Should a movie be made about Don Bailey, it might borrow a bit from the fictional film hero with the same surname, George Bailey, and borrow the cinematic title, too – “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
At 70 years of age, with 45 of those having been spent as head football coach at Forest Hills High School through the 2018 season, Bailey recently paused to contemplate his selection to the Cambria County Sports Hall of Fame and note, “It’s been a good ride. I’d like to think I could still coach, but my wife would say I couldn’t; not physically.”
Bailey’s “good ride” was limousine quality, with 375 career wins, 10 district championships and 27 playoff appearances, including winning the first District 6 AAA title when playoffs were instituted in 1985. He will be part of the CCSHOF Class of 2020, which will be inducted on October 16 after two COVID-19 related delays.
Along the way, Bailey maintained a belief in defense, but opened up his attack to change with the times and stay on the cutting edge offensively. Three of his quarterbacks, his son Brandon, Travis Rearick and Justin Myers, each threw for more than 5,000 career passing yards. Myers succeed Don when he retired as the Forest Hills coach.
As proud as he is of the athletic accomplishments, Bailey is proud, too, of his work as an administrator in the Forest Hills School District, where he helped influence students as he did his football players.
Bailey graduated from Forest Hills and was a multi-sports standout there. He attended Southern Illinois, but suffered a major knee injury.
Bailey transferred to California University of Pennsylvania, where he finished undergraduate and graduate work. He also gained superintendent certification at Penn State.
Bailey’s career highlights include:
- Presented Lifetime Contribution to Football Award during the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame Central Pennsylvania Chapter’s 20th annual banquet in 2017.
- Career record in 45 seasons at Forest Hills was 375-120-8.
- His teams won 10 district championships and made postseason play 27 times. There also were seven district runner-up finishes
- The Rangers advanced to the Western Final of state playoffs five times.
- Forest Hills lost to Mount Carmel in double overtime in the 1994 state Class AA championship game.
- Had three quarterbacks, Brandon Bailey, Travis Rearick and and Justin Myers, each throw for more than 5,000 career passing yards.
- Won five Tribune-Democrat coach of the year awards.