Paul Downing takes over Coal Ridge football program

New Coal Ridge High School Football coach Paul Downing along with his two sons Luke and Jason.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

A battle with Hodgkins Lymphoma briefly put Paul Downing’s life on hold, but with the all-clear early in 2018, the former Highland Huskies head coach has returned to coaching football at the high school level, taking over the Coal Ridge program this fall.

Downing — who coached at Highland in Ault, Colorado from 2015-2016 going 10-9 — moved back to Michigan to be close to family during his battle with the disease. During his time in Michigan, Downing fully recovered, sending the disease into complete remission.

While in the early stages of remission, Downing, his wife, and two sons wanted to move back to Colorado, and through sheer luck, Downing stumbled across the Coal Ridge football head-coaching job.

“I basically emailed Mr. Kirk [Ben Kirk, Coal Ridge athletic director] my whole story, and told him I was interested in the job,” Downing said in a recent phone interview with the Post Independent. “I didn’t know if he would be encouraged by my story, or scared off, but the interview went well and now we’re here.”

Prior to sending the email, Downing wanted to make sure his health was good, and wanted to make sure he was ready to get back into coaching once again. Raring to go, Downing steps into a program that’s on its third head coach in three years after going 5-4 (2-3 2A Western Slope League) last season under Bob Frederickson. On top of his duties as head football coach, Downing will serve as an art teacher at Coal Ridge High School, filling a void for the school district.

Despite having some turnover at the head coaching position, Downing is ready to jump right in and put his stamp on the program, focusing on fundamentals right away.

“We’re going to be fundamentally sound, and very disciplined,” Downing said. “When people come to watch us play, they’re going to see a team that knows what to do on offense, defense and special teams. That should make us at least competitive.

“Beyond that, I want to try and get as many kids out as we can, and make sure they’re having fun. This is really a foundational year for the program, because we want to build a strong program here with a good tradition.”

Aside from the fundamentals on the field, Downing added that he plans on reaching down into the youth football programs in the area to help create unity from top to bottom, which serves as the key to successful football programs at the high school level around the country.

On the field from a schematics standpoint, Downing is tried and true in a pro-style offense, which allows his teams to be versatile across the board as an offensive attack.

“I’m wholeheartedly committed to a Pro-style offense, meaning we can go with the I-formation, or jump out to a spread attack; you can just do a big variety of things. This offense will allow us to tweak some things to fit the type of players that we have.”

Downing has been in the New Castle area for just a few weeks, but he’s hit the ground running, coaching the Titans’ 7-on-7 scrimmages the last few weeks, while also adjusting to a new home.

He’ll have to adjust to a new program as well, as the Titans lost 13 seniors from last season. However, Downing will have at least eight seniors this season, with each one having good varsity experience from previous seasons.

Coal Ridge opens the season Aug. 31 at home against the Meeker Cowboys.

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