BROCKWAY, Pa. – Brockway recently hired a new football coach with former Rovers player Jake Heigel taking over for Tom Weaver.
(Photo of Jake Heigel now and during his playing days at Clarion U. Submitted photos)
“I have always wanted to be a head coach,” Heigel told D9Sports.com. “It’s something I knew was inevitable. The opportunity presented itself at the school I played at, and it was an easy decision.”
Heigel is a DuBois Central Catholic graduate who played for Brockway as part of the on-going cooperative agreement in football between the two schools, an agreement that he says means a great deal to him on so many levels.
“My father – George Heigel Jr. – was the one who originally searched for a school that DCC kids could play at when our family friend, Bill Gasbarre, approached him about his son Jeff, who won a state championship in baseball at DCC, playing football somewhere in the area,” Heigel said. “After being denied by his alma mater, Elk County Catholic, and DuBois Area, Brockway had open arms. It’s a tradition that many great DCC athletes have utilized from Chris Marshall to Michael Hassan. I could rattle off about 20 DCC names in 20 years of the co-op that have had a lasting impact on the program including Richie Kolash, Eric Johnson, Joey Varischetti and Stephen Sette. The bonds we all built with the Brockway guys are life long. It’s a special situation that I don’t plan on losing.”
Heigel said he will continue that tradition by being present in the hallways at DCC, and he has another Rover/Cardinal alumni, Alec Sheaffer-Doan, already committed to being on his coaching staff.
“There are a few other Rover/Cardinal alumni who will be on the sidelines as well,” Heigel said. “I believe this is important for DCC guys to see.”
Heigel was quick to mention his former coaches as people who have influenced him in his coaching philosophy.
“I had three coaches in four years at Brockway – Frank Varischetti, Mike Pisarchik and Frank Zocco,” Heigel said. “All have contributed to my athletic career, coaching mentality and life philosophies. I owe my football life to those guys and the countless assistants who helped me along the way.”
Heigel, who played college football as an offensive lineman at Clarion University, also pointed to current Clarion University head coach Chris Weibel, an East Brady native, as another person who has been influential in his coaching career.
“Chris Weibel is another coach who has really shown me how you take over a program that may be struggling and turn it into a confident machine,” Heigel said. “The culture change he instilled in our football team (at Clarion) should be taught in a coaching class. I speak with Coach often, and I still pull advice from our conversations. A good coach never stops coaching even after your graduate. Chris is one of those guys.”
Of course, the coach who probably has had the most influence on Heigel is his dad, George, who is the current head coach of the DCC softball team and has built the Lady Cardinals into a state powerhouse while taking DCC to the PIAA Class 1A championship game last spring.
“I always like to mention my dad’s success as a coach and how he’s guided my life with sports analogies and dedication to the craft of improvement,” Heigel said. “In another (interview) I mentioned his success as a softball coach, and he was quick to remind me that he was also an extremely accomplished basketball coach for DCC in the 1980s and 1990s. So I want to make sure I mention that as well.”
Heigel mentioned one of the things about his dad is how he teaches other coaches along the way.
“He really has built this empire of coaches,” Jake Heigel said. “Guys who don’t just know the game but understand how to pass it on.”
Heigel said he can’t help but learn from both his dad and Mike Nesbit – he works with both of them at Swift Kennedy & Company in DuBois. Nesbit has coached various sports at DCC and took the Cardinals basketball team to the PIAA championship game in 2007. He also has been an assistant coach on the Penn State DuBois baseball team that has won back-to-back national titles.
“Not only was I coached by my dad and Mike Nesbit, but I also work in an office with both of them,” Heigel said. “They are two of the most prolific coaches in District 9 history when you layout the resumes. I’m lucky to be surrounded by so much knowledge my entire life.”
Heigel believes Brockway moving to the D9 League Small School South Division in 2020 after spending the last couple of years in the D9 League Large School Division will benefit the Rovers, who were 3-7 overall and 2-7 in league play last year after reaching the District 9 Class 2A title game in 2018 when they finished in second place in the Large School Division with a 9-3 overall record and a 7-2 league mark.
“Dropping down into the Small School is extremely beneficial to our program at the moment,” Heigel said. “A lack of numbers really hurt our team. This will allow us to stabilize and rebuild to what we once were. We, as a staff, need to do a better job getting the athletes out (for football). Educating athletes and parents will be the No. 1 job. Football has a bad reputation at the moment. The message that needs to be out there is that this is now the safest time in history to play football.”