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Simply enjoying the ride

Longtime Freeport coach, PIAA official Breski finds way into Armstrong County Sports Hall of Fame

This is the fourth in a series of articles profiling 2024 Freeport Area inductees into the Armstrong County Sports Hall of Fame

FREEPORT — Gene Breski’s first teaching job was in Freeport. He never left.

Serving as a special needs teacher in the district for 35 years, the 1954 Leechburg graduate was hired by Freeport the same year he graduated from Indiana (Pa.) University. Breski had attended Saint Vincent College for two years, served six years in the Marines, then returned to IUP to finish his education, graduating in 1961.

“I got into coaching football at Freeport right away,” he recalled. “My first year there, I coached the freshmen.”

He went on to serve as an assistant football coach for 22 years, primarily under head coaches Bob King and Don Earley. Once his coaching career ended, Breski became a PIAA football, softball and track and field official for 15 years.

Nearly 20 years after retiring as an official, Breski, 87, is being inducted into the Armstrong County Sports Hall of Fame through a special Builders Award. His induction will take place at the HOF’s annual banquet at 4 p.m. Sunday at Freeport’s Laube Hall.

“When I got the call telling me I was going in, I was shocked,” Breski said. “After all those years have passed by, I didn’t know what to say. I’ve since found out that 40 former players, now adults, of course, are going to be there to support me. It’s an amazing thing.”

As the head junior high and junior varsity coach, Breski had many undefeated seasons. He eventually became the Yellowjackets’ varsity line coach and helped lead Freeport to four conference championships and four WPIAL title game appearances.

While in high school at Leechburg, he played on that school’s 1953 WPIAL championship team.

“Having experienced it myself, I knew what it took to win ... and Freeport had the right flavor to win,” Breski said. “Bob King and Don Earley were two of the best coaches around. They demanded a lot from their coaching staffs. You had to know what you were doing.

“Those two guys were excellent, excellent teachers. They knew what they were doing. And we had a bunch of kids who wanted to win and were willing to work hard to win. Really, there wasn’t much more to it than that.”

Breski said he became a PIAA official because he wanted to stat involved in athletics. He served as a football official for only five years.

“I enjoyed officiating softball and track,” he said. “Those sports were fun. Now I like going to the Freeport volleyball matches. That’s a great sport in that every player on the court has to be on full alert throughout every play because you never know where the ball is going. I love that.”

He appreciated his time in the service as well.

“Serving in the Marine Corps was the turning point in my life,” Breski said. “I thought I was in good condition my whole life. The service proved to me you can do a whole lot more with the human body.

“The Marine Corps makes you prove you’re worthy. You have to show you’re the very best.”

Tickets to Sunday’s banquet may be purchased from board secretary Dennis Wolfe at 724-882-3557.

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