Paul Farnan leaves a legacy that goes far beyond Bangor’s football record books

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Among his players, coaches, students and all who knew him, they were called “farnanisms” and they still resonate in Bangor, Roseto and surrounding areas.

Paul Farnan, originally from western Pennsylvania, came to the Slate Belt in the summer of 1965 to coach football and lead the athletics department at Pius X High School. When Farnan retired in 1997 after 33 seasons as a football head coach, the last 23 of which were at Bangor, he left with a record 231 wins, 107 losses and six draws.

More importantly, these words of wisdom that Farnan conveyed through daily messages to his players have shaped hundreds of teenagers who have grown into successful adults in all fields. Farnan, 87, died suddenly in his sleep on August 15 in his hometown of Midland after celebrating the 90th birthday of his sister Mary Pat Farnan.

“Coach Farnan was so unique in so many ways. He constantly told us that he used football to prepare us for the game of life, and it was no secret, ”said Joe Emrick, 1987 Express-Times football player of the year, who was a a key figure in the 12-0 this season and is now the Pennsylvania State Representative for the 137th District. “He was absolutely keen on instilling his intangible assets – teamwork, commitment, work ethic, persistence – and he wanted to make sure we pursued him throughout our lives.”

“His greatest legacy was that he used football to teach life; everyone remembers the Farnanisms, ”said Steve Panczer, current assistant sporting director at Bangor and co-captain of Farnan’s last team at Bangor, who was 11-1 and won a Conference championship. from the east. “He set a standard of excellence to pursue and a willingness to overcome adversity. Hell, Friday nights were easy, it was the practice that was difficult. He had given you the wringer, but it was by design. These are lessons that as a father I teach my own children.

A program builder

Farnan went 40-14-3 in six seasons at Pius X before starting his well-deserved reputation as a program builder when he took over a struggling Warren Hills side. From 1971 to 1974, the Blue Streaks went 18-14-3. The 1973 team, with Brad “Buzz” Castner, Tony Donatone and Gary Valentine as captains, posted an 8-1 record and won the Delaware River Conference and NJSIAA Group 2 championships.

In 1975, Farnan returned home – he and his wife Judith Ann were raising a family on Pennsylvania Avenue in Bangor – to resurrect a Slaters football program that entered the New Colonial League as a wine merchant. They had won six games in the previous five years and were 0-10 in 1974.

Dick Smith, a longtime teacher, principal and administrator of the Bangor School District, played in Farnan’s first two teams at Pius X, then joined his first Slaters coaching staff in 1975. He stayed with Farnan for 23 years, during which time his sons Ryan and Michael played for the Slaters.

The Slaters didn’t compile many wins in Farnan’s first three seasons, but he laid the groundwork for the program’s continued success in the 1980s and 1990s.

“He made you believe in yourself and got the best of you,” Smith said. “It was the same when he coached me (at Pius X). What he taught was attention to detail. We respected him and he respected us as players.

“It was all about fundamentals. He always preached that football consisted of three things: blocking, tackling and most of all moving. We did agility drills galore.

Smith coached Farnan’s offensive line. The hallmark of Farnan’s first teams was a hard-hitting defense and a quick offensive line. Many of the guards were faster than the running backs.

“He liked the little guys who were quick and passionate about football,” Smith said. “Our trapping game became devastating… you couldn’t stop it. You knew the trap was coming, but we set it up with other parts. It was all about timing and speed.

Dr. Michael “Mickey” DePaolo was one of those lightning-fast little linemen. He was a senior at Farnan’s 7-3-1 club in 1978 who recorded Bangor’s first winning season since 1968, defeated Pen Argyl for the first time in a decade and toppled Nazareth for the first time in 20 years. Farnan would often say jokingly, but with a hint of seriousness, the 1978 team saved their work “because the natives were getting restless.”

“His big thing was speed, he wanted his guards to be fast,” said DePaolo, who operates Slate Belt Family Practice at Wind Gap. “My class was the first to be with Coach for all four years, and we were fortunate that my class had a lot of top students who were also soccer players. We were a little more aware of what he was teaching us.

Dr DePaolo and his classmate John Brown, another small defensive lineman who went on to become Mayor of Bangor and County Director of Northampton, continued their education at the University of Notre Dame, which made them dear to Farnan, a devout Catholic and longtime fighter. Irish fan.

“One of my biggest moments was a weekend I had tickets to a Notre Dame game and was able to drive Coach Farnan to South Bend to watch the game,” DePaolo said. . “When I coached in youth leagues at Pen Argyl (his sons Michael and Joey played for Pen Argyl, ironically) I think every pep talk I gave was stolen from Coach Farnan. . “

Championship glory

With the program firmly established, Farnan coached the Slaters to the Colonial League titles in 1987, 1988 and 1997, and was co-champion in 1990. The 1996-97 teams won the Conference crowns. ‘East. The legendary 12-0 1987 team won Farnan’s only title in District 11, passing through Catholic hub Bethlehem for the Class 2A trophy.

“We knew at the start of the season that we could face Bethlehem Catholic in the district championship game,” Emrick said. “I watched them a few times on TV, and they were good. We took the same approach to this game as everyone else, but I have to tell you, I was nervous.

“I don’t know how Coach did it, but I think it was because of his whole philosophy and his approach. He instilled in us a mindset that every time we walked onto the football field we expected to win. It didn’t mean we won every game, but that was the expectation. So we haven’t changed anything.

On a blustery Saturday night – the wind chills were well below zero – in Catasauqua, the Farnan Slaters hammered the Bob Stem Golden Hawks 28-7. The Slaters were leading 14-0 when Emrick blocked a punt and recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown and a 20-0 lead to seal the biggest season in Slaters football history.

“If you played for Coach Farnan, he never, ever let you resign; it was not an option, ”said Emrick. “It was such a point of emphasis. He said life is hard, you will face adversity. If you quit here, you quit your job, you quit your marriage, you quit school.

Farnan hasn’t given up on his players either. The following year, he inserted Tom Toth, a 5-foot-7, 120-pound (program weight) sophomore as a starting quarterback. Toth continued for three seasons, including the Colonial League title teams of 1988 and 1990. He returned to Bangor to hold two positions as head football coach and is currently the athletic director of Pleasant Valley.

“I think what he saw in me was a work ethic, someone who was willing to buy into his system and be open to constructive criticism… in large part. He trained me enormously, ”Toth said. I remember having a horrible first scrum, and now, being a head coach, I don’t know if I would have had the confidence to keep myself there. But coach Farnan did it, I settled in and it was thanks to the trust he showed me.

A lasting legacy

In 2010, Smith launched a campaign to have the football field at Bangor Memorial Park Stadium named after Farnan after a tenure that produced a score of 173-79-6. It came with a stipulation, according to Smith.

“He was so humble. He always insisted it wasn’t him but the players, ”Smith said. “If you go to the stadium, under the press box, there is a sign with the names of every kid who played for him and everyone who trained with him.”

Paul Farnan Field

Paul Farnan Field at Bangor Memorial Park.Saed Hindash | For lehighvalleylive.com

Farnan was 87 and played golf weekly with Smith and two others. Smith is also trying to figure out how to attend Bangor’s home football games this season without his lifelong friend and mentor.

“Since we retired from practice, we’ve been watching every home game from the top row of the visitors’ stands at the 35-yard line,” said Smith. “I will miss him a lot, and a lot of people will miss him.”

Bangor Football Program hosted its Todd Strohe Memorial Golf Tournament on July 31. Farnan, wearing a McDonald’s Lehigh Valley All-Star Game t-shirt, didn’t play that day, but he held court, talking to several of his former players and telling stories like only he could.

“I was about to leave and saw Coach talking to another player,” Toth said. “I hadn’t spoken to Coach in a while. Fortunately, I decided to wait another minute and the player left. I went upstairs and talked to Coach for a few minutes, and before we were done I said “I love you, Coach”, and he said “I love you too”.

“I’m so glad I didn’t leave until I spoke to Coach. There isn’t a day that goes by where I have to make a tough decision and I don’t think ‘what would Coach Farnan do?’ “

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Corky blake can be reached at [email protected].


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