BRISTOL TWP. >> When Galen Snyder stepped down as head coach of the Pennsbury football team at the end of the 2015 season, Mike LaPalombara – then the Falcons’ offensive line coach – stepped down along with him.
A long-term teacher at Truman who toiled as an assistant coach under Snyder from 2002 on, LaPalombara says as far as he was concerned, he was retired from coaching.
Fast forward to this year and LaPalombara finds himself the head coach at Truman, where he’s taught math for over two decades.
“I teach at Truman and I’ve been there a long time. I like getting involved with the kids and the school itself,” explained LaPalombara.
“When (former coach) Jon (Craig) retired, it was a little unexpected. But he was leaving a program that was intact so it’s not like we were starting over from scratch.
“Speaking with Galen (Snyder) and Dave (Sanderson) is how it all got started.
“Little by little, we started talking about all the possibilities at Truman.”
LaPalombara started working as an assistant coach at Pennsbury under former coach Mike Elko but he’s also worked as an assistant under Snyder, when Galen guided the Tigers. He likes being the head coach now, adding that he knew about the fire he was jumping into.
“There’s a lot more work to it and I always know there was a lot more work to it, which is the reason why I was always happy being an assistant,” said LaPalombara.
He says he couldn’t have walked into a better situation. Running the Tiger defense, LaPalombara has Snyder, who guided the Falcons to a 116-48 record and a District 1 championship in 2014. His offensive coordinator is Dave Sanderson, who was previously the head coach at William Tennent and Hatboro-Horsham.
“I think it’s pretty hard to match the staff that we have. I have two former head coaches that were extremely successful.”
In addition to Snyder and Sanderson, LaPalombara is blessed with Mike Ortman Jr. as his outside linebackers coach, Kevin Schafer as his inside linebackers coach and Jeff Arndt guiding the defensive backs and wide receivers.
In addition to a new coaching staff, the Tigers have the benefit of a new playing field. The first school in lower Bucks with a turf field about a dozen years ago, Truman had the old field ripped up right after football season and replace with brand new Astroturf. Mike says it feels good to be working at Henry C. Morgan Stadium right now.
“Things are feeling really positive at the school,” said LaPalombara. “People want to see the kids do well. The teachers are encouraging, we get a lot of support from the staff and the administration has been really supportive of me taking on the responsibilities as head coach.”
Guiding the Tigers and the newly-installed wing-T offense is quarterback Dillon Snelling, a 5-9, 135-pound junior.
“The nice thing about Dillon is that, as with most of our kids, he’s very athletic,” said LaPalombara. “He’s doing a real good job learning the offense and helping the coaches bring in our system.”
Among the ball-carriers at Truman this season is senior David Akinwande, a 5-11, 195-pound senior at fullback. The wing-backs include Habeeb Bab, a 5-8, 165-pound senior, and Enzo Pouloson, a 5-7, 160-pound junior. The split ends include senior senior Sayyid Saunders and junior Javeer Peterson.
Saunders is Pennsylvania’s defending 200-meter dash state champion and Peterson saw plenty of time on varsity last season.
The Tigers have very little experience on the offensive line, however. They’ll rotate a group of guys on the line including seniors T.J. Brasier, Ray Bishop (6-3, 305), Kyle Garcia, and Myle Wilkerson along with juniors Mutah Walton (5-10, 243) and Alex Fisher.
Truman opens the season Friday, Aug. 25 at Pioneer Athletic Conference (PAC) rival Methacton then travels to Ches-Mont rival Avon Grove Friday, Sept. 1 before opening its Suburban One National League slate at home against William Tennent on Sept. 8.
The Tigers finished their 2016 campaign at 3-7 overall, 2-4 in the SOL National Conference, tied for fourth place with Bensalem and CR South.
Truman finished the season with a wild and wooly 44-43 victory over the Owls, who needed the win to get to their first ever District 1 playoff berth. The battle included numerous lead changes, a 28-yard TD run by Akinwande, a 43-yard fumble return for a TD by Mike Nicholson and an 85-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Saunders.
The Tigers won the league duel because they converted three two-point conversions using a muddle-huddle formation. Out of that scheme, backup quarterback Robbie Tressler threw a pair of two-point conversion passes to Nicholson and ran for another.
With LaPalombara and company guiding Truman this season, expect more of the same excitement to take place on Green Lane.
TOP PHOTO: Former Pennsbury assistant Mike LaPalombara has stepped up to the head coaching job at Truman football. (Steve Sherman – 21st-Century Media)