By Jim Whelan
Every time Chet Paravecchio sees a former player, a smile comes to his face. Recently, when he ran into Rick Tobor, a member of the Elizabeth High School 2006 State Championship team, a bigger smile comes to his face. The reason? A car.
Before the season started, Tobor asked, “If we win the state championship, can I take your car to the prom?” The coach replied, “You betcha partner!,” not taking the wager seriously. After every win late in the season, Tobor kept asking about the car, saying “Remember our bet?” “I remember!,” the coach responded.
Elizabeth picked up momentum and beat Philipsburg to win the rough North Jersey Section II state championship. As Richie Tobor raised the trophy he said “I am driving a Chrysler to the prom!”
After some failed negotiations between the coach and his player, which included proposals for a limo and even a ride to the prom in exchange for the original bet, Torbor got to take the car.
“I couldn’t welch on the bet. He kept up his end, I had to keep up my end,” said Paravecchio. Richie Tobor drove the coach’s wheels to the prom. The coach could not be prouder of that team and even more proud of Tobor’s commitment to win. “During mid-season he became our coach on the field and was a leader,” said Paravecchio. Paravecchio is even more proud to see Rick Tobor serve our country as he is about to embark on a tour of duty to defend our country in Iraq.
“That was a special group,” said Paravecchio regarding the 2006 championship team, but all the teams are all special for the journeyman coach. After a knee injury that shortened a professional career and some ventures in the business sector, Paravecchio took an opportunity to be a defensive coordinator under then head coach Frank Verducci at Governor Livingston.
“After that season and coaching those 25 kids, I knew I wanted to coach” exclaimed Paravecchio, whose career has included coaching stops at Bloomfield, Irvington, Passaic Valley, Clifton and most recently Elizabeth. The coach mentors his players and wants them to succeed on and off the field. All his players know that they can call him up at anytime for anything. Even the Elizabeth coaching staff is all made up of former Paravecchio players.
A sophomore running back turned heads three years ago and was an important piece for the Elizabeth machine in 2006 championship season. Raymond “Ray G” Graham rushed for over 1,200 yards with 13 rushing touchdowns. He needed to continue and improve his stride for Elizabeth to return to championship form in 2007, but a shoulder injury sidelined Graham for much of the season. When Graham returned to the lineup, he managed to rush for 750 yards and 12 touchdowns, suiting up for only four games.
Paravecchio is expecting big things from the senior running back this season. “I have never seen a kid more focused and determined than Raymond” said the third year Elizabeth coach. “He has matured in and off the field.”
Like most coaches around the state, Paravecchio took 27 kids from this year’s Minutemen team up to a 7 on 7 drill camp. The Elizabeth squad attended the Penn State camp, Paravecchio’s alma mater. “I was proud how our kids performed, they really impressed the other players and the coaches at the camp” said Paravecchio. It was the first time he took any of his teams up there to participate in 7 on 7 drills with players from all over the country.
Graham “stole the show,” according to his coach. Noted for his running, Graham also played corner and shut down every wide receiver he went against. Graham has offers from Maryland, NC State, Michigan State, and UCONN. He is also rated the fifth prospect in the state by Rivals.com. “Some schools like him as a running back, other schools like him as a corner back,” said Paravecchio. “It depends on what Raymond wants to do.”
Graham, who is also a point guard for the basketball team, is rated in the top fifty players in the state for basketball, as well. Raymond Graham is also a name that is familiar to Minuteman fans as Graham father Ray Graham Sr. lettered at E-HI in football, basketball, and baseball graduating in the late 80s and moving onto to Purdue University on a football scholarship.
Along with Graham, Elizabeth has a good core of players returning from last year’s team. Jahid Mayers filled in after Graham’s injury at running back and rushed over 1,100 yards for the Minutemen. Mayers is the team’s quarterback and like Graham is a three-year starter who is being looked at some D-I schools. Six foot three – 280 pound tackle Jaleel Taylor broke his wrist last year creating a big void for the team last year, but he will be a standout at the tackle position this season. Paravecchio describes 6’4 James Frazier is as a Jason Taylor-type rusher. Frazier also is the center on the EHS basketball team.
One thing is for sure, there will be no promises of cars going to the proms by Coach Paravecchio or any other outside deals. During the 7 on 7 drills at Happy Valley, Penn State defensive assistant coach Tom Bradley grabbed Paravecchio and said, “You see what Raymond did?” Paravecchio was baffled by the question. Bradley continue by saying “After the drill was over, the two sides walked away. Raymond grabbed the six guys on his team and the other seven players they were playing against and had them shake hands.”
Paravecchio was so proud to hear that come from a coach about one his players. This year Elizabeth might not have to go through a half a season to find a leader. He sees it in Raymond Graham.
Jim Whelan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org