Football: Coach of the Year

Michael Harrison, Wilde Lake

The day after the Wildecats lost their regular-season finale, 27-15, to Atholton, Harrison sat the players down and told them what they needed to do to improve. He showed them a lot of film and told them they also had to believe in themselves.

"We said to the kids, 'You've got to believe that you're a good football team, and once you believe it, you're able to achieve it.' And they went out and did it the following week. The kids made a commitment. The amount of film they watched and the amount of information they were able to take in was just tremendous."

That pep talk — and daily film sessions — started a tremendous run through the playoffs, culminating in a 21-14 victory over then-No. 6 Franklin for the Class 3A state championship — the Wildecats' first state title since 1997 and the first for Harrison as coach.

The No. 5 Wildecats weren't ranked when they started their run, but they avenged regular-season losses to Atholton and River Hill before pulling perhaps the biggest upset of the season in defeating previously unbeaten Damascus, the No. 1 team in the state.

Harrison, in his second season after taking over for longtime coach Doug DuVall, led a team that had no superstars but maintained excellent balance on both sides of the ball.

"We have a sign that has our motto on it that the kids, as they're running out on the field, bang the sign. On that sign is painted, 'Every player, every play.' It's not one player, all the plays — it's every player, and we enforce that team concept with the kids over and over again," Harrison said.

His assistant coaches also played a key role, Harrison said, naming Matt Clever, Charlie Schafer, Kareem Penn, Sterling Burke, James Rooths, Sean Alkire, Shawn Fredericks, Albert Merrills and Austen Merrills.

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