(Photo: Jake Cappa served as the head football coach at Riverview High School for 16 seasons. Bob Donaldson/Post-Gazette.)
Jake Cappa made a return to the coaching profession during the 2011 high school season, but didn't publicize it.
"My son, Jeffrey, made his head coaching debut last year at Wissahickon High School and he asked me to break down film on his opponents," said Cappa, who retired from coaching in 2002 after 16 years as Riverview's head football coach. "I'm sort of like a Monday morning quarterback."
Surprisingly, Cappa was able to help his son while still residing in Oakmont, even though Wissahickon is located in Ambler, a suburb north of Philadelphia.
"Many of the schools out east subscribe to a coaching tool called HUDL," said Cappa, referring to an online video analysis system. "HUDL allows coaches to download game films of upcoming opponents. Every week, I downloaded games and broke down the film for Jeffrey. I pointed out any strengths or weaknesses I saw and made recommendations. I even made the four-hour drive to watch several of his games. I also spent some time with his team during preseason training camp."
It's quite appropriate that Cappa is coaching again, because the Pennsylvania Football Coaches Association will honor him at Saturday's Big 33 Game at Hersheypark Stadium. Cappa is one of five coaches who will be inducted into the PFCA Hall of Fame.
"I'm a huge fan of the Big 33 Game," Cappa said. "My sons and I have been attending the Big 33 Game almost every year for more than 20 years. We just love it."
Cappa compiled a 129-59-6 record in 18 seasons as a head coach.
In 1969, at age 24, Cappa was hired as head coach at Verona High School after spending two years as an assistant to Joe Zelek.
"I think we had a 13-3-2 record in those two seasons," Cappa said. "In 1971, Verona merged with Oakmont High School and formed Riverview. I was Chuck Wagner's assistant for a few years, then took off a few years when my kids were born."
Cappa eventually became Riverview's head coach and led the Raiders to three appearances in the WPIAL Class A title game before retiring after the 2002 season.
"I couldn't be more proud or humbled by the PFCA's decision to induct me into it's hall of fame," Cappa said. "And to receive this honor at the Big 33 Game makes it even more special. My whole family will be there. It's actually a celebration for my family. I certainly couldn't have achieved what I did in the coaching profession without their support."
Cappa and his wife, Lois, have four sons, and three are following in his footsteps.
"John is an assistant coach at Kiski Area, Jeffrey is the head coach at Wissahickon and Jason is Riverview's defensive coordinator," Cappa said. "It's great to have all three coaching. It's a unique experience to follow their coaching careers."
Cappa's biggest inspiration, however, has been his oldest son, Jacob.
"Jacob has battled spina bifida for 45 years," Cappa said. "We call him Mr. Inspiration. He's been the biggest inspiration in my life."
Cappa grew up in Connellsville and graduated in 1963.
"Connellsville is where I met my wife," Cappa said. "In fact, Tom Dolde Sr. [Connellsville's former wrestling coach for 34 years] is my brother-in-law."
Cappa led Riverview to its only WPIAL title in 1997, as the Raiders defeated Fort Cherry, 19-14, in the championship game. The Raiders also finished second in the WPIAL in 1994 and 1996.
"There were three constants during my coaching career," Cappa said. "My wife, my sons, and Don Frederick, who coached with me from 1969 until I retired."
Cappa and the other four inductees will be honored during an afternoon banquet. The five will also be recognized at halftime of the Big 33 Game. The other four inductees are Wilmington's Terry Verrelli, who has 262 career victories, Juniata's Garry Klingensmith, Alex Kopaz and Mark Schmidt.