For the first time in 18 years, the Arundel football team will have a new head coach this fall.
After long-time coach Chuck Markiewicz decided to step away from the program in February to coach the offensive line at Archbishop Spalding, Arundel hired Jack Walsh to take over the Wildcats.
Walsh, who has coached at Arundel since 2005, is a physical education teacher in charge of the Arundel's strength and conditioning classes. He has served as the team's offensive line coach since 2010.
In Markiewicz, Arundel loses a coach who had brought a tradition of excellence to its program. He is the winningest coach in Anne Arundel County history with a 243-99 record throughout 31 years. During his tenure at Arundel, the program went 146-47, and qualified for the Maryland Public Secondary School Athletic Association 4A state playoffs 11 times.
For Arundel athletic director Kevin Necessary, who coached with Markiewicz for 14 seasons, it was important to focus on finding someone who would approach the job similarly to his predecessor.
"We felt strongly that we had to hire from within," Necessary said. "We wanted to continue the foundation that Coach Markiewicz had laid. Not necessarily to exactly replace him because that's not possible, but we wanted to make sure the core beliefs that have made the Arundel football program so successful remained intact."
Walsh was named the head coach shortly after Markiewicz stepped down in February.
"His ability to develop players from their freshman to senior years is second to none," Necessary said. "Something Jack possesses, which I think is often overlooked when people are looking to hire coaches, is the ability to be honest with everyone in a professional and diplomatic way.
"He won't tell players and parents what they want to hear, but what they need to hear, in a very respectful way. If you watched Arundel football the last few years, we've shifted from being a purely passing offense to a 50-50 balance in the run game, and a lot of that is because of how our linemen have developed under Jack."
Walsh played for Markiewicz during his time at North County, so it was important for the new coach to get some advice from the man whose job he was stepping into.
"Coach Markiewicz told me to put my own stamp on it," Walsh said. "The standards being as high as they are, you'd be a fool to come in and dismiss them. It's almost like a blueprint for success. How we go about reaching those standards may be different in terms of tailoring some of our practice plans, but we still want to put out a similar product on Friday nights."
Walsh said preparation for the upcoming season has gone smoothly. Seven of Arundel's 10 coaches from last year have returned, which has helped keep a feeling of continuity within the program.
There's also a lot of excitement -- especially surrounding the team's defense, which returns nine of its 11 starters. Walsh believes Arundel's offense will be dynamic as well, but he admits that with just two starters returning, the team's defense may have to lead the Wildcats during their early games.
"We expect to be a good team, and now it's about taking that next step to put in the action to match our words," Walsh said. "Our guys are already talking about making the playoffs and chasing a state championship ring. I don't mind talking like that, but we need to do more than talk right now, which is what we've been doing."
That preparation period will end Aug. 31, when Arundel opens its season at home against Perry Hall. When that day comes, Walsh will join just a few others as head coach for the storied Arundel football program. For him, that's one of the appeals of coaching there.
"I love the long-term tradition of the program," Walsh said. "I've run into players from the 1970s who talk about how great it was to play at Arundel. Having been there since 2005, some of my former players are now older with families, and I see them at games. It's a community-based school, which I feel like can be pretty rare at the 4A level, simply because of how many people go to school there. You still get that sense of everyone belonging, and it's not just for the students. When new coaches come in for any sport, you immediately feel like you're part of the community. You never feel like an outsider at Arundel."
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Jack Walsh