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Liberty head coach Larry Luthe looks on during the first half of their game in Manchester Friday, October 19, 2018. Luthe's Lions will take on Tim Cullen's Glenelg Gladiators in the second round of the MPSSAA Class 2A West playoffs. Luthe was Cullen's offensive line coach at Hammond in the 1990s.
Liberty head coach Larry Luthe looks on during the first half of their game in Manchester Friday, October 19, 2018. Luthe's Lions will take on Tim Cullen's Glenelg Gladiators in the second round of the MPSSAA Class 2A West playoffs. Luthe was Cullen's offensive line coach at Hammond in the 1990s. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

The football game between Glenelg and Liberty in the MPSSAA Class 2A West playoffs isn’t just a clash between two high-caliber football programs.

It’s also a matchup between two coaches familiar with one another.

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Larry Luthe, Liberty’s head coach, was the offensive line coach at Hammond High School when Tim Cullen, Glenelg’s current head coach, was a player.

“(Luthe) was what you would call a player’s coach,” said Cullen, a 1997 Hammond graduate. “He would work us hard and keep us accountable, but he was a fair guy and someone you could go talk to.”

Glenelg coach, Tim Cullen confers with quarterback Mason Davis late in the game. Glenelg defeats visiting Howard 10-7 on a last second field goal Friday night in Glenelg.
Glenelg coach, Tim Cullen confers with quarterback Mason Davis late in the game. Glenelg defeats visiting Howard 10-7 on a last second field goal Friday night in Glenelg. (Doug Kapustin/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

The two coaches didn’t only interact on the field, as Cullen was Luthe’s senior aide.

“We spent a lot of time together,” Luthe said.

Luthe has coached football in Maryland for about twice as long as his players have been alive. He first started as an assistant at Hammond before moving on as the head coach at Mt. Hebron for about a decade. After a few years as an assistant at Marriotts Ridge and one more season at Hebron, Luthe made the switch to Carroll County’s Liberty in 2012. Since taking over the program in 2013, Luthe has compiled a 50-24 record, six straight winning seasons and four consecutive berths in the state playoffs.

“You can see how hard his kids play, and that’s a direct result of the type of coach he is,” Cullen said. “It’s great to see. He was extremely successful at Mt. Hebron, and he’s been able to take that to Liberty. Every coach will tell you that you need to have players, but you need to be able to know what to do with them, and coach Luthe does a great job of that.”

Cullen, meanwhile, started as an assistant at Hammond after he graduated from high school. After a decade as an assistant for the Golden Bears, he took over the program for two seasons before spending one year as a Mt. Hebron assistant coach and then the last 10 at Hammond. This season is his first as the Gladiators’ head coach after Butch Schaffer stepped down last year.

Glenelg football defeated Century, 31-14, on Friday, Nov. 9, 2019, in the first round of the MPSSAA Class 2A West playoffs.

“When you see someone you remember when they first got into this and watch them fall in love with the game, that’s an exciting thing,” Luthe said. “You hope as a coach that you’re able to pass something on to kids. It’s kind of cool to be able to say I was an influence in his life for why he became a high school football coach.”

If Luthe remembers one thing about Cullen, it’s about how “competitive” he was as a player.

“He was hyper competitive,” Luthe said. “He did not like losing, and that hasn’t changed.”

While both men understand there may be nostalgia of coaching against each other for the first time as head coaches, Luthe was quick to make clear that neither he nor Cullen would be putting on pads and lining up on Friday and that the game is between their players.

“I’m not playing Tim, and Tim isn’t playing me,” Luthe said. “I’ll cherish it before the game and after the game give him a big hug. I hope he’s wishing me good luck, but if not, I know I will wish him good luck. Then we’ll move on and grab a beer together after the season to talk about it.”

Liberty (7-3) defeated Oakland Mills, 51-13, in the first round of the Class 2A West playoffs last week. The Lions are led by quarterback Nate Kent, who has orchestrated an offense that has thrown for more than 1,800 yards and rushed for more than 1,900. Kent was the Carroll County Times Football Player of the Year last season.

The Lions (7-3) got touchdowns from Nate Kent, Tommy Nelson, Peyton Scheufele, and Mike Spitz, and a 29-yard field goal from Sean Disbrow, in the team’s second postseason win of all-time.

“Their QB is definitely the heartbeat of their team, and he’s a great player,” Cullen said. “Their quarterback has to be one of the top kids in the area. They’ve got some fast receivers and running backs, too.”

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Cullen said the key for his team will be to “play keep away” from Liberty’s offense.

“We know we’re going to have our hands full,” Cullen said. “We’ll have to be up for the challenge on the offensive line, and hopefully we can get another big game out of Kyle Dry and Mason Davis and Drew Sotka.”

Glenelg running back Kyle Dry talks Gladiators football after their 31-14 win over Century in the MPSSAA Class 2A West playoffs.

Kickoff for the game at Glenelg (7-3) is 7 p.m. The winner will be re-seeded with the other seven remaining teams by regular season winning percentage.

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