The third time was the charm for Larry Wendereusz.
The past two times the head football coaching position was open, the job ultimately went to former coaches Brendan Hathaway and Travis Sarver.
Wendereusz' persistence paid off when he was named the Rockets' new head coach earlier this spring, replacing Sarver, who stepped down after one year on the job at Slippery Rock. The Rockets finished 5-6 and earned a District 10 playoff berth under Sarver last year.
"I applied the past three times that it was open not because I was eager to be a head coach, but because I wanted to be a part of that program," Wendereusz said. "I was excited for the opportunity to do that. Coach Hathaway is a great guy and I've spoken with him several times. He's a great guy and a very successful coach up there. I've talked with Coach Sarver as well. You understand sometimes the timing isn't right. I had some maturing to do. The longer I stayed an assistant the more I was able to mold myself into who I wanted to become as a head coach.
Wendereusz, 42, was a running back and defensive back at Seneca Valley before graduating in 1992. He later returned as an assistant — most of his time with the Raiders was an assistant coach — serving under Terry Henry, Mike Buchert, Bob Ceh and Don Hall.
He also spent a year at Grove City High School under Clair Altemus, a year at Ellwood City and a year at Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic under former Steelers linebacker Jason Gildon. The new SRHS coach also has some collegiate coaching experience under his belt at Geneva.
"I have not been a head coach, but I've made my rounds at the high school and collegiate levels," Wendereusz said. "I actually started my varsity coaching career when I was a senior in college when I came back and coached for Terry Henry at Seneca Valley.
"For me, getting to work under Coach Hall at Seneca Valley and to work under Jason Gildon. You really take some things that they did well and apply it to my coaching style. Going to North Catholic for a year really changed my mindset on some things and that was really beneficial to me. It really changed my approach a lot as far as how I approach things on the field and off the field."
The new Slippery Rock coach wants to instill a sense of family within the current and former players. Wendereusz has spent the past few months building a website for the football program and is currently conducting a camp for children in the elementary and middle schools.
He has plans on inviting SRHS football alumni back for special events including a dinner prior to the Grove City game this fall and potentially a golf outing.
"The first phrase I used with (the returning Rockets players) is family," Wendereusz acknowledged. "I believe that. I wholeheartedly believe if you're going to build a program you're going to do it as a family. Those players that have come and gone from your program need to come back, so you're program can stay successful. I look forward to doing that at Slippery Rock and bringing some of the alumni back. With this being the 50th year of football at Slippery Rock High School brings a special touch to that. I think we have some special things lined up for this year.
"I grew up in family that had core family values. I hope when our players leave the program have those core values, because they see the guys on my staff have those same values. We need those values to be a part of our life every day."
He isn't committed to one way of doing things on the football field and is willing to mold his philosophies to the players wearing the Red and Gray each fall.
"High school is very entertaining," Wendereusz said. "I'm not out there recruiting the best outside linebacker or running back to fit my scheme. Recruiting doesn't work in high school football. Being successful in high school football is molding what you believe into what you have. Do I have some things that I'd like to do offensively and defensively? Of course, I do, but I don' know if we have the talent to do that every year. We're still trying to mix and match to see what'll work the best. For me to say we're going to do this offensively or defensively, I can't say yet. That's the bad thing about being new, because I don't know yet. I don't know all their strengths and weaknesses. My job over the summer is to see what scheme fits best with the players I have."
Wendereusz lives in the northern portion of Evans City and will remain at Seneca Valley Middle School as the Dean of Students.
"For me, I'm excited and I get more excited every day that I'm there," he said of his new position as the Slippery Rock football coach. "I know the conference we're in isn't an easy one to say the least. The talent and the teams are going to be a daunting task and we know that. There are some very talented football teams up there. I had someone come up to me the other day and say "I know you're from the WPIAL and Seneca Valley, but I'm going to tell you that what you're entering is the Quad North of District 10. I said I know what the Quad North meant when I was coaching there. I look forward to the challenge week-in and week-out."