The end of the 2017 high school football season also marked the ends of the coaching careers of two well-known Harford County coaches.
Legendary and long-time Fallston coach Dave Cesky stepped down shortly after the season was over, and John Carroll coach Keith Rawlings, who led the Patriots to their best season ever two years earlier, also coached his final game. Rawlings' departure was announced a few weeks before the season ended.
In both cases, the programs will be left in capable and familiar hands. Jimmy Grant, Cesky's long-time assistant, will take over at Fallston, while former North Harford head coach Ken Brinkman will step in at John Carroll. Brinkman has been an assistant at John Carroll the past three years.
A long run
For Cesky, his run marks 43 years coaching, with 40 coming at Fallston from the day the school opened in 1977. He's also been athletic director for most of that time.
He stepped away from the sidelines for the 2016 season because of a health issue — with Grant filling in, but returned for the 2017 season.
Cesky said they time had come to step away.
"Forty-three years in coaching is a long time; 40 in football at Fallston as its head coach, well, I never dreamed I would stay in it that long," he said. "I had lots of time when I was sick to get a different perspective on life and how I want to spend the rest of my time. I have eight beautiful grandchildren from my three children playing all kinds of sports now. I would like to watch them as much as I can."
"My wife Diane and I have been through some life changing health issues these past two years. Makes you stop and think how important it is to be able to do things," Cesky said.
Cesky admits he's not a statistic guy and thinks his career record is 216 wins and 182 losses.
Those numbers included five playoff appearances as Cesky guided teams over the many years through the Class 1A, 2A and 3A classifications.
The Cougars were region runner-up in 2008, 2010 and 2013 and in the region semfinals 2011 and 2014.
In 40 plus years, there are many memories, he said.
"Most memorable moment or team would have to be my first year at Fallston," he said. "I still see some of those players and we are life-long friends."
"I had them for three and four years as a team because we opened with 9th and 10th grades only," Cesky continued. "Fallston established themselves as a contender right from the start in many sports, and football was no different. We quickly became rivals with many schools."
And because Cesky's teacing career has run as long, he said he has taught many kids of those players he coached in the early years.
"Each year has a special meaning and its own memories, very hard to pick a favorite," he said.
That said, Cesky did point to the 2013 undefeated regular season as memorable one.
"I thought we might have a crack at a state championship game that season, but fell short in regional finals," he said. "Even the years where we struggled, there were stories, big plays, special players and memories to look back on."
Looking back, Cesky said: "People always say coaches touch many lives, I feel that players do the same for coaches. I know I learned a lot from the different young men (and one young lady) that I coached. I feel blessed to have shared my passion of football with so many players, coaches and the community of Fallston.
"I started all of this because of my hero, my father [the late Al Cesky, who coached Bel Air High in the 1950s and 1960s]. I loved the way his players respected him and appreciated what he did for them. Those foot steps were big ones to follow. I am going to miss the Friday night games on the field, but will always keep Fallston Football and the Cougars in my heart."
For new head coach Grant, the Fallston sideline has been home for many years.
"Having coached here since 1998, it seems like the time has kind of flown by," said Grant, who played at Fallston under the man he is replacing. "It is kind of hard to believe I just completed 20 years of coaching at the same school. I guess maybe it means I'm getting kind of old. I mean, I always approached it like this, I enjoy coaching football."
"I would be lying, if I said I didn't think about being a head coach here at various times, but for me it was always about fulfilling the role you have on the staff to the best of your ability," he said. "Someone once told me, if you are always looking at the next thing or next job, you sometimes don't enjoy the one that you have. I enjoyed serving as defensive coordinator for many years, the last two I coached our offense.
That said, I'm excited to put my own spin on how I want our football team to look and play. People that know me well, know that I'm a hard worker. I hope my players will reflect that."
Short but successful
As for Rawlings, his time at John Carroll was just just six years over two stints, but the Patriots did go undefeated and win the MIAA B Conference Championship in 2015.
That 12-0 team was led by Rawlings son, Kurt, who is now the starting quarterback at Yale and who this year led the Bulldogs to their first outright Ivy League title in 37 years.
Keith Rawlings had a 37-25 overall record a John Carroll, where he coached in the 2008 and 2009 seasons and then from 2014 through this year.
So, on comes Brinkman, to the helm of the Patriots.
"It's a great opportunity for John Carroll to name such an accomplished and proven head coach as Ken Brinkman to lead our program. He will provide oustanding leadership and will continue to build on our outstanding tradition," Patriots Athletic Director Steve Teter said. "I am also thankful that we are able to retain Coach Bill Lewis who has been such a valuable asset to our school community for the past decade."
Brinkman spent 12 years as the head football coach at North Harford, where his career record was 89-48. Under his leadership, the Hawks won four UCBAC championships and reached the state playoffs for the first time in school history. The Hawks were in the playoffs six times under Brinkman.
Brinkman has served as an executive Big 33 Game and the Maryland Crab Bowl.
Brinkman is in his 25th year of teaching phys ed and health. He currently does so at Aberdeen Middle School.