Assuming the local high school football season is played in 2020, there will be a couple of new coaches patrolling the sidelines at Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference games in the fall.
Calvert Hall brought in alum Josh Ward after longtime coach Donald Davis stepped down following the 2019 season. The Cardinals lost to eventual champion Mount Saint Joseph in the conference semifinals, and Davis took the head coaching job at Sidwell Friends.
The situation is the same at Mount Saint Joseph as the program begins its A Conference title defense. The Gaels beat McDonogh, 17-10, in the championship game at Archbishop Spalding — the first time Mount Saint Joseph got at least a piece of the title since the school shared it with Loyola Blakefield in 2007.
Head coach Rich Holzer left and took the head coaching job at Northern-Calvert, which opened the door for longtime MIAA coach Dom Damico. The veteran coach said he’s not nervous about taking over a talented championship team but wants to keep everything running smoothly.
“I’m going to keep things that are working at high levels still [that way] and try to get everything else at high levels,” Damico said. “The talent base is there. There’s an abundance of talent. All the ingredients are there. I want to keep it where it is and not just make it a one-year thing.”
Damico brings a wealth of coaching experience to the Gaels. He spent 24 seasons at McDonogh and came away with at least a share of eight MIAA championships. Overall, Damico has a 173-98 record, and he’s one of the all-time winningest coaches for high school football in the state.
Mount Saint Joseph athletic director Kraig Loovis said in a recent statement, “Dom’s experience and winning ways will surely elevate The Mount’s football program, and we are excited to get started under his leadership. I am confident that the Mount’s football program is in good hands.”
Damico stepped down from McDonogh after the 2017 season and did not coach the next season. Last year, he worked as the defensive coordinator for 2018 Class 3A state champion Franklin in Baltimore County. In addition to his duties as the football coach at Mount Saint Joseph, Damico will also be a part-time physical education teacher.
Damico said he was delighted at the way the Gaels worked together last year en route to the championship and beat an undefeated McDonogh team in the title contest. The new Mount Saint Joseph coach is confident that last year’s success will contribute to the chemistry of this year’s team.
“There is a permanent bond for those kids,” Damico said.
Damico has plenty of playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. Quarterback Billy Atkins and wide receivers Dont’e Thornton, Tyler Wilkins, A.C. Crawley and Semaj Henson should make the Gaels dangerous whenever they have the ball.
Plus, Damico said he doesn’t plan a complete overhaul. He has a proven, successful way of doing things and plans to stick with that.
As they say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
“I don’t feel pressure anymore,” Damico said. “I’ve been doing it for too long. I just [trust] the process. I just keep plugging that process. I’ve had success … and I expect it to continue.”
Ward walks into a similar situation at Calvert Hall. The Cardinals played well most of the season last year before Mount Saint Joseph handed them a 35-0 loss in the A Conference semifinal in November.
Ward comes back home — where he played on the varsity squad as a defensive lineman before graduating in 2004 — following three years as the head coach at Concordia Prep in the MIAA B Conference. The Saints had records of 5-5, 9-3 and 4-5 during his three seasons. He also served as the athletic director at Concordia Prep.
This will be Ward’s first coaching stint in the A Conference, but he said he’s ready for the task.
“There’s a good group of guys there,” Ward said. “It’s always pressure. It’s my alma mater. It’s a premier league, and it’s one of the best in the state.”
Ward has a simple goal in mind — find the right coaches and players for the program. Calvert Hall will enter the 2020 season with plenty of talent.
“A lot of it is the depth,” Ward said. “We’ve got a lot of talent coming back on both sides of the ball. We’re going to have Calvert Hall alum coaching. … We’re all pulling together to win the MIAA A Conference.”
Calvert Hall has had a number of famed and successful coaches, most recently Davis. But now the job belongs to Ward, who understands the school and program having played for the Cardinals in the past. Now, he wants to take the program to the next level.
“I just want to leave my mark … there,” Ward said. “I just want to one day be talked about like [the great] coaches like [Augie] Miceli. We are not going to get outcoached, outworked or outhustled.”
Photo Credits: Courtesy of Mount Saint Joseph and Concordia Prep