Frank Paronish met with the Northern Cambria High School football players on Wednesday, the first day of his second tenure as the Colts head coach.
Paronish, 54, felt as if he had never left the sideline at his alma mater.
“When Paul (Taranto) stepped down at the end of the season, I knew in my heart that it was time for me to get back into coaching,” said Paronish, who led the Colts to a 28-25 record and two playoff berths from 2002 to 2006. “I may not have been coaching on the field, but my classroom is kind of like a continuation of my coaching. I coach the way I teach and I teach the way I coach.
“I spent a good bit of time focusing on my coaching skills in the classroom and they began to blossom,” added Paronish, a science teacher at Northern Cambria Middle School.
Paronish replaces Taranto, who left after six seasons in which the Colts went 29-32 and appeared in the District 6 playoffs three times.
Northern Cambria went 5-5 in 2013, but the Colts won three of their final four games and four of the last six contests.
“It felt like I had never lost a beat,” Paronish said of the team meeting. “The intensity in their eyes and the amount of enthusiasm I bring to this program, I think we’re a good fit.”
Paronish led the Colts to a 10-3 record and District 5-6 runner-up finish in 2003.
That season, Northern Cambria won its first six games before falling at Blairsville (24-20).
The Colts rebounded with two regular season wins and playoff victories over Windber (42-0) and Blairsville (30-12) before losing to Bishop Carroll in the district final (49-14).
“I have a lot of unfinished business,” Paronish said. “We came close to the Heritage Conference. We came close to the District 6 championship. Like most things, you have to be patient. Patience is a virtue. We want to get to that level.”
His 2006 Colts went 7-4, but Paronish resigned for personal reasons.
“We had some family medical issues that required my full attention,” Paronish said. “I have no regrets. At the time it was the right thing to step aside. Today things are much better and I smile a lot more. Now that I’m rested and have this opportunity, I’m ready to go.”
Overall, Paronish has a 37-43 record as a head coach, including a 9-18 mark in three seasons at Blacklick Valley. Paronish led the 1996 Vikings to a 5-4 record, the program’s first winning season in 10 years.
The veteran coach is anxious to reintroduce his uptempo, spread offense to the Colts.
“I have to bring these boys along and develop their attitudes and that team attitude,” Paronish said. “I see their enthusiasm and I’m excited about that.
“We utilized our speed and our skill athletes (during his first tenure). We run a set spread offense,” he added. “I’ve been watching a few of the films we have from last year’s games. I really feel the athletes we have coming back are going to fit our program very nicely and we’re going to be able to do a lot of good things.”
Among the returnees Paronish noted are quarterback Tyler Pershing, fullback Adam Weiland, wide receivers Joe Olish and Seth Bearer, running backs Noah Tomallo and Alex Kopera, and linemen, Jon McGary, Mike Sclesky and Anthony Frontino.
“Like all things, the kids have to buy into a program,” Paronish said. “They’re the ones that have to learn to do the little things correctly, stay focused and stay within themselves in those tough times and play as a unit.”
Paronish listed one other intangible goal.
“I would really like Colt pride and spirit to resonate through the halls of the school, and I’d like our community to echo the hills very loudly,” he said. “We are Northern and we’re very proud of it.”
Mike Mastovich is a sports writer for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/masty81.