Taft hires new football coach


Taft High School principal Mark Grishaber hopes that the school’s new football coach Dan Paplaczyk, who comes from winning parochial programs, creates an environment that encourages the top players in the school’s attendance area to attend Taft.

All too often those eighth-grade players attend a gifted or parochial school and in some instances their parents pay out-of-district tuition for their son to go to a suburban school, Grishaber said. One of the goals is to create a program which helps more students get college scholarships, he said.

“I want to be what Main South is, both athletically and academically, and be the best in the city,” Grishaber said. The Park Ridge high school has had one of the state’s elite football programs for decades and also is highly ranked for its academic achievements.

To make its football program more attractive, Taft is looking to relocate its home games from the Lane Tech Stadium to a closer facility, possibly in a neighboring suburb, and will be playing a tougher schedule next year, as the school moves from the Big Shoulders division to the to one of the Illini divisions, which include several of the city’s top public league teams. “We want to play the best,” Grishaber said.

Taft also plans to better promote its football program to the grammar school players who live in Taft’s attendance area by meeting with local school and park teams and their coaches, said Taft athletic director Ryan Glowacz.

Glowacz, a Taft graduate, said that the planned changes to the program are not just about football but also are intended to increase school pride and position Taft as the school of choice for all students in the community. He said that in the 1950s and 1960s Taft was known as an elite neighborhood school and that Taft can once again have that reputation.

Paplaczyk, also known as “Coach Pap,” met Taft’s players for their first time on Dec. 17, and Grishaber said that the meeting went well, as each play shook Paplaczyk’s hand as they left the room. “We had 100 percent buy-in,” Grishaber said of the hiring.

Most recently Paplaczyk served as assistant head coach and offensive coordinator at Saint Viator High School in Arlington Heights. He said that Taft fans should expect to see a no-huddle, fast-paced and aggressive offense.

At Saint Viator, Paplaczyk was part of a staff that posted winning seasons for 3 years after inheriting a 2-7 team. Playing in the East Suburban Catholic Conference, the offense averaged 27.1 points and 303.9 yards per game in 2012, 29.4 points and 365.4 yards in 2013 and 30.8 points and 394.4 yards in 2014.

This year Saint Viator, which advanced to the second round of the state playoffs, beat Northwest Side rivals Notre Dame College Prep by a score of 21-14 and Saint Patrick High school by a score of 42-14. This year Taft lost 46-14 to its rival Saint Patrick.

Paplaczyk also has coached at Nazareth Academy in LaGrange Park and the now-closed Driscoll Catholic High School in Addison. Driscoll won three state championships while he was there.

Paplaczyk said that he works as a freight analyst and that his flexible work schedule will allow him to be at Taft for practices in the summer and fall and at weightlifting sessions in the off-season. His predecessor, Matt Walsh, remains at Taft as a teacher.