Mark Paredes, who coached Bishop Amat to arguably its best-ever season in 1992, was named the new varsity football head coach at Damien High School on Thursday.
Paredes, who spent the past three seasons as the head coach at JW North in Riverside, replaces Greg Gano, who resigned in December at four seasons at the school. Gano has since been named head coach at Tustin.
“I toyed with the idea and really didn’t think I was in the ballpark and finally it came to fruition,” Paredes said of being hired. “It’s one of those thing that everything came to be in place. They wanted me and I wanted them and I decided that it was a good situation. I’m excited about building a program and continuing the Damien tradition.”
After leading Amat to California’s first-ever 15-0 season in 1992, which included a CIF championship and a win in the now-defunct Reebok Bowl, Paredes left in 1994.
He landed at JW North where he won CIF championships in 1995 and 2001. Paredes left JW North in 2001 to become the offensive coordinator at Riverside College until 2010 when he left to return to JW North.
Damien received over 70 applications for the position, which flew until early January. Principal Merritt Hemenway, who like Paredes has Amat connections, said the school made a short list of six candidates before ultimately coming to terms with Paredes.
“Making a final selection was a challenge,” Hemenway said. “In the end, Mark’s extensive experience at both the high school and college levels, and the fact that he matched each of the elements we were looking for in a head coach, made the decision, one of him getting to say yes, the greatest challenge.
“He is an excellent coach, a wonderful family man, an accomplished classroom teacher and a steeped in the traditions of Catholic education.”
Damien’s program has fallen on hard times in recent years. The Spartans have not won a playoff game since 2006. When Gano was hired prior to the 2009 season, he appeared to be the spark the school needed. But the four-time CIF champion could manage only two postseason appearances, losing both, and never won a league title.
“I have no idea how Damien has been doing,” said Paredes, a 1970 graduate of St. Paul who lives in West Covina. “I don’t know their record last year, to be honest. I was busy at North that I was basically focused on working on next year and the opponents that we have.
“Basically, my attraction to the school was the religious aspect, the principal and that it’s closer to home.”
Paredes said he’s already working on putting a coaching staff together and that he currently has no plans to hire anyone who was with him at North or anyone currently at Amat. As to whether Damien would put Amat back on its schedule after dropping the Lancers last season at Gano’s asking, Paredes said he’d prefer not to play his former employer.
“Bishop Amat is a high school that I love, JW North is a school that I love, St. Paul is a school that I love,” Paredes said. “I would not go and seek playing them only because you have mixed emotions. Let me put it this way, if I have to play them, I will play them. If I don’t have to play them, I won’t play them.
“I have friends everywhere. It would be fun, I guess. I wouldn’t hesitate to restore that rivalry, if need be. Our schedule is full right now. We’ve always tried to schedule the best competition we can at JW North.”