Deer Lakes hoping to send departing AD out with victory
LORETTO — Deer Lakes (20-1) would like nothing more than to send athletic director Dan O’Neil off with a parting gift — a state softball championship.
O’Neil has resigned after almost two years at the post.
It will take three more wins to bring home the title, but the Lancers’ playoff run was delayed Thursday when their PIAA Class AA quarterfinal playoff game against Martinsburg Central (18-6) was rained out and postponed to noon today at St. Francis (Pa.) University’s Red Flash Field in Loretto.
Deer Lakes’ graduation is tonight, which prompted the earlier start time.
O’Neil is acting AD until the end of the month, when former assistant football, basketball and baseball coach Chuck Bellisario takes over.
“It’s been great working at Deer Lakes; it’s such a nice little place,” said O’Neil, 55. “This is a close community that loves its high school sports. I hate to leave, but it’s just been too much.”
O’Neil lives in Beaver County and routinely makes the 33-plus-mile, hour-and-10-minute trek to West Deer.
He was athletic director at Beaver Area for nine years before taking over at Deer Lakes in August 2010. He also has worked as a principal at Riverside and coached basketball at New Brighton.
“I also have two kids still in high school out that way,” he said.
The WPIAL-champion softball team has been one of several feel-good stories during O’Neil’s short stay.
Others include the football team’s appearance in the WPIAL playoffs for the first time in school history, and the boys volleyball team’s WPIAL and PIAA titles.
“Dan had a lot of nice things to say at our banquet the other night,” softball coach Craig Taliani said. “He talked about the great relationships you can make as a team. The kids really seemed to like having Dan around. He’s done a great job. It’d be nice to give him a championship.”
Bellisario, a 1995 Riverview grad, played tight end at Duquesne University, where he later worked as an equipment coordinator and held a game-day relations position for the Dukes.
“This is something I have always wanted to do,” said Bellisario, 35. “A lot of our sports teams have been doing really well. I think we can get there in all sports. We have the athletes in the school. And coming from Riverview, I am used to the small-school atmosphere.”
Bellisario hopes to make former Riverview athletic director and football coach Jake Cappa proud.
“He’s someone I can take after,” Bellisario said. “And Dan has been great to learn from too.”
Bellisario also stays busy at home with family. He and his wife, Erin, have 21-month-old triplets — Luca, Gabriella and Sienna.
Bill Beckner Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-224-2696 or email@example.com.