Armstrong coach Frank Fabian ready for season after short-lived resignation

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Tuesday, July 23, 2019 | 1:18 AM


In two weeks, when WPIAL football teams start heat acclimation, Armstrong coach Frank Fabian will be there for his fifth season with the River Hawks.

Fabian stepped down during the winter, wanting to spend more time with his young family, but his resignation was short-lived. Within weeks, his mind was changed.

“I’m a teacher here. I live five miles from the school. It felt weird,” said Fabian, the only football coach in Armstrong’s short history. “I’d see my (players) in the hall and I just felt like I let them down. Some of the kids came to see me. They pulled on the heartstrings a little bit too.”

The school advertised the job and received applicants, Fabian said, but was told the best options also needed a teaching job in the district. That’s something Armstrong didn’t have to offer, so the administration approached him about sticking around.

Fabian had coached the River Hawks since Ford City and Kittanning merged in 2015 to form Armstrong. He was the ideal merger candidate with roots in both communities as a 1997 Ford City graduate who lived and coached in Kittanning.

After building the program, Fabian felt he couldn’t walk away now.

“It’s a weird situation, I know it was,” he said. “I had a meeting with the team and explained everything and they seemed excited. They knew we were all on the same page. We just rolled with it.”

Under Fabian, Armstrong went 26-16 in four seasons and reached the WPIAL playoffs three times. Add his three seasons at Kittanning before the merger and Fabian’s career record is 45-26.

‘We jumped into the big-boy pool in (Class) 5A and I think we’ve held our own,” Fabian said. “I wanted the program to be good and stay on an upward trajectory.”

This also will be an exciting year for the players now that stadium construction is complete. They’ll be able to have heat acclimation and preseason camp at the high school.

“My principal tried to persuade me that this is the first year we will practice and have a field house,” Fabian said. “We’ve finally got a stadium at the school. Is it a smart time to walk away right now?”

Fabian, 40, and his wife have an 11-year-old daughter and a son who’s eight. His kids are busy with after-school activities that high school football coaches don’t always have time to attend, he said.

That’s what prompted him to resign last winter.

“My daughter is in basketball and dance and guitar,” he said. “My son was playing fall ball. It was just getting to the point where I was starting to miss some things and it kind of bothered me.”

To keep coaching, Fabian plans to delegate more responsibilities to his assistants. Ideally, one of them will be in position to take over the program the next time he resigns, he said.

The school was considering only candidates with head coaching or coordinator experience. Fabian is his own offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator Chris Hooks was not interested, he said.

“I think there are some good candidates there (if they have) a little more responsibility when the next time rolls around,” Fabian said. “Hopefully we’ll have someone that the administration sees could fit into that role.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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