Jim Cantafio still loves football. Loves it too much, possibly.
As for the stress of Friday nights and the workload of preparing for them, after 45 years, he’s had enough.
Cantafio, one of the region’s most colorful and successful high school coaches, announced this week he’s retiring. He has been head coach at Conestoga Valley, Wyoming Valley West, Wilson and Cedar Cliff, an assistant at Lancaster Catholic and, currently, the offensive coordinator at Coatesville.
When the Red Raiders’ postseason is over - they play in the District One Class 6A semifinals Friday - the run is over.
“I’m not kidding you on this one,’’ Cantafio said Monday, aware that some in the football fraternity won’t quite believe it.
“Being the offensive coordinator, in some ways, is like being the head coach. I get carried away like I am the head coach.
“The stress is the deflating thing. A lot of work goes into it, and a lot of time goes into it. I’m ready to walk away.’’
Cantafio will stay involved in the game as Director of Football at Spooky Nook Sports Complex, and through his company, Susquehanna Valley Sports, which runs team and position-group camps and through which Cantafio does quarterback training and instruction for groups and individuals.
“The camps are pretty much over in July,’’ he said. “That gives me five months (through the end of football season) with nothing. Beautiful.’’
He plans to fill those months with trips with his wife to the shore and to Florida, but also going to football games and practices, and studying the work of other quarterback gurus.
He plans to call James Franklin and ask to spend a week around Penn State’s program next year, going to meetings and practices and, “living the life of a (college) football coach.’’
Cantafio went 263-95-2 as a head coach, and pulled off a feat almost certainly unprecedented, at least in Pennsylvania: three District championships at three different schools (CV in 1991, WVW in ‘97 and Wilson in ‘99) in one decade.
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Those three teams all reached the state semifinals, and CV went to the Class AAA final in ‘91, losing to Erie Strong Vincent.
He has coached Pennsylvania in the Big 33 game, and been quarterbacks coach in the Under Armour All-American game. He is a member of the Pennsylvania High School Football Coaches’ Association Hall of Fame.
Quarterbacks he has worked with include Dwayne Haskins (Ohio State, Washington Redskins), Chad Henne (Michigan, Kansas City Chiefs), Alex Hornibrook (Florida State), Kenny Pickett (Pitt) and current high school stars Evan Simon (Manheim Central, Rutgers commit), Harrison Kirk (Manheim Township, Colgate) and Ricky Ortega (Coatesville, Villanova).
“I’ve been in on the early years with most of those guys,’’ Cantafio said, “and then I sort of hand them off to the major gurus. I’m hoping to pick those guys’ brains.
“I’ll have plenty to do. I like to say, I do have a life. A lot of guys don’t.’’