Fifth-year head coach has Cougars playoff bound for the first time in school history
They have been playing varsity football at Chesapeake High School in Anne Arundel County since 1976. On Friday, however, the Cougars will be playing post-season football for the first time in school history.
Last Friday, the Cougars edged North County 29-26 to complete a 7-3 regular season and earn that elusive first playoff appearance.
Chesapeake head coach Rob Elliott, who played for the Cougars in the mid-80’s, is the man who has orchestrated the turn-around of the Chesapeake program and he is the Week 11 Baltimore Touchdown Club Coach of the Week.
“This means everything to me. For decades all I have heard is that Chesapeake will never win on the football field and how the school is one of the worst in the state,” said Elliott. “To be able to erase that perception of the school and the team that I played for is incredible.”
In the five years since he has been the head coach at Chesapeake, Elliott has only had one losing season. Prior to that, the team had just two winning seasons and one of those was in 1985, when Elliott was a high school senior on the squad.
According to Elliott the Cougars’ strength is a commitment to core fundamentals.
“There were two areas that we felt needed to be a team strength, blocking and tackling. We spent more time on the basics and in having better technique,” said Elliott. “This led to the offensive line becoming the team’s strength instead of the team’s weakness. We really worked on being better in the trenches. If I could point to one thing that has led to the turnaround, it has been the improvement of the O-line play.”
Elliott also believes that his players had to understand that being successful in football requires year-round focus.
“We also had to change the commitment to the offseason. Football is not a sport that you can coach during the season and take the rest of the year off. Being a head football coach is now a 12 month a year job,” he explained. “We had to work harder in the weight room in the offseason. We had to have our players playing in the 7-on-7 leagues in the offseason.
“We also had to just convince the players that we could win. Early on, we walked onto the field and had lost games before they were even played. It has taken some time, but now our players feel that we can go in and play with anyone. We know we need to play perfect against the powerhouse teams, but we are not defeated prior to kickoff.”
The journey to this point for Elliott was different than many other coaches.
“I had a different path to being a high school head coach from most I think. I came out of the youth ranks. I was the JV head coach for two years and then became the varsity head coach,” said Elliott. “My first game as the varsity head coach was the first varsity game that I coached in. I would say that I have been guided mostly by going to the Glazier Clinics for 15 years and picking the brain of 100’s of different coaches.”
Still, Elliott named three local coaches who have given him helpful guidance.
“There are three high school coaches that I have talked to and taken advice from that have helped me grow as a head coach. Coach Jerry Franks at St. Mary’s-Ryken, Coach Russ Myers at Southern and Coach Chuck Markiewicz at Arundel. These three guys have probably helped me the most.”
Elliott also praised the work of his assistant coaches, who include Charlie Parsons Defensive Coordinator), Mike Ford (Offensive and Defensive Line Coach), Lewis Jefferies (QB and DB Coach), Bernie Williams (RB Coach), Nick Marks (LB Coach) and Chris Neal (Assistant Line Coach).
“A head coach is only as good as the guys around him,” added Elliott. “This group has done an excellent job of teaching technique and making our team as a whole more fundamentally sound.”
As far as his team is concerned, Elliott wants them to take away one important lesson.
“Our No. 1 message to the team all year has been: Hard work and a belief in yourself can allow you to achieve anything that you set your sights on.”
Finally, the coach stressed the value he places on the Baltimore Touchdown Club.
“The BTC has played a huge roll in our success. We play each summer in the BTC 7-on-7 league at St. Paul’s. The work that they do allows high school coaches to improve their teams while staying with in the strict offseason rules that we must follow. The BTC Senior All-Star game is also something that really helps a large number of area football players improve their chances of playing football at the next level.
“There is no question that the BTC is one of the most important groups in the state when it comes to supporting and helping to promote Maryland High School football.”