Saccoccia good choice by OVAC

The people who had the opportunity to help choose the winner of this year’s Ohio Valley Athletic Conference coach of the year award had a tough job.

Each of the five candidates directed their teams to successful seasons.

That’s what made the bi-state conference’s selection of Steubenville High School’s Reno Saccoccia even more impressive.

Saccoccia was named the recipient of the annual award Monday during the OVAC’s Banquet of Champions at the WesBanco Arena in Wheeling. It marked the fourth time he has taken the conference’s top honors.

He directed Big Red to its fourth Ohio state title last fall. The team capped a 15-0 season with a 50-36 win over Clinton-Massie in the Division IV championship game in Canton.

A graduate of Catholic Central High School and the University of Akron, Saccoccia started his coaching career as an assistant coach at United Local High School. He joined the Big Red staff in 1977 and, in 1983, he become head coach after the late Bob Hedmond retired.

Since then, he has directed Big Red to a record of 371-68 and 28 trips to the playoffs, also claiming state titles in 1984, 2005 and 2006. Big Red has finished as runner-up five times during that run. When you add up the numbers, Saccoccia ranks 16th in career wins among active coaches from across the country and is 32nd on the all-time list.

Other finalists for the award, which is named after the late Bill Van Horne, the longtime sports editor of the Wheeling News-Register, were Wheeling Central’s Penn Kurtz (girls basketball), Parkersburg South’s Shaun Smith (wrestling), Meadowbrook’s Lou “Scooter” Tolzda (basketball) and Wheeling Central’s Mike Young (football.)

Big Red football under Saccoccia has earned its spot among the elite programs in the state, which made Saccoccia a good choice for this year’s OVAC honor.