has hired two head coaches it hopes will lead the team to its first winning season.

Posted: August 28, 2003

ELVERSON, Pa. — Sitting high on a hill overlooking Route 23 near the Morgantown exit of the Pennsylvania Turnpike sits Twin Valley High School.

The school district, founded in 1955, draws students from two counties, Berks and Chester. Its name comes from the nearby Conestoga and Brandywine valleys, both of which lie within its borders. Two intense but personable football coaches are drawing notice within the district - and beyond - this season.

The Raiders never have had a winning season in their young history - the program was founded in 1996, 30 years after the school opened. They are hoping Joe Domsohn and Jerry Wilczynski can change that. The two men were hired as co-head coaches in February.

Co-head coaches.

No PIAA District 1, Catholic League, Public League or Inter-Ac League school has two head football coaches. But Twin Valley, a District 3 school that sits about 50 miles west of Philadelphia, believes the concept will work. And Domsohn and Wilczynski know it is up to them to make that happen.

"It's outside the lines a bit," Domsohn said. "Neither of us has a big ego. We just want to win football games."

Athletic director Kevin Raquet called the two-coach dynamic "an unusual situation."

"[But] the more we looked into it, the more it made sense," he said.

Not unprecedented

Having two coaches direct a high school program is rare but not unprecedented.

Tom Maxwell, Craig Phillips and Dave Weigel served as co-head football coaches at Morrisville in 1994 after Ron Dilks was dismissed midway through the season for using an ineligible player. The Bulldogs finished 0-9; Hank DeGeorge took over a year later.

John Whitelock and Hal Honig coached the Great Valley softball team to second place in the District 1 Class AAA playoffs in 1999. Diane Kelly and Tom Mennine guided Nazareth Academy to second place in the District 1 Class AA girls' swim championships in 2000.

The arrangement has worked on college campuses, too. Co-head coaches Jill Sterkel and Michael Walker led the University of Texas women's swim team to a seventh-place finish last spring in the NCAA meet.

Domsohn, 43, and Wilczynski, 27, hope they can perform similar magic.

The pair met two years ago when Wilczynski became head coach of Twin Valley Middle School. Domsohn, who played quarterback at Coatesville High and Widener University, had been an assistant at Coatesville, Downingtown, Unionville and Penncrest. A full-time real estate agent, Domsohn heard of an opening on Wilczynski's staff and jumped on board.

With Wilczynski running the defense and Domsohn the offense, the squad went 6-3 in 2001, a single-season school record for victories. They improved to 8-1 last year.

When Joe Pelensky stepped down after the varsity finished 2-8 last season, the school faced the prospect of searching for its fourth head coach in the program's short history. Wilczynski and Domsohn, hoping to capitalize on their middle-school success, decided to pursue the position together. The idea was Wilczynski's.

Raquet, since-retired principal Lyle Bliss, and assistant principal Gerald Catagnus interviewed the pair as one candidate over the Christmas holidays.

"When it was initially suggested, you think right away there's no way it can work," Raquet said. "When we looked deeper, it seemed to fit.

"With the performance and experience level of [Domsohn] and [of Wilczynski] in the middle school, we felt we were getting the best of both worlds."

With school board approval, the two were introduced as co-head coaches in February. In determining compensation, Twin Valley combined the salaries of the head coach and first assistant, then divided the total in half.

But what if?

What if, one day, Twin Valley decides the plan that looked so appealing on the drawing board had not worked out? What if the position is better served by just one coach?

"If the program is not where we want it to be, we could open the job up and either one could reapply," Raquet said.

Two voices

The duties of both coaches are clearly defined. Domsohn will run the Twin Valley offense; assistants Dave Alwine and Mike Bradley will coach the defense. Wilczynski will direct special teams and handle most of the administrative work.

And which lucky coach deals with reporters?

"After games we'll stick together," Wilczynski said.

Well, maybe, Domsohn said, smiling.

"I'm trying to convince him on games that we lose, he talks," Domsohn said.

What if they argue? That question was raised during their interview.

"In the heat of battle, what's said is said, and you move on," Wilczynski said. "Everything is handled behind closed doors."

Even without a winning tradition, Twin Valley has a strong following in the growing community. The school's football stadium, which seats 1,500, is usually full on game day.

That wasn't the case Aug. 16, when Twin Valley hosted Southern Chester County League champion Sun Valley for a scrimmage. Fewer than 100 fans witnessed the dawn of the Domsohn-Wilczynski era.

The two worked as a unit. Domsohn watched from a spot about 15 yards downfield; Wilczynski stood about 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage.

Both coaches had rolled notes tucked in their back pockets. And both barked instructions - and encouragement - to the players. They know there will be times when they have to share the good-cop, bad-cop roles.

"Good coaches know when to be intense and when to be laid back," Domsohn said. "Both of us do that well."

When bad weather forced a premature end to the scrimmage, Wilczynski announced: "We've got lightning, everybody to the locker room."

He led way to the gym. Domsohn chased the group from behind. Significantly, everyone connected with the Twin Valley football program - coaches and players - appeared to be moving in the same direction that day. They hope it was a sign of things to come.

Sun Valley coach Joe Possenti noticed.

"They are good guys," he said. "If you have a good relationship, it can work."

So far, so good

The 48-person squad and the five-man coaching staff said they have had no problems with the coaching arrangement.

"Things get done quicker and faster," said junior fullback/linebacker Chas Lynch, one of the team's seven designated team leaders. "If one coach is helping one place, the other one can be somewhere else."

Said junior quarterback/linebacker Joe DeFrank: "Two minds work better than one. They both know what they want from the team."

Alwine, the assistant, served as head coach at Radnor High in 1995 and '96; he has 28 years of coaching experience.

He said he was skeptical of the arrangement until Domsohn and Wilczynski met with the staff, which also includes Sonny Milano, the father of Downingtown West coach Mike Milano.

"In the beginning, I didn't think it would work," Alwine said. "The first thing they did was get the coaching staff together. You could see they had their act together."

So where does Twin Valley go from here?

The woods and farms that once dominated the school district are rapidly being turned into housing developments. A school that is barely PIAA Class AAA - with about 220 graduates per year - is expected to reach Class AAAA status sooner than later. Cross-country, soccer and field hockey already are successful varsity sports. Can football be far behind?

"The goal is basically to build the program and have the interest level increase," Raquet said. "We have the facility. And now we feel we have the coaches."

Contact suburban staff writer

Ira Josephs at 610-313-8002

or ijosephs@phillynews.com.

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