- Last Updated on Saturday, 29 August 2015 21:52
When the inaugural Belle Vernon Area Football Hall of Fame class was inducted in 2000, games at James Weir Stadium were being played on a grass field.
Since then, the Football Hall of Fame, Weir Stadium and BVA School District have come a long way.
At the Leopards 2015 season home opener against Trinity at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 4, the Hall of Fame will induct the 158th through 163rd former standout players, coaches and contributors to a football program dating back nearly a century.
The honorees are Bert Osborne, age 86, a Marion High School star; U.S. Air Force Col. Gary Jenkins, Class of ’86, a three-year BVA letterman and team captain; Ted Pettko, a two-time conference all-star; Barry “Skitch” Senich, standout on an undefeated 1962 Rostraver High School team; and Brian Eckles, a tough-as-they-get lineman who made 29 unassisted tackles in a single game.
The “special inductee” is Mike J. Dominick, a 1965 Bellmar grad, who, although he didn’t play football here, nevertheless went on to become one of the most successful scholastic football coaches in Pennsylvania history.
Also on Sept. 4, new state-of-art AstroTurf replaces the original artificial turf installed in 2001 in “The Weir.” The upgrade will enable continuing use of the stadium an average of 60 times a year (twice as many when practices are included) not only for football but also for girls and boys soccer, band, kid football, commencement, track and other activities.
The school district will unveil a modern new scoreboard, sound system and brighter, cost-effective lights to replace lights installed almost 60 years ago. The total $1.2 million project was paid out of existing revenues rather than borrowing, part of a number of BVA facility and curriculum improvements.
Members being inducted into the BVA Football Hall of Fame Class of 2015 date back to the 1940s, when components of today’s school district played against each other.
A special edition of the BVA Hall of Fame program will be sold, including an article about the stadium affectionately called “The Weir.” The article was prompted by inquires from newcomers and young people wanting information about the long-time, legendary BVA Athletic Director James Weir who retired in 1987 and died in 2008.
The BVA Leopards football team will be playing in new uniforms reflecting the official school colors of gold and white as well as the green and black colors widely used over the years. An updated logo and “50th Year” helmet stickers will be unveiled.
The small committee that raises funds and has sustained the BVA Football Hall of Fame for 16 years now consists of Darrin Belsick, chairman; Bill Blick, secretary; John Zunic, treasurer; Steve Russell, historian; Matt Humbert, BVA head football coach; and Jack Fayak and Joe Grata, senior consultants.
The BVA Hall of Fame, which is seeking more members, follows the credo: “To preserve and honor student-athletes, teams, coaches and contributors who have helped bring recognition and excellence to our school’s storied football program.”
An informative booklet compiled by Russell and titled “The History of BVA High School Football” can be purchased for $10 by sending to BVA Football Hall of Fame, 270 Crest Ave., Belle Vernon, PA, 15012)
Following are thumbnail bios of the BVA Football Hall of Fame Class of 2015 inductees:
Mike J. Dominick -- The 1967 Bellmar graduate now living near Philadelphia became one of the most successful scholastic football coaches in Pennsylvania during a career spanning 28 years. During that period, his teams compiled a record of 235-42-6 and included seven undefeated seasons. His 1989 Coatesville defense did not give up a single touchdown while posting a 10-0-1 record.
Brian Eckles -- A 1987 graduate, “Eck” was a fearless, two-year starter at center and defensive tackle, a team leader who earned numerous honors. During a game against Yough, he was credited with 29 tackles but some say he really made 34 tackles, many of them solo. BVA Hall of Famer Craig Fayak said, “Brian was the kind of player who represented BVA football: tough, hard-nosed, unselfish.”
Gary Jenkins – As a tight end, he was a three-year letterman and 1986 team captain, leading the Leps in receptions, total receiving yards and scoring in both his junior and senior years. He excelled as a wide receiver through his 1992 graduation from the U.S. Air Force Academy, then launching a military career. Now “Col. Jenkins,” he’s based at the Pentagon and serves as an advisor to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the President.
Bert Osborne – This three-sport standout at Marion High School, who’s now 86, played halfback in the old single-wing formation. As a senior, he scored 10 of the team’s 21 touchdowns and punted an amazing 99-yarder that he kicked from the end zone and said “just kept rolling to the 1-yard line.” That 1945 team’s 7-2 record included wins over three BVA component schools: North Belle Vernon, Belle Vernon and Rostraver.
Ted Pettko – A 1989 grad and three-sport letterman, he was named BVA Player of the Week eight times over two years for notable football performances as both running back and linebacker. What he lacked in size, he compensated with tenacity, skill, football “smarts” and leadership. He declined football scholarships but excelled on academics in college, a decision that has led to success at one of the nation’s top accounting firms.
Barry Senich -- His role as a blocking back and end in his junior year played major roles in enabling the 1962 Rostraver High School team to go undefeated and become WPIAL Class A co-champions. Outstanding play earned him a full scholarship to Temple, where a neck injury ended his career there. A Vietnam War combat veteran, he later played quarterback and defensive back on a U.S. Marines team that won the base championship on Okinawa.