In all five years Joe Holland has coached New Town’s football team, he has guided the Titans to the playoffs. This week, the Titans are preparing for the Class 1A state semifinal Friday at 7 p.m. at undefeated Perryville in Cecil County.
This fall, the Titans are 10-2 with their only losses, to Overlea and Owings Mills, coming by one point each. After losing to Owings Mills in the regular-season finale, they avenged the regular-season loss to Overlea with a 50-15 win in the first round of regional playoffs. In the 1A North region final, they defeated Manchester Valley, 47-14, to advance to the state tournament for the first time in school history.
Holland, who has also coached at Northwestern, Walbrook and Douglass in Baltimore City, is a city native and played at City College. He went on to play corner at Frostburg, where he was a teammate of Titans defensive coordinator Ronald Wallace. The two were inducted into the Frostburg Hall of Fame in 2005.
A year ago, the Titans’ season ended after the regional semifinal when they had to forfeit that win and the rest of their season for using an inelgible player. Holland didn’t know the player had used up his eligibility before transferring from Milford Mill and the coach said the player didn’t realize it either.
As this week’s Coachspeak guest, Holland, who teaches biology at New Town, answers five questions about his team’s success, his coaching style and the success of Baltimore County’s west side football programs.
Both of your losses this season were by one point. Did that motivate the players even more?
Those were the barn burners where you want to go strangle yourself (laughs).The first time, we lost to Overlea. The guys were so emotional about the game because they wanted to play Overlea (in the playoffs last year) and they didn’t play us (after the forfeit), so our guys looked at it as a playoff game early and we made a lot of mistakes. We learned from that and it enabled us to go on a seven-game win streak going into the game against Owings Mills but we just made a lot of errors again. I know a lot of coaches would laugh when I say this but that was a blessing in disguise, us losing that last game, because it kind of refigured our minds for the playoffs. The guys got back to basics and we’ve been successful thus far in the playoffs.
What has been the catalyst behind this year’s success?
I think the guys were really motivated just to reach the championship. Last year, we had the issue with an ineligible player, so a lot of the guys were disappointed and we had 24 seniors on that team. The younger guys on the team dedicated themselves to trying to get back to where we were and a lot of hard work paid off, summer workouts and things of that nature. They’re a really tight unit this year and I’m really proud of the guys.
What’s your favorite style of football and does this team reflect that?
I think it does. I kind of think you’ve got to be versatile in the game. You don’t want to become a one-trick pony where they’re able to figure you out, so I think we do a good job of being able to run and pass the ball. We have strong backs and our quarterback knows how to manage the game. He doesn’t have to be Johnny Unitas, but he has to be able to facilitate the game and balance it out. That’s definitely my personality and the kids have picked it up and run with. You look at what talent you have and try to fashion your team around that. We all have an ideal scheme that we like as coaches, but at the same time you’ve got to tailor your scheme to the talent that you’ve got. I guess I’ve been lucky this year. I have guys who fit into that scheme.
If you were to receive a Mike Preston Report Card on your program this fall, what would the overall grade be and which unit would get the best grade?
I would say a B, because I think offensive-wise we’ve been productive and we’re able to score. On defense, we’ve been strong and stalwart. I think special teams, we’ve been a see saw back and forth. They’re my cardiac kids. They make you want to pull your hair out and give you a heart attack. Sometimes we give up big plays on special teams and I think I would give us a B just for that. Defense would get the highest grade. Defense has always been very consistent. Even when the offense is struggling, they’re formidible enough to keep us in games with guys making big plays. Our defensive coordinator, coach Wallace, he always dials up something new for our guys.
Why do you think football on the west side of Baltimore County is so successful? Milford Mill, Franklin, Catonsville and Owings Mills were all in the playoffs too.
I think it’s the kids. There’s a high level of competition. A lot of the guys in this area played little league with each other so by a lot of the kids knowing each other, that already creates that competition level and when they get in high school, they’re always checking out what the other one’s doing so they can outdo them. And you’ve just got a good hotbed of coaches who are very well versed in what they do. We have a good relationship amongst ourselves and try to raise the bar so we can all be competitive and represent Baltimore County proudly.
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