Since becoming Atholton's football coach in 2009, Kyle Schmitt has led the Raiders to a 38-9 record (.809), including wins over every team in the league, playoff appearances in each of his four seasons and a county championship in 2011.
But his next playoff run will come in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association 'A' Conference against the likes of Gilman, Calvert Hall and McDonogh.
Schmitt was announced as the new head football coach of Archbishop Spalding High School in Severn by athletic director Jeff Parsons on Wednesday morning.
"We are extremely excited to have Kyle join our school community as a coach and a teacher,'' Parsons said in a statement. ''We feel that he will be a great influence on our young men, and help continue to advance our football program into one of the preeminent programs in the State of Maryland.”
Meanwhile, Schmitt — who had become a popular figure at Atholton — was experiencing a whirlwind of emotions.
"It's been crazy, it's all bittersweet," said Schmitt, who starred as an offensive lineman at the University of Maryland in the early 2000s. "I'm extremely excited for a new opportunity, but at the same time I'm really going to miss Atholton. I love the kids here."
Schmitt said that he had consulted with his parents and his wife, Haley, prior to the decision to accept the Spalding job, but broke the news to the Atholton players after school on Tuesday.
"I definitely think they were caught off guard," said Schmitt, who also coached as an assistant at Maryland and St. Vincent College before coming to Atholton. "It was tough, because they set a standard here. I told them that's got to continue and it's going to be up to them. They've got a unique opportunity here."
Schmitt had often expressed a keen interest in getting past neighborhood rival River Hill in the playoffs. Schmitt's Raiders have beaten the four-time state champion Hawks twice — including a shocking 2010 win which ended River Hill's 48-game league winning streak — but under longtime coach Brian Van Deusen, River Hill has beaten Atholton in the 3A East regional championship game three times in the last four years, twice en route to state championships.
Still, Schmitt said, the opportunities offered by the Spalding position were too good to pass up.
"They play in one of the best conferences in the country, it's a beautiful facility," he said. "Sitting down with the AD and being able to ask questions, I just felt really comfortable there."
Schmitt said that the opportunity to bring several of his assistant coaches from Atholton was also a strong selling point. Former Atholton defensive coordinator Justin Carey accepted the vacant Hammond head coaching job in January, also bringing Atholton assistants along with him.
The announcement of Schmitt's hiring did cause some discord at Spalding.
Interim head coach Brian Propst took over last season for longtime coach Mike Whittles, who passed away last June after a battle with pancreatic cancer. Propst was one of several candidates, along with Schmitt, to interview for the position.
Propst, who coached under Whittles for 12 seasons, told The Baltimore Sun, "Right now I'm just trying to get over the hurt. When you love something so much and you put your heart and soul into something, it's rough when it gets taken out from under you."
Schmitt said that he was aware of the sensitive situation at Spalding in the wake of Whittles' passing.
Whittles "set a great foundation. If there is discontent among the former staff, I can't do anything about that," Schmitt said. "I don't feel like I'm stealing anyone's position. I'm there to teach kids and win football games."
As for Atholton's future, Schmitt says that he can envision nothing but continued success.
"The way this team fought, if I can get that kind of effort at Spalding, we'll be fine," he said. "Whoever (is the next Atholton head coach) is going to get a hungry bunch of kids."