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Four Questions with St. Pius head coach Paul Standard

GHSF Daily's Four Questions feature historically poses the same questions to a different Georgia head coach each issue. This season, head coaches are being asked Four Questions tailored to current events. Today's interviewee is St. Pius coach Paul Standard, whose team faces Marist this week in what's called the Fish Bowl, a game between fellow Catholic schools 5 miles apart in DeKalb County.

Paul Standard, St. Pius head coach 

1. What makes the St. Pius-Marist rivalry special? "The St. Pius-Marist rivalry is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, high school football rivalries in Georgia because both communities have so much in common. Our first head coach and athletic director was George B. Maloof - a Marist alum. Coach Maloof was instrumental in putting St. Pius X on the map in the '60s and '70s. I had the honor to play for and then later work with Coach Maloof. He is the reason I am an educator and coach today. Our players and their players have gone to grade school together. Families attend church together. So, there is so much familiarity within both schools. It is now a very intense rivalry. For a period of time ('80s and '90s) it was not much of a rivalry because Marist won 21 years in a row. That streak ended in a great game in 2003 when St. Pius X upset an undefeated Marist team that went on to win the state championship. Marist was 14-1 that year, quarterbacked by now L.A. Rams head coach Sean McVay. I guess the intensity picked up then. one tradition that people who are not familiar with this rivalry don't know about is the trophy. The Fish Bowl Trophy goes to the school who wins, and the score is placed on the trophy and remains at the winning school until the next year. Right now, it is at Marist. Both administrations also have dinner together before the game at the host school, something that most high school rivalries do not have. There are also many families who send their children to both schools. I don't understand that, but many do. I have coached young men who have had brothers on the other sideline. That makes for a very intense week at home, I am sure. The crowds for this game, no matter what time of the season, are unbelievable. You cannot get a seat in the host school's stadium if you don't get there early." 

2. What's the most memorable game in the series to you? "The most memorable game for me personally was my senior year. We played at Marist and lost 3-0 in a driving rain storm. We outplayed them in every statistical category, but we could not get into the end zone. We had several long runs called back due to penalties. Marist went on to play for the state championship that year, losing to Redan 17-14 [in 1979]. As a coach, obviously 2003 when we broke the streak of Marist wins. Coach Maloof was on the sideline that night at St. Pius, which made it so special for me. In 2008, we won for the second time, and my son, who is now on my staff, was our quarterback [21-10 Pius victory]. In 2009, we went to Marist and beat them for the first time there since 1975, 28-3. Then all of a sudden the series ended for four years. It resumed in 2014 and 2015 with Pius victories in exciting games [10-9 and 24-14]." 

3. St. Pius really struggled in the 1980s and '90s. What are the things that most contributed to a sudden turnaround that has now been sustained for many years? "The turnaround in the series I believe came about when our principal, Mr. Steve Spellman, came on board - a great educator and coach who understands how academics and athletics go hand in hand. Mr. Spellman allowed me to hire an outstanding coaching staff [of] great educators and coaches. Many are still on our staff today. He put an emphasis on getting our program back where it once was many years ago - 'Restoring the Tradition' started by Coach Maloof. Our feeder program has doubled in size, and due to the outstanding leadership in our administration, and the men, many now former players of mine, who coach in our middle school program have done a great job of getting our young players ready to move up to the high school." 

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4. This seems to be a golden football era for Catholic schools in Georgia. Blessed Trinity, Marist and St. Pius are all highly ranked in AAAA. Benedictine has won a couple of state titles recently. Aquinas is now a top-10 program in Class A. Why is that? "I am not sure about the 'Golden Era' of Catholic high schools in our state. Obviously the stats speak for themselves. We are just proud to be mentioned with the outstanding programs that exist today - Marist with their outstanding head coach Alan Chadwick, Blessed Trinity and their great coach Tim McFarlin, and all of the others in our state, Benedictine and Aquinas. I do believe that the one common foundation is the idea that each school strives for excellence in all areas - academics, spiritual development, athletics, the arts, developing the whole person - so it is not surprising that these schools are very successful in all areas. I do believe that competition does motivate all of these schools to strive to be the best they can be." 

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