Pass­ing knowl­edge

Former QB To­man found his call­ing in be­com­ing a suc­cess­ful coach

The Morning Call - - VARSITY - By Keith Groller Did you know? ■ North­west­ern is No. 2 in the league in both of­fense and de­fense. The Tigers av­er­age 416.8 yards per game on of­fense be­hind only Notre Dame (418.3 ypg). They av­er­age 251.0 ypg on de­fense be­hind only North­ern Le­high (229.5

John To­man’s first prom­i­nent mo­ment on the lo­cal sports stage came as a bas­ket­ball player at Dieruff in 1986.

To­man, who was also the Huskies foot­ball quar­ter­back, was in­serted into the lineup of a Dis­trict 11 4A semi­fi­nal against White­hall tied at 37 with two sec­onds left on the clock. White­hall, just four years re­moved from a state crown and a peren­nial hoops pow­er­house, was a heavy fa­vorite.

To­man fired the ball the length of the court at Stabler Arena. Ron Lacey snatched his pass and con­verted a layup for one of the most mem­o­rable wins in Husky bas­ket­ball his­tory.

More than 33 years later, To­man is still pass­ing things to oth­ers.

Even as he has es­tab­lished him­self as one of the most suc­cess­ful coaches in lo­cal scholas­tic foot­ball, To­man would rather credit his kids and his coach­ing staff.

Ear­lier this sea­son, To­man earned his 100th ca­reer vic­tory in his 14th sea­son at South­ern Le­high.

The Spar­tans are 6-0 and with a win over vis­it­ing North­west­ern Le­high Fri­day night would put them­selves in po­si­tion to claim the fi­nal Colo­nial League cham­pi­onship be­fore a sched­ul­ing merger with the Schuylkill League changes the lo­cal land­scape in 2020.

Af­ter play­ing at Dieruff and Buck­nell, To­man be­gan a tra­jec­tory that led him to a head coach­ing po­si­tion.

“I started with Rich Snis­cak at Park­land and went to two East­ern fi­nals in three years,” To­man said. “Then I went with Jim Mor­gans at Sal­is­bury for two years and stayed at Sal­is­bury for three years with Frankie Lane. Then I went up to Northamp­ton for two years and was a co­or­di­na­tor un­der Teko John­son. I was look­ing for the right spot and South­ern Le­high opened up.”

To­man still thanks then su­per­in­ten­dent Joseph Liberati and ath­letic di­rec­tor Don Harakal for be­liev­ing in him and se­lect­ing him as a first-time coach.

“Deep down in­side some­where most peo­ple in the coach­ing realm want to even­tu­ally be a head coach,” To­man said. “Even when I was in col­lege, I was al­ways doo­dling plays like I was a co­or­di­na­tor. I guess I al­ways wanted to be a head coach one day.”

To­man had enough con­fi­dence in his own abil­ity that he sur­rounded him­self with qual­ity peo­ple over the years, guys who were ei­ther former head coaches or on their way to be­com­ing them.

Chuck Sonon and Gene Le­gath have been on To­man’s staff. Cur­rent Sal­is­bury coach Andy Cerco and Northamp­ton of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Mike Feifel have worked at South­ern Le­high over the years. Former Sau­con Val­ley coach Phil Sams is a first-year mem­ber of To­man’s staff. Derek Bleiler, an Em­maus prod­uct, has been with the Spar­tans for many years. What are To­man’s strengths? “Ev­ery­one tells me I am su­per or­ga­nized and de­tail-ori­ented,” he said. “I try to keep our prac­tices down to the minute. I think I have a good re­la­tion­ship with the par­ents and kids. There are al­ways peo­ple out there who are haters, but in gen­eral, we’ve de­vel­oped a good re­la­tion­ship with the com­mu­nity.”

To­man played pri­mar­ily of­fense at Dieruff and de­fense at Buck­nell and said he learned some­thing wher­ever he went. He also took some­thing from each stop he made over 10 sea­sons as an as­sis­tant.

“I cre­ated a net­work where if I did get a head coach­ing job I could sur­round my­self with qual­ity coaches,” To­man said. “A lot of guys as­pire to be­come a head coach but don’t re­al­ize the dif­fi­culty in putting a coach­ing staff to­gether. I’ve been very for­tu­nate.”

South­ern Le­high is 60-16 since the start of the 2013 sea­son and has had just two los­ing sea­sons un­der To­man. They came in his first two sea­sons af­ter he in­her­ited a 1-9 pro­gram in 2006.

The Spar­tans shared league ti­tles in 2013 and 2014, but have yet to win an out­right Colo­nial crown or a Dis­trict 11 cham­pi­onship.

The 2019 team could make his­tory. “We have good kids, hard work­ers,” To­man said. “Not that ev­ery other team doesn’t do it, but these kids are in the weight room in the off­sea­son do­ing what we’re ask­ing them to do … stuff I’ve learned from Rich Snis­cak and Jim Mor­gans.”


Ear­lier this sea­son, John To­man earned his 100th ca­reer vic­tory in his 14th sea­son at South­ern Le­high.

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