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Old friends will be coaching foes Saturday when Central York, Delaware Valley face off

ROB ROSE
717-505-5418/@robrosesports
  • Central York will face Delaware Valley in a PIAA Class 6-A football state quarterfinal on Saturday.
  • Gerry Yonchiuk coaches Central York and Keith Olsommer coaches Delaware Valley.
  • Yonchiuk and Olsommer met more than 30 years ago and have remained friends since that time.
Central York Head Coach Gerry Yonchiuk celebrates following a 42-15 victory over Central Dauphin in District 3, Class 6A semifinal action at George Ebersole Stadium in Harrisburg, Friday, Oct. 30, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Three decades ago, early in his football career, Gerry Yonchiuk was introduced to Keith Olsommer.

The Central York High School football head coach was 26 years old at the time and working as a counselor at the Pine Forest Football Camp in Greeley, Pike County. Olsommer was 14.

Olsommer’s high school coach wanted Yonchiuk to see if Olsommer could play quarterback because of his size.

But while running an offense wasn’t in Olsommer’s football future, running a program was.

Delaware Valley High head coach Keith Olsommer, center, met Central York head coach Gerry Yonchiuk more than 30 years ago at a football camp. The pair will face each other on opposite sidelines on Saturday in the PIAA Class 6-A state quarterfinals.

Years after the pair bonded at the Pine Forest Camp, they will see each other again from opposite sidelines when Yonchiuk and his Central York Panthers (8-0) face Olsommer’s Delaware Valley High School team (6-1) at 1 p.m. Saturday in a PIAA Class 6-A quarterfinal. The head coaches will face off at Delaware Valley on a field just 20 minutes away from the camp where they first met.

“That’s a pretty unique equation to get us both there,” Olsommer said. “It’s not just the two of us being there, but it’s the first time the schools have gotten to this point and it’s a pretty big deal for both school districts. For this to be the first time we have met (as opposing head coaches) in a game with this magnitude is pretty unique. It’s pretty interesting that our coaching fates cross at this path.”

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A career at PSU: The 6-foot, 4-inch Olsommer returned to the camp in each of his high school seasons before he went off to play tight end for Penn State from 1993 to 1996. He was part of the 1994 PSU team that finished 12-0 and won the Rose Bowl. He finished his Nittany Lions' career with 42 catches and four touchdowns.

Yonchiuk kept in touch with him throughout his playing career and even went to a Nittany Lions’ game to see Olsommer play.

“He may not remember it, but he yelled to me after he caught a pass in the end zone,” Yonchiuk said. 

Landing at Delaware Valley: After Olsommer retired from playing football in 1997 following a brief stint with the Baltimore Ravens as an undrafted free agent, he was hired as the Warriors’ head coach. He took over a program that had won five games in its first seven years of existence and has since built it into a consistent winner.

Delaware Valley has won the District 2 6-A title in each of the five seasons since the 6-A classification was introduced. The Warriors earned their first PIAA 6-A playoff win last week, beating Altoona.

Yonchiuk said it’s been amazing to follow Olsommer’s successful career, from a player to now as a coach, and Olsommer credited Yonchiuk and his high school coaches with showing him what being a great coach looks like.

“His positive relationships with the kids and his energy when he was coaching always stood out to me,” Olsommer said. “I have always respected what he’s been able to accomplish as a person and coach and how he has always gone about doing it.”

Delaware Valley High coach Keith Olsommer, center, met Central York coach Gerry Yonchiuk more than 30 years ago at a football camp. The pair will face each other Saturday in the PIAA Class 6-A playoffs.

Friendly showdown won't be easy: Olsommer has experience going against his former coaches, having coached against his high school coach and various former assistant coaches. He said it’s not an easy thing to do and the intensity of this game adds another layer to the difficulty.

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Yonchiuk, who is in his first year at Central York, hasn’t had many opportunities to face former players during his long coaching career. Still, he doesn’t expect it to be any different than a normal game, after the two coaches talk before the game.

“It’s like playing your brother,” Yonchiuk said. “You want to hate your brother for three hours and then you love your brother afterwards. Once the game starts, you’re going to forget who the other coach is. You know, but you’re so dialed into what you do, so you throw that out once the game starts.”

Central York High School head coach Gerry Yonchiuk is seen here during a summer workout.

Olsommer echoed the sentiment of his former coach ahead of the showdown.

“He’s a guy that I look up to and respect for a lot of reasons, but there’s going to be a three-hour window where I would like to beat him,” Olsommer said with a laugh.

After knowing each other for more than 30 years, Olsommer and Yonchiuk now face off for the first time in the biggest game of their respective careers.

As they prepare to play a few miles from the field where they first met so long ago, each is happy for the  other, but they're also ready to compete hard against each other.

“It makes it special,” Yonchiuk said. “It’s a unique feeling. I worked at the Pine Forest Football Camp, which is only 20 minutes away from there, for 25 years, so the tradition there and being up in that area is just a really neat feeling for me personally. I’m just excited for that opportunity.”

— Reach Rob Rose at rrose@yorkdispatch.com.