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Next Monday, Jason Franci will walk into the office of Montgomery athletic director Dean Haskins and tell Haskins whether he's coming back this fall as the school's football coach. As tough decisions go, he's carrying this one like it's an anvil on his back.

"I didn't sleep at all last night," Franci said Tuesday. "How do you walk away from something you love?"

Franci has never waited this long to decide. For 32 seasons the answer always has been early and yes. For 32 seasons Franci inhaled the job, the kids, the game. For 32 seasons Franci was Montgomery football. The man never wanted to be considered an institution, but a 229-118-10 record has made it impossible for people to ignore his impact on the program.

"I have been very fortunate," Franci said. "I have fulfilled everything I wanted to fulfill."

Yet, sooner or later, every coach in every sport at every level has to walk away. Some are given no choice, like the Raiders' Hue Jackson. Others are granted the freedom to pick the time, given their resume. Exiting is never easy and one can make a good argument that someone at a place for three decades faces a much more difficult time of adjustment than someone bounced after only one season, like Jackson.

And it doesn't matter if that place was at a high school instead of an NFL team. It's sweat equity and you can't just wash away the sweat just-like-that, not after 32 years of accumulation.

"When I was 10 years old," Franci said of his time growing up in Point Arena, "I knew I wanted to stay in sports all my life. And I have ... for 57 years."

In 1970, Franci worked as a yard man at a Santa Rosa lumber company. It was his only year away from playing, coaching or making a living at sports. That's a lot of sweat equity and, he's pleased to announce, Franci has made no attempt at drying himself off.

"One day I feel one way," Franci said, "and the next day I feel the other way."

One day Franci will remember Montgomery's three NCS titles (1996, 2000, 2004). He'll remember players like Koa Misi, Marcus Ezeff and Scott Ware. He'll remember the nine NBL championships. He'll remember what winning felt like.

"It's the feeling of euphoria you get," Franci said.

Does it equal the euphoria he felt as a player?

That's not an insignificant question. Franci was a tight end with the Denver Broncos in 1966 and then played for Saskatchewan of the Canadian Football League for two more years. No one who has ever played professional football can ever forget the buzz and the spotlight. Or would want to.

So does coaching equal player euphoria?

"To me it does," Franci said. "When everything comes together in a game, when all the pieces fit the puzzle, you can't replace that high."

Whether it's the player or the coach experiencing it.

That's what Franci feels on one day. Then the next day he will remember the energy needed to run a successful program. He'll be 69 in October. He admits his Parkinson's — diagnosed eight years ago — doesn't make him as spry as he would like. He knows high school football, like most prep sports, is close to a 12-month activity, a factor he admits he pushed along.

"Twenty-five years ago," Franci said, "I started (offseason) weight training. Ed Lloyd (Cardinal Newman's coach at the time) got madder as hell at me because now he was going to have to do it, too."

Weight training meshed with quarterback camps, invitation-only camps, private tutors and heightened parental involvement. Before long, high school football became a way of life, not just something one did in the fall.

"The biggest negative for me," Franci said, "is the time spent away from playing the game. Setting up the field, the snack bar, lining the field, stuff like that. If I could just show up on game day and coach the game, that would be no problem. But I would never do that because that wouldn't be fair to the kids."

His decision — and this will come as no surprise to those who know Franci — will be influenced greatly by what he feels he is capable of giving his players. Can he be the Jason Franci who breaks down film and goes to all the weight workouts and spends as long as necessary to do the job, no matter how late the hour? Franci doesn't know how to coach any other way.

And the NBL next season will be more competitive than it's ever been, with Windsor and Casa Grande added to the mix.

You'll know when it's time to step away — that's the advice Franci says he has been given most often.

Oh, that it were that simple. For the last five years, off and on, Franci has thought about retirement but he never pulled the trigger because the lure of the game, and the lure of what he could contribute, was always there, a roadblock, as it were, to his exit.

"On the other hand," Franci said, "what am I going to do in my spare time? You can only hunt and fish so much."

And Jason Franci loves to hunt and fish.

For more North Bay sports go to padecky.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Bob Padecky at 521-5223 or bob.padecky@pressdemocrat.com.