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2019 Football Previews: Francis Scott Key taking things ‘up another notch’ with Thompson as new coach

Francis Scott Key head coach Will Thompson watches the progress of his players during a football team practice at the school on Wednesday, August 21.
Francis Scott Key head coach Will Thompson watches the progress of his players during a football team practice at the school on Wednesday, August 21. (Brian Krista/Carroll County Times)

Will Thompson became Francis Scott Key’s football coach in late February, and couldn’t wait to get started with his new job.

Even before he and his family moved from Virginia during the summer, Thompson established his coaching philosophies and principles for an Eagles team that finished 4-6 in 2018 but failed to build on its success from the previous fall.

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The plan? Not to tweak too many things former coach Josh Rutter had in place before he stepped away from the program after three seasons.

“We didn’t wholesale change everything. We just upped it up another notch,” Thompson said at a recent practice. “The groundwork and the expectations were already there. … There has been success. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, just put a little grease on it.”

And with that, a new era of Eagles football begins. They were set to open Sept. 6 on the road against Mount Carmel, but the game was postponed.

Francis Scott Key hasn’t been to the playoffs in 13 years, but its 10 wins over the last two seasons have those within the football program excited to take another step forward. That includes Thompson, who played college football at Bridgewater and served as a defensive coordinator at King George and John Handley high schools in Virginia prior to becoming the 11th coach in FSK history.

“It’s a great change,” said senior Matt Diehl. “It’s amazing, all the energy he brings to our community and our team. His attitude … just gives us great intensity.”

Diehl (6 feet, 190 pounds) is one of a handful of the Eagles’ returning starters, and he’s one of their leading rushers back from 2018 as well. Diehl had 149 yards and four touchdowns, and expect to see him as one of the focal points in Francis Scott Key’s Wing-T offense.

Fellow senior Reese Sauter (5-9, 165) is in as quarterback, Thompson said, with seniors Quinlan Stacy (5-11, 275) and Garrett Tucker (5-11, 245) anchoring the offensive line. Sauter saw time at QB last season, with 245 passing yards and three touchdowns.

Mike Quealy, FSK’s longtime assistant coach and its offensive coordinator, has the Wing-T controls. And Thompson loves it.

“Ground and pound. Whatever Quealy says, I stay out of the way,” Thompson said. “As long as we don’t turn the ball over, and we get 3 yards, I’m fine with it.”

As in recent years, FSK is set to play a 4-2-5 defense with multiple looks, and Thompson said the Eagles will be attacking out of that scheme. Diehl is a standout defensive back — he earned second-team all-county honors in 2018 — after totaling 54 tackles, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery in 2018. He should get help from Sauter and junior Isaac Jones (5-11, 165).

Bryce Zepp (5-10, 160) is one of nine sophomores on FSK’s roster, and he should be filling a linebacker spot. Fellow sophomores Carr Baker (5-11, 190) and Ryan Rill (6-3, 190) are along the D-line, as are Stacy and Tucker.

Key gets four home games in a five-week stretch coming up, a run that includes matchups against all three county playoff teams (Century, Liberty, Westminster) from last season. Liberty is the reigning Carroll County Athletic League champions. FSK’s home opener is slated for Sept. 13 against Centennial.

Getting off to a good start is the Eagles’ first mission under their new coach.

“We just need to play as a team, fly to the ball,” Diehl said. “Play for each other and not play for ourselves.”

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