High School Sports

Folsom finds a new football coach in a familiar spot: on staff. Why it makes sense

Paul Doherty was named the head football coach at Folsom High School on Friday. Doherty was an assistant with the Bulldogs last year.
Paul Doherty was named the head football coach at Folsom High School on Friday. Doherty was an assistant with the Bulldogs last year. Special to The Sacramento Bee

Paul Doherty met his new team and was greeted by a sea of familiar faces. He knows them and they know him.

Doherty on Friday was formally introduced by Folsom High School principal Howard Cadenhead as the next head varsity football coach.

It’s a big deal because Folsom is a big deal in this sport, having towered over the region unlike any since the famed Cordova Lancers teams of the 1970s, only the shadows cast now are much larger in this era of state championships.

Doherty, 36, was a Folsom assistant coach last year, also in charge of the Bulldogs’ strength and conditioning program, when the Bulldogs stormed to their ninth league championship, seventh Sac-Joaquin Section title and fourth CIF State crown this decade.

He is gregarious, yet firm, deemed a players coach and an offensive guru in an era where offense has taken over. He is, by all accounts, the right fit here.

Cadenhead said Folsom players wanted continuity, and he wanted that, too, adding, “The players wanted certain characteristics, strong leadership, skills, cares about the kids.”

Doherty has attended Folsom games for years, sometimes as a fan, sometimes on a coach’s box invite from previous coaches Troy Taylor and Kris Richardson, both of whom now work at Sacramento State as head coach and assistant head coach, respectively. Taylor and Richardson were hired at Sac State in December.

“I thought the meeting with the players today went really well,” Doherty said. “I didn’t want to overwhelm them with details, dates and times. There’s also the emotional part here, too, because a lot of players were sad, angry, upset that Kris left and that’s understandable. They’re human.”

Doherty will not take on all manner of great expectations at Folsom alone. His assistant head coach is also a familiar face within the program: longtime junior varsity coach Jordan Banning, the one-time Folsom player who is beloved by his players and faculty.

Banning on Friday also met with the players to remind them the work starts now in pursuing new hopes and dreams as a unit of one. Banning has been with the Folsom program for 17 years. He is not a teacher as he owns his own business. Doherty is a teacher.

“I’m disappointed for Jordan that he didn’t get the head job because he wanted it, and he’s really good, but he’s all in and he’s a super big piece to what we’ve done here and what we’re trying to continue to do here,” Doherty said. “I’m going to spend 10 minutes with each and every kid we have and talked to them, see where their emotions are, see what they’re thinking, because the program is for the kids.”

A San Francisco native, Doherty’s connection to Sacramento are through Doug Cosbie, the one-time Dallas Cowboys tight end. Doherty met Cosbie through their connections at Menlo College, where Doherty played in the early 2000s and where Cosbie once coached.

When Cosbie became the head coach at Sacramento High in 2009, he brought in Doherty. Cosbie also implored Doherty to get to know Taylor, who coached with Cosbie at Cal years ago. Cosbie has been an assistant at Folsom in recent seasons and he is someone Doherty hopes to retain. Cosbie is coaching football in Italy until the summer.

Doherty understands he has big cleats to fill, but he embraces a hearty challenge. He met it head on at Sac High when, as head coach, he tirelessly worked with kids in study hall and their home lives while producing five playoff teams in five seasons, including the first postseason wins in program history.

And in two seasons at Whitney in Rocklin, Doherty led two more playoff teams.

“The shoes to fill here are huge, and they won’t filled because what Kris and Troy did here is incredible,” Doherty said. “But we will be successful. The infrastructure is here, the administrative and community support, the weight room, the facilities, the students, it’s all here. It takes labor, takes man power, to keep it going, and we will have a staff of eager and willing coaches, and no one exemplifies that more than Jordan Banning.

“We’re our own people. We’re not Troy and Kris, just our own people.”

Folsom has been ranked No. 1 by The Bee for every week except one since before the 2012 kickoff. The Bulldogs will top the rankings to kick off the 2019 season behind national recruits Daniyel Ngata, Elijhah Badger and DeShawn Lynch, and up-and-coming impact players such as CJ Hutton.

Doherty urged everyone in the room on Friday to become a leader and to do their part in representing their school, town and themselves.

“Told them that the ball is in their court, that ‘Your behavior, your work ethic will shape what we look like. This is a long-term thing here and the more you work, the more it’ll pay off,’” Doherty said. “There are a ton of kids in that room with a ton of ability and leadership. Kids will follow.”

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Joe Davidson has covered sports for The Sacramento Bee since 1988 and is award-winning authority on high school sports, specializing in going behind the scenes. Davidson was a high school athlete in Oregon, where he participated in football and track.