When the 2020 Berea Pirates football team returns to the gridiron Aug. 21 against Jackson County, they will do so with a new coach on the sideline.
Berea named Tony DeGregorio interim head coach to replace Coach Aaron Stepp, who resigned following last season due to health concerns, Berea Athletics Director Jerry Bingham said.
DeGregorio is no stranger to Pirate football, having served on the coaching staff for the last five years.
He brings a wealth of football knowledge and experience into the position.
“I was born and raised in southwestern Pennsylvania, which is a hotbed of high school football,” DeGregorio said. “I was blessed enough to get a full scholarship to EKU from 1994 to 1998. I was a three-year starter and four-year letterman at tight end.”
In addition to his college career, he also played professionally in the Arena Football League with the Toronto Phantoms in 2001.
After his time with the Phantoms, DeGregorio had the football itch and was eyeing a return to the field with the Kentucky Patriots, a semi-pro football team, before his wife made a suggestion.
“She said, ‘If you want to get back into football, why don’t you get into coaching?’” he said. “So, I approached the school here, and they welcomed me with open arms.”
Bingham said there is a lot of uncertainty with COVID-19 and the status of the upcoming football season, and Berea wanted someone to understand the challenges.
“So with this decision, we have someone in place that will be here, be ready to work with our kids, and continue to build our program no matter what timeline for a season is set forth by the Kentucky High School Athletics Association,” Bingham said.
DeGregorio has been working with the team since Stepp’s resignation.
“I have been involved with them after coach Stepp resigned and Coach (Shawn) Thacker moved on to his opportunity at Hazard,” DeGregorio said. “I was taking care of the weight room after school with the weight lifting, and the world as we know it stopped.”
Since mid-March, all high school sports have been in a dead period as directed by the KHSAA.
That means coaches can have no contact with players until the dead period ends.
Because of COVID-19, many schools, including Berea, were not able to hold spring practices.
“It all came to a stop in mid-March,” DeGregorio said. “We had a few nice days that we were able to get out on the field and do some drills after weight lifting, but as far as offense and defense, we haven’t done anything.”
The coach added that he is hopeful players are doing all they can do to prepare themselves for the upcoming season but acknowledged the COVID-19 situation has many challenges.
“You have to rely on your players’ character and for them to take the initiative that each day, they want to get better without anybody watching,” he said.
“We have a Facebook page, Pirate Nation, where I post workouts on and motivational stuff trying to keep them engaged and excited about the upcoming season I hope that we have.”