This is the fifth in a series of eight articles profiling the Seneca Valley Sports Hall of Fame's Class of 2019.
WEXFORD — A lot of people have contributed to Seneca Valley football over the years. When it comes to time served, Robert Magerko tops the list.
The former physical education teacher and guidance counselor in the district spent 34 seasons coaching SV's gridders. That span included time with the junior high, freshman and varsity teams.
“I always coached my players to hustle and be aggressive ... be better today than yesterday,” said Magerko. “Seeing kids progress, that's what kept me going.”
Magerko will be inducted into the SV Sports Hall of Fame in September.
His tenure with Seneca Valley football began with a six-year stretch as an assistant with the Raiders' freshman team, starting in 1981. He moved up to varsity as an offensive and defensive line coach under head coach Terry Henry in 1987-88.
Magerko then settled into the role in which he became most associated with, serving as head coach of the junior high team for 26 seasons (1989-2001, 2003-2015). Several of those teams went undefeated and unscored upon.
“We had a lot of good players and I'm proud of what those teams were able to do,” said Magerko. “Most of the kids had first played youth football and that was very helpful to me.”
Magerko's focus was not just on what each player could offer that season, but what he could do for future Raider teams.
“There were kids who did not start for me, but ended up starting for varsity,” he said. “I always encouraged them to stick with it, hang in there. I reminded them that they were working for Friday night lights.”
Magerko's time with SV football spanned nine head varsity coaches — Guff Wiegand, Tom Heckendorn, Henry, Rick Shepas, Mike Buchert, Bob Ceh, Ron Butschle, Don Holl and Dave Vestal.
“When there was a change with the varsity head coach, the new guy usually brought in a new scheme and we'd have to learn it, the new terminology,” said Magerko. “I had to remain open-minded.”
Magerko also coached track and field at SV for a total of 23 years. After a short stint with varsity, he coached the shot put and discus at the junior high level for 16 seasons and served as head coach there for five seasons.
“We worked on technique and looked for the little victories,” he said. “If a kid's best throw was 50 feet, the goal was 51.”
Magerko grew up in Fayette County and is a 1976 graduate of German Township High School. He played football, basketball and wrestled before continuing his football career at Salem College in West Virginia.
“It was while I was in high school, particularly playing football, when I realized I wanted to be a coach some day,” he said. “I enjoyed my coaches and I was fortunate to have some really good ones. I saw the way they helped me and my friends.”
The backing he received at home is something that sticks with Magerko to this day.
“I received a lot of love and support from my parents, Martin and Gloria. They still live in Fayette County and have always been there for me.
“My dad was a sports-minded individual and was the first one to take me to football games.”
Magerko will soon take his place in the hall of fame alongside a number of the athletes he coached.
“I was surprised to get the call, but am very honored and very blessed.”