Thomas gets shot as Bearcats coach

By Scott Franco

sfranco@altoonamirror.com

Shane Thomas has wanted to be a high school head football coach since his scholastic days ended at Southern Huntingdon in the fall of 2006. After Monday night’s schoolboard meeting at Huntingdon Area High School, he can now cross it off his bucket list.

Thomas, an assistant the past seven years at Juniata Valley where he is also a math teacher, was hired Monday night to replace Mike Hudy, who retired after seven years as the Bearcats’ coach.

“I had been thinking about (being a head coach) the last couple of years, and when I heard Huntingdon opened, I jumped on it pretty quick,” said Thomas, who is a Juniata College graduate. “I think it’s a really good job and one of the premier programs in the area.”

Thomas, who was the head junior high coach at Valley for four years as well as being an assistant, believes he has learned a little bit under each of his varsity bosses over the years.

“I have worked under three really good, accomplished coaches with Ryan Garlock (at Southern Huntingdon), who was my coach in school. He gave me an opportunity right out of college,” Thomas said. “When I got a job teaching at Juniata Valley, Mike Smith brought me on board under him, and the last seven years with BIll Musser, I have experienced success and have learned under him, too.”

Huntingdon athletic director Dean Grenfel was impressed with how Thomas made his presentation for how he would run the program.

“His plan, from bottom to top, as a whole, he is ready, from the athletes up to the whole way with the community,” said Grenfelt, who is in his third year as AD. “I just think his excitement and energy, his organization for the off-season and in-season, is terrific. He laid everything out for us. He came ready to go.”

The Bearcats, who went 44-35 in seven seasons with Hudy, played in the 3A District 6 finals last year. Thomas helped coach a Valley team that went to the state 1A semifinals last season, both exciting times in Huntingdon County. But for the time right up until Monday night’s meeting, Thomas was experiencing a different kind of excitement.

“It was definitely a nerve-wracking experience,” Thomas laughed. “I did not know officially (about getting the job) until about 10 to 15 minutes before I got this (phone) call (from the Mirror). I had not slept the past couple of nights.”

Thomas, an offensive lineman and linebacker in high school, hopes to meet with his new team this week and is already formuating a plan for his coaching staff.

“Football was just one of those things that, when I played, I absolutely loved the sport,” said Thomas, who also has his Masters degree in education from Saint Francis. “It’s definitely an exciting time. It is one of my life goals to be in this position. To have this type of opportunity, I am ready to go and get to work.”

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