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Hereford football coach takes over new position on familiar turf

New Hereford High varsity football coach John Walter and his wife, Kellie, posed, with sons, from left, Ryder, Gavin, Griffin and Quinn on senior night in 2019. Not pictured, older son Blake.
New Hereford High varsity football coach John Walter and his wife, Kellie, posed, with sons, from left, Ryder, Gavin, Griffin and Quinn on senior night in 2019. Not pictured, older son Blake. (Photo by Bill Watt)

New Hereford High head football coach John Walter is no stranger to being on the sidelines mentoring athletes and showing his pride with a deep passion for winning.

He was on the there as an assistant to head coach Steve Turnbaugh when the Bulls won state championships in 1997, 2001 and 2002.

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Turnbaugh guided the Bulls to 11 state tournament appearances in 19 seasons before giving up head coaching duties in 2013.

Turnbaugh and Walter were together 16 years before Walter took two years off to focus on his family.

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“I had five sons, so I was with Turnbaugh for 16 years and I wish I would have stayed, but the problem was I wanted to coach my sons, so that was the reason that I gave it up for two years,” Walter said. “When I gave it up for two, I knew I was going to come back, but I didn’t know in what capacity.”

When he returned in 2014, Ric Evans was the head varsity coach and Walter took over as head JV coach. Evans retired from coaching football after last season.

“I really didn’t want to be the head coach because I still had my sons in high school, one on varsity and one on JV,” Walter said.

One day, JV head coach Walter called on his former coach Turnbaugh, who had spent three years at St. Paul’s as an assistant after leaving Hereford following a 184-37 career record.

Turnbaugh thought he was done with coaching football and had planned to take a bike ride after school on the NCR Trail, but Walter had other ideas.

"He said, ‘Can you help me with something at football practice?' " Turnbaugh recalled. " I went out there and I was there every day from that point on."

Turnbaugh, who would have been with the team on the sidelines in 2020 if they had a regular fall season, considers himself a consultant.

“It goes full circle, I coached him, I taught him, he was my assistant and then all of the sudden I’m his assistant at the JV level and now he is the head varsity coach," Turnbaugh said.

Being back in the Hereford program under Walter has lit as spark in Turnbaugh that he didn’t see coming.

“I was very close to just saying, ‘It’s time,’ and these last few years, him and I working together again, it’s rejuvenated me and for that I owe him a great deal,” Turnbaugh said. “He’s made me young again.”

Last year, both coaches watched Walter’s son, Gavin, 18, develop into a solid quarterback in his first season playing the position.

Hereford's Gavin Walter runs for daylight in the 12-6 loss to New Town Class 2A North Region final Walter, who rushed for 100 yards in his final game, is the son of new Hereford head football coach John Walter.
Hereford's Gavin Walter runs for daylight in the 12-6 loss to New Town Class 2A North Region final Walter, who rushed for 100 yards in his final game, is the son of new Hereford head football coach John Walter. (Nicole Munchel for the Baltimore/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Gavin is is currently going to the University of Maryland with older brother Blake, 21, who also played at Hereford. Neither are playing football for the Terps.

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Ryder Walter, 15, is a sophomore who played on JV last year and is going through virtual training and learning this fall because COVID-19 forced the postponement of the fall season.

His other sons are Griffin, 12, who plays soccer and Quinn, 11, who was supposed to play football for the first time this fall, but the season was cancelled.

“He’s done a great job, he’s a great father, he’s a great teacher, he’s a great coach and kids respond to him,” said Turnbaugh, who marveled at the way he attracted less-talented kids to the program. “He seems to attract the not-so-great kids and the lost souls that everybody else has given up on and he just has a tremendous relationship with the young kids today.”

Walter has developed a strong JV wrestling program that he’s been coaching for years and he also coaches the Allied Softball team at Hereford.

“He has an outgoing, fun-loving type of personality and that’s why he and I have gotten along,” Turnbaugh said. "We have a great relationship. I am proud of watching what he has become.””

Last season, Hereford finished 7-4 with a season-ending 12-6 loss to New Town in the second round of the Class 2A North Region playoffs after a 57-22 victory over Patterson in the first round.

Gavin Walter and Chris Peddicord, who is a senior this year, shared the quarterback duties and Walter was the defensive coach.

As head coach this year, he will draw on one of the lessons he learned from Turnbaugh, who was his physical education teacher and assistant football coach under Bob Davis at Towson High, where Walter graduated in 1990.

“I think we all hate losing, but the one thing I learned from coach Steve is how to delegate,” Walter said. “Give people responsibilities...that’s the one thing Steve was definitely not, a micro-manager, I think it is important for every coach to have ownership.”

Two of Walter’s coaches this season are Ray Causey and Matt Simms, who both played on the 1999 and 2000 Hereford High squads that lost in the state semifinals.

Currently, the fall season of competition is scheduled to run March 15 through May 8 with 20 days of practice before the first game.

Walter could only speculate on how his team would have fared under a normal fall schedule.

“I don’t know if we could have won a state championship, but I’m going to tell you one thing, we could have played with anyone,” he said.

A trio of Bulls highlight the senior class, including Peddicord (QB/DB) and Gino Pisano (TE/DE), who signed a letter of intent to play at the University of Delaware, and Dusty Krotee (OL/DL).

Krotee is the only returning captain from last year and Pisano signed a letter of intent to play at the University of Delaware next season.

The other returning seniors with experience include; Chris Corcoran (OL/LB), MJ Harris (RB/DB), Tyler Herkalo (WR/DB), Blaine Karotko, (WR/DB), Braun Lippe (OL/DL), Will Morrison (FB/LB), Dominic Pugh (RB/DB), Tyrez Shird (FB/DE), Josh Snyder (RB/LB) and Sebastian Wiggins (WR/DB).

Walter admits coaching virtually has been a challenge.

“It’s tough, because when you get off the conversation with them, you are more hurt as a coach then when you started the conversation,” said Walter, who feels their emotion. “Hopefully in the winter, we will have a five or six game season, but other than that we’ve just got to find ways to work out be active and try to support one each other and hang out.”

He pointed out that 50 of his players are doing CrossFit training and CrossFit gym and his sophomore son Ryder is playing flag football with his teammates.

But, Walter is ready to be a head coach for a varsity squad for the first time and shoulder the added responsibilities that he didn’t have as an assistant.

When I worked with coach Turnbaugh for those 16 years it was great," Walter said. "It was like we were one and we all had one common goal — to make these kids competitive enough to fight for a state championship.”

Turnbaugh looks forward to doing that again in a role reversal.

“From my standpoint of watching somebody that has been like a son to me, come through the ranks and have the success that he has had in wrestling and JV football and to watch him develop to where he is, I couldn’t be more proud,” Turnbaugh said.

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