Will Thompson said his first thought at becoming the new football coach at Francis Scott Key was one of surprise.
Not that Thompson, a Virginia native and former college football player, wasn’t ready for the gig. But the 30-year-old said he felt grateful he was walking into a successful situation.
“At first I thought it was too good to be true,” said Thompson, who was officially announced as FSK’s new coach Tuesday morning. ”Normally when you get your first head coaching job, you’re dealing with some huge culture change and obstacles you’re going to have to get turned around in Year 1 or Year 2.
I think the expectations and the culture and doing things the right way, that’s already been established.
That was awesome as I learned more about the school and looked into it, so that as a huge plus.”
Josh Rutter came back to Francis Scott Key High School, his alma mater, as the varsity football coach with expectations to restore a competitive nature to the program. His decision to step down after this fall was not easy.
Francis Scott Key went 11-18 under Rutter, but won 10 games over the last two years after a 1-9 start. Key went 6-3 in 2017, the program’s first winning record since 2006.
Rutter stepped down after last fall, and Thompson said he heard about the job opening from another former county coach — Joel Beard, former Century girls basketball coach, was on a high staff football staff with Thompson a few years ago. Thompson said he talked with Beard last Christmas and learned of the position at Key.
Troy Warehime, FSK’s athletic director, said a committee received 12 applicants and interviewed about half before choosing Thompson as the 11th coach in school history.
“His philosophy on football and education I think will fit well within our community,” Warehime said. “The committee felt he was a really good fit.”
Thompson has eight years of high school coaching experience, and spent last year as defensive coordinator at King George High in Virginia. Thompson also recently coached at John Handley High in Winchester.
He said he’s a “4-2-5 guy” in terms of a defensive scheme; Rutter ran a 4-2-5 defense at FSK.
Thompson likened his approach to “three yards and a cloud of dust,” which mean a focus on ball control and a strong running game; Rutter’s Eagles thrived in the Wing-T offense.
“As I went through the process, I gave them my philosophies and my ideas, which I don’t think are drastically different from what Coach Rutter had done within the school and the program,” Thompson said. “My values and ideas kind of aligned very, very similar to what they envisioned.”
Thompson said he wants to maintain that continuity by giving as many coaches as possible from Rutter’s staff a chance to return in 2019, and the new front man is eager to get started.
Thompson’s wife hails from Damascus, and his mother-in-law lives in Frederick. Making the commute from Fredericksburg, Virginia, was tough. The trip won’t be as difficult soon enough.
“That was all attracting, and it just happened to be a great fit,” Thompson said. “I think it’s a great situation. It’s not an 0-10, 1-9 situation that I’m inheriting. Josh has done an excellent job of re-establishing the culture and the expectations. That’s a testament to him and the kids and staff that he had around him.”