State College’s Matt Lintal isn’t surprised these days when something comes out of his mouth that sounds kind of familiar.
After all, football runs in the family.
Lintal played for his father Dave, who recorded a 57-26 record in seven seasons for the Little Lions.
“I’ve had a lot of people influence me over the years, obviously no one greater than him,” said Lintal, who went on to play at Franklin & Marshall University and coach at Bucknell University. “There are a lot of similar quotes and a lot of things from my college coach, to the guys that I worked with at Bucknell to my father. I feel like I’m a collaboration of a lot of different people and coaches that I have grabbed things from, none more important than my mentor, my dad. He’s a guy that I’ve look up to my whole life and I continue to look up to.
“If he came, it would probably be a similar feel at our practices now as it was when I came through as a player and he was out on the field coaching.”
Lintal is one of a trio of new head coaches this season on Centre County sidelines. Ron Hoover makes his return at Bald Eagle Area, while former State College player Mike Soyster takes over at Philipsburg-Osceola.
If Lintal needs reminders of his coaching roots, he needs to look no farther than his current staff.
Mark Baney, the assistant head coach, and Chris Weakland, the quarterbacks coach, were on his father’s staff when Lintal played at State College.
“Chris Weakland, I got my driver’s license from him,” Lintal said with a chuckle. “He was doing in-car and he was my confirmation sponsor.
“These guys have been mentors to me and continue to be mentors to me and have helped me tremendously with this transition. Those two guys have been pillars I have been able to lean on and bounce ideas off of. They are guys who are going to give me honest feedback.”
Current defensive coordinator Mike Snyder and defensive line coach Dirk Grissinger also coached under Dave Lintal.
Matt Lintal returned to his roots four seasons ago. He spent the last three seasons under Al Wolski, who retired after leading the Little Lions to an 87-41 mark in 10 seasons.
Lintal admits it could be strange working with so many veteran coaches, but it hasn’t been.
“Honestly I thought it would feel more weird than it does because they don’t let it feel weird,” he said. “I don’t ever feel like I’m alone out there telling guys what to do. We collaborate on a lot of things and we have discussions. Obviously, I’m the one who makes the final decision, but have a lot of guys who create an environment where it’s OK to have some devil’s advocates.
“They’re guys that can be honest and open and say, ‘Hey, I don’t think that’s the best way to do it.’ If we find a better way, then we’ll do it that way.”
Lintal said the biggest challenges so far don’t come on the gridiron or film room.
“It’s all of the stuff that takes you away from the Xs and Os and the kids, that’s the biggest challenge,” he said. “It’s the ordering clothes to scheduling bus trips, where we’re going to eat and what we’re going to do with the kids and the time and all that stuff, that takes away from the Xs and Os and the relationships you build with the kids. Those are the reasons I coach football. Obviously this position comes with more of those auxiliary responsibilities and that paperwork. That’s the tough part.
“There’s been a lot of 2 a.m. nights,” added Lintal, a father of two girls. “That’s the piece that becomes more difficult and more challenging, but fortunately I have a lot of help from my assistant coaches and a lot of support at home from my wife.”
Lintal admits he can’t wait for the Little Lions’ season-opener, a home matchup with Spring-Ford on Aug. 29.
“I think I felt I was the guy and going out there by myself I’d be scared to death,” he said. “But, I feel like I’ve got 100 guys right there with me between the coaches, the managers, the training staff and the players. I may be one of the guys directing traffic, but we’re all going in the same direction and we’re all in it together and will take responsibility for the outcomes, both the good stuff and the bad stuff.”
He wants a team that exudes character and discipline.
“They represent something bigger than themselves,” Lintal added. “Trying to create that on a Friday night and getting all of that passion out there, I’m definitely looking forward to that opening kickoff and so are our kids.”
Hoover technically is a first-year coach, but he has been around football in the area for years.
He previously served a six-year stint, which ended in 2001, as head coach for the Eagles. Hoover started as an assistant under BEA legend Gawen Stoker in 1983. He has been an assistant, a junior high and a youth coach in the BEA system. He also served as an assistant coach at Bellefonte and also at Lycoming College.
Aside for a year or two, Hoover has been a constant presence on the sidelines.
“It’s fun. It’s like a hobby,” Hoover said. “You enjoy it. You look forward to it. It’s something you’ve done and I have great coaches I’m working with. They’re doing a nice job with the kids and they have a lot of energy to bring and the kids feed off of that.”
Last season, he led the Eagles defense for Jack Tobias, who resigned following the season and is now the high school principal. The Eagles (6-5) advanced to the District 6 Class AA playoff before falling 26-21 to Tyrone.
While he lost some key personnel, Hoover has been blessed by good numbers. He has 51 players at varsity practice and 64 in the pipeline in the junior high program.
Hoover doesn’t believe the numbers are an accident. He’s worked with many of those players at the youth level.
“I got to know a lot of kids in the system, which is nice,” he said. “... It gave me a chance to learn a lot of the kids’ names and know who they are. I think that’s helped with our numbers. When we have a meeting, they know me and I know them.”
Another number that he’s proud of is 300 — approximately the number that showed up at a Sunday team picnic.
“It’s fun,” Hoover said. “They’re great kids. We enjoy them.”
Having been around so long, Hoover actually is coaching quarterback Jason Jones, whose father David once played for Hoover. David Jones is on Hoover’s coaching staff this season.
“It’s pretty neat to see some generations coming through,” said Hoover, who was 21-39 in his previous stint at BEA. “It’s been a full ride here.”
The big challenge for Hoover now is not Xs and Os and preparing for Mountain League opponents.
“You kind of forget how much paperwork is involved,” he said with a chuckle. “Then, you get those flashbacks from way back.”
When Soyster watches college football on Saturdays, he finds himself focusing on the little things.
“I frustrate my wife watching football,” Soyster said. “I tend to watch the same college play over and over for an hour seeing what everybody’s doing, so I’m going to say I’m pretty passionate about the game.
“But there’s nothing I love more than watching one play for literally an hour, alright, and then I don’t watch the rest of the game.”
Soyster will now channel that passion into his job as the coach at Philipsburg-Osceola. The State College grad nearly went into coaching professionally after playing at the University of Pennsylvania, where he lettered from 1995-97.
He worked on the Quakers coaching staff and also had a job breaking down film for the Philadelphia Eagles.
But he chose a different direction.
Soyster worked in New York City until returning to the area about three years ago. Now, he’s finally coaching again after being hired by Philipsburg-Osceola in January.
“I know P-O struggled a little bit over the years,” Soyster said. “And I finally went to a P-O game the last game of the year last year. Driving back over the mountain, it just kind of hit me, saying I think that’s something I need to do.”
Soyster said he felt “overwhelmingly compelled” to go for the job after watching the Mounties fall 34-7 to Forest Hills to complete a 1-9 season that night.
Soyster spent the offseason trying to get more players to join the team. He said he thinks they like the direction of the program so far.
And he’s ready to devote more than just Saturdays to football.
“They say you should do what you love and if you spend an hour just watching one college football play during a Saturday,” Soyster said, “maybe I should be getting back into coaching.”
This fall, he’ll have plenty of plays to analyze over and over after each game.
But he’ll have to watch the rest of the game, too.
“I have a whole game to watch now and actually scouting too,” Soyster said. “I’ll have to learn to cut down the time period of watching one play, maybe shorten it up, limit myself. It’s exciting. I love breaking down film, seeing what teams are trying to do and trying to accomplish.”