Anyone who has worked in minor league sports will tell you that many of the staff, owners and players become a tight knit family. Erie calls themselves the band of brothers, united in a quest for greatness. For the Liotta brothers Shawn and Jeremy, coaching the Erie Explosion literally is a family affair.
Shawn serves as head coach for the Explosion while his brother Jeremy is the defensive coordinator. The Liotta boys have been striving for perfection since their high school days at Springdale, a quiet community north of Pittsburgh nestled along the winding riverbanks of the Allegheny River.
This weekend’s CIFL championship game between the Erie Explosion (11-0) and the Saginaw Sting (9-2) is the culmination of years of hard work and determination to be the best. It is a quest that has consumed them for their entire professional coaching careers; the opportunity to climb to the top of the mountain and finally declare themselves champions.
I was part of the Erie family for a few years when I started as an intern for Erie back in 2008. My first assignment was filming game footage for Shawn to review and submit to the league and I remember noticing how humble he was. Not all coaches feel the need to yell and scream to get their point across. He helped me feel at ease working for that team and as my role with the organization increased he was there just about every step of the way. It was the respect he showed me, both as a lowly film guy and then public address announcer, that has stuck with me through the years.
The other thing that helps Shawn stand out as a head coach isn’t just his passion to win, but also to help his players get to “the next level.” That means just as much to him because he genuinely cares about seeing his players succeed both at Erie, and at their future destinations. This is one reason why he always seems to have a pipeline of talent coming through Erie.
Shawn has developed a strong reputation for being one of the best offensive minds in the indoor football world. A quick glance at the track record he has for developing quarterbacks can show you why. It’s certainly a great recruiting tool to be able to show you’ve had league MVP’s and first team all-league quarterbacks just about every season you’ve coached professionally. Establishing yourself as the top scoring offense in a league is also a great achievement; one Shawn has done in 2011 and 2012 and just missed doing this year in the CIFL.
As quiet and unassuming as Shawn can be, Jeremy Liotta is the one who loves being vocal on social media. Some might call him brash or arrogant, but I see confidence and belief in one’s abilities instead. Best of all Jeremy and his defense back it up.
Erie possesses a strong defense, one that embodies its defensive coordinator but also defies normal expectations for indoor football. After all this is the sport where you are supposed to see high scores in the 50’s and 60’s, yet there was Erie holding Kentucky, the league’s top scoring team, to 6 points last week. Just a few weeks ago in the battle of unbeatens, Erie held another top offense, the Dayton Sharks, to 14 points on the road to secure homefield advantage through the CIFL playoffs. Any time you can hold indoor football legend Tommy Jones in check like that, you are doing something special.
In the end you can recite all the stats you want, you can pass out all the post season awards and achievements and the only thing that matters to the Liotta’s is getting that ring. Neither Shawn, Jeremy nor the rest of the staff, players or front office will rest until they achieve that goal.
Here’s hoping the search for glory ends this weekend and all of the band of brothers can celebrate in style. It’s been a long time coming for Erie.