When Chad McCormick took over Old Mill’s football program this fall, he knew everything about the Patriots. After seven years with the program, including five as a varsity assistant coach, he kept the Patriots moving right back to the playoffs for a 13th straight year.
Friday night, McCormick’s No. 3 Patriots (12-0) host another undefeated team, No. 4 Catonsville, in the state Class 4A semifinals. A win would put Old Mill in the state final for the second time in three years after the 2009 championship.
McCormick, who grew up in Pennsylvania, is a physical education teacher at Old Mill where he also serves as an assistant coach for the boys basketball team. He played three sports in college and two years of basketball at Penn State, Hazelton. Always interested in coaching, he got his first chance at Old Mill.
As this week’s Coachspeak guest, McCormick, 32, answers five questions about being a head coach, making another state title run and succeeding at the state level.
What has been the biggest challenge going from assistant coach to head coach?
Just the overall responsibility of organizing and managing the program. As an assistant coach, you worried specifically about your skill positions and your coaching. As a head football coach, there’s all kinds of things like talking to the media, talking to teachers at school if there are any problems or concerns from a grading aspect. Just overseeing the whole program, there’s a lot more involved in it. I’ve learned to delegate and I’ll get better as time goes on. With a lot of things, it’s great that I have a lot guys back on the staff from last year and, coaching football, those guys have done a great job. I worry about the offense with Mike Pfisterer Jr. We’re the co-offensive coordinators. Joe Viola is the defensive coordinator and he owns the defense. From that aspect, it’s been really good.
This team draws inevitable comparisons to the 2009 championship team. What’s similar and what’s different about the two?
What’s similar is our style of play. We’re a power run football team. We have a strong offensive line. We have strong running backs, strong fullback play. A little bit different [in that] we’ve become a little bit more efficient in the play action passing. Deonte Sheilds has done a real good job as our quarterback managing that. We get the fullback involved a little bit more as well running the ball, take a little bit of pressure off our tailback. Defensively, we have a strong defense again and that was the same with the ‘09 team. That’s been big for us this year. They give us the football a lot of times in good position.
What’s the most overlooked cog in this team’s success?
I honestly think our passing game is overlooked a little bit. We’ve thrown through 12 games now for 1,100 yards with our three quarterbacks. Our starting quarterback Deonte has thrown 15 touchdowns and the other two guys have thrown three and we’ve have one interception on the year which Deonte does not hold, so that’s been really good, the efficiency. One other thing -- ball security -- has been huge for us. I don’t think I can count on one hand the turnovers we’ve had this year. We’ve taken care of the football and that’s put us in great position to be successful.
What factors into the high level of play for teams that make the state finals? Generally speaking, what are you likely to find that you might not have found before?
I think a lot of times this time of year you’re going to find a team with a strong running game. It gets a little colder out. It’s a little tougher throwing the ball around. I think in the 4A, you’re going to see four teams that really do feature running the football. Us, Catonsville, Quince Orchard and Flowers all have strong running games. I think that’s a big factor. You’ve got to have teams in that have played solid defense and, overall, for the four teams that are in there, that’s been the case.
What does your Thanksgiving Day schedule look like? Is it different than when you were an assistant coach in 2009?
It’s pretty much the same. We’re going to come in to practice from 9 to 10:30. A lot of people throughout the school have said, "Are you really practicing on Thanksgiving Day?” I’m like, “It’s the best day of practice you can have.” You’re playing in a state semifinal. There’s not many people that have the opportunity. After that, I don’t know what the plan is, but I’m going to eat some turkey. My family might be coming down from Pennsylvania, but (as of Tuesday) they haven’t made that decision yet.