With the success of the program Marcus Lewis had built over the last eight years, it seems somewhat fitting that his replacement would come from his own staff.
Marriotts Ridge announced Friday that TJ Welsh will take over the Mustangs’ football program. Welsh has coached under Lewis since 2017 and has been the team’s offensive coordinator for the past three seasons.
“I’m tremendously excited,” Welsh said. “Marcus is leaving a very established program in my hands, and I’m surrounded by quality coaches, which will make the transition easier. … I also want to thank the Marriotts Ridge administration and [Athletics and Activities Manager] Chris Reagle for giving me the opportunity.”
POLL: Each week this spring, we are letting the community help pick a Howard County boys and girls Athlete of the Week. Our staff, after consultation with coaches and receiving nominations, will pick players from each of the spring sports and then let voting decide the rest. To participate, either vote below or click here for the boys poll and/or click here for the girls poll by 11 p.m. Tuesday.
Welsh, a 1999 Oakland Mills graduate, was the quarterback for the Scorpions’ state championship team in 1998. Welsh started coaching in 2013 under Bryan Cole as Reservoir’s junior varsity head coach. He then moved on to Atholton as the team’s varsity offensive coordinator in 2014 and 2015. In 2016, he coached under Michael Harrison at Wilde Lake for a season before moving over to Marriotts Ridge.
When he started coaching underneath Lewis, it was familiar territory for the two men, as Lewis was a young defensive coordinator on those late-1990s Oakland Mills teams that Welsh quarterbacked.
“I’m just so happy and excited for him. I know he’s going to do well. I’m glad to have somebody in the family taking over the program,” Lewis said. “... His best quality is his communication with the kids. That’s something he’s always excelled at, and he pulls the best out of them.”
One of the biggest challenges for Welsh in his first season will be his team’s experience, as the vast majority of the team’s starters from this past season are graduating this week. However, one of the most important starters — quarterback Casey Pung — whom Welsh has worked closely with for multiple seasons as his play-caller, is returning for his senior campaign.
Welsh also knows he isn’t filling small shoes. Lewis took over a struggling Marriotts Ridge program that had won only two games in its previous four seasons. In his eight seasons, Lewis’ Mustangs turned the once-fraught program around, making the playoffs three times, winning its first playoff game, beating River Hill for the first time and claiming a share of its first county title.
Following the team’s final game of the regular season in April, Lewis told his team that the contest would be his last at the helm. Lewis’ son, Donovan, is a sophomore wide receiver and a lacrosse player at Calvert Hall. While Lewis is stepping away from the Mustangs’ football program, he isn’t done coaching. He will be the quarterbacks coach at Calvert Hall and will switch over to lead the Marriotts Ridge boys basketball team starting this winter.
“Marcus has done more for me than I could ever put into words,” Welsh said. “He was a young coach when I played for him, and he was far more than a coach to me at that time. We spent a lot of time together outside of football, and he was responsible for a lot of my development as a player.
“Then, of course, working with him as a coach he really took me under his wing and mentored me. I look up to him as a father, as a father myself, as a man and as a football coach.”
Girls Player of Week (May 22): Kendall Dean, Atholton lacrosse
This spring in a featured role up top for the Raiders, Dean has showcased unparalleled levels of consistent offensive production. The junior attack exploded for six goals and an assist in a season-opening victory over Wilde Lake and hasn’t slowed down since, scoring at least three goals in each of the team’s five games.
“She is so skilled, but it’s her drive that allows her to be so consistent,” Atholton coach Amy Davis Hall said. “It doesn’t matter who we are playing or what the other team is doing against her, she has the confidence and belief in herself that she can get done what needs to be done.”
Davis Hall adds that what makes Dean so unique is her ability to score and contribute offensively in so many different ways.
“She can score on the plays that we run for her, can make things happen one-on-one or against double teams when things break down and can also set things up on the fly for herself and others because she is such a great communicator with her teammates,” Davis Hall said. “She is a junior, but has been playing with these girls for so long that there is a ton of chemistry between her and the other midfielders and forwards.”
Dean is currently the county’s leading scorer with 48 points (22 goals, 4 assists) for an Atholton team that went undefeated in its Division play (4-0) before suffering its first loss of the season against Marriotts Ridge on May 26.
Up next: Mt. Hebron at Atholton on June 3 at 6:45 p.m.
Boys Player of Week (May 22): Alex Artazov, River Hill tennis
For an undefeated River Hill boys tennis team this spring, Artazov has been the leader at the top. Slotting in at the team’s No. 1 singles position in each of the six matches he has played in, Artazov has yet to lose any of those matchups and has prevailed in somewhat dominating fashion — with the closest matchup being an 8-4 win in his most recent match on May 27 against Guy Scafidi of Mt. Hebron.
“I wouldn’t say that he has the hardest serve of the hardest strokes, there are certainly players with more power, but he’s a super smart player that goes out there with a lot of confidence,” River Hill coach Kelley Pfefferkorn said. “He really knows how to identify the weaknesses of his opponents and adjust very quickly in order to exploit them.”
To go along with his confidence, Artazov also has a fiery aspect to his game.
“He isn’t afraid to show his excitement during a match and I think that’s something that gets his teammates excited as well. I think it’s something that can be mistaken for being cocky, but with Alex it’s just his way of keeping himself motivated and focused,” Pfefferkorn said. “He thrives on energy and emotion … especially in the bigger matches.”
Among his biggest victories of the season came against Howard’s Andrew Au, who was previously undefeated, by a score of 8-0 on May 20.
Up next: River Hill at Marriotts Ridge on Tuesday at 5:15 p.m.