East hoping to finally turn things around

Rebuilding. It’s an ugly word for some, but a ray of hope for others.

With that, welcome to high school football season.

Take East High School. The Panthers have had one winning season since 2007. It was that year, after the closing of The Rayen School and Wilson High School, East reopened its doors to accommodate the Youngstown City school children yearning for a new institution to call their own.

East High School, closed after the 1997-98 school year, reopened in 2007. The nickname changed from the Golden Bears to Panthers.

Players from Wilson and Rayen, those who didn’t opt to go to Chaney, headed to East. Players from Wilson wanted a new start – not a winning season since 1989 when the Redmen went 6-3.

Players from Rayen had more than a glimmer of hope prior to the merger. The teams under coach Brian Shaner, who has resurrected a Niles team and community after one season with the Red Dragons, mentored the Tigers to back-to-back 7-3 seasons in the school’s final two years.

Shaner took over East and the newly founded Panthers went 8-2.

The team has went through hard times thereafter, not getting above .500. Jim Vivo, after one season in 2012, went 3-7.

This year, first-year coach P.J. Mays, a 1998 East High School graduate, wants to prove his alma mater can rebuild that it can get back to a winning record. It can get into the playoffs for the first time since 1997, Mays’ senior season.

Mays thinks the unseen potential is there with this team. He hopes he can extract that potential in the 2013 campaign and on down the road.

“There’s a lot of guys who have had a lot of little league success,” Mays said. “We’ll definitely try to use that as their basis of winning on the field. As far as that goes, we’ll definitely lean on the success they’ve had there. Our middle school program does a great job of helping us and building some of these guys up. They do very well in the middle school ranks as well. All they have to do is continue doing the things that they’ve done. It’s my responsibility to teach these guys how to be winners, how to do things the correct way. That’s how we’ll try to change the culture of how it’s been here as far as Friday nights and definitely try to get a lot more wins here than what they’ve normally done.”

This is a group of players that want to win sometime soon. They hope their new coach can bring success to the city for the first time in a decade, success meaning to reach the postseason.

Chaney, under legendary coach Ron Berdis was the last Youngstown city team to reach the postseason. Chaney, the city’s other high school which does not accommodate athletics, made the postseason in 2003 and lost to Whitehall-Yearling on Oct. 31, 2003, 18-15.

Will East finally get over .500? Will the Panthers get back to the playoffs? It may not happen this season or the next, but East seems to be heading in the right direction.

There’s one person who will be sorely disappointed if it is not – Mays.