Replacing a legend isn't easy, but South Carroll football coach Gene Brown is doing fine so far.
Brown, who succeeded long-time South Carroll football coach Ken Parker this season, has guided the Cavaliers to a 4-1 start. South Carroll has outscored its last four opponents 94-12 while winning each game.
Parker stepped down after last year. He had run the program since founding it in 1967. Brown had assisted Parker for 16 years and was a logical choice for the job. In fact, the two good friends spoke about it many times.
"I was really prepared for it," said Brown. "It was like I had started the job already."
Brown, who has guided the Cavaliers' boys' lacrosse team to a 127-54 mark and 12 playoff appearances in 14 years, said his knowledge of South Carroll players lessened pressure and eased the transition.
The transition also was eased by Parker's offer to stay on as an assistant. Brown accepted the invitation immediately. Parker coaches the defensive tackles, wide receivers and punting team.
"He's been an asset," said Brown, who has kept Parker's staff intact. "As a position coach, there's nobody finer."
Parker knew his staying on could cause problems, so he purposely wanted a low-key, stay-out-of-the-way position.
"He's doing a good job at it," said Parker. "He's doing what's necessary to win. I'm just enjoying it myself, and am glad to be working with Gene. He's a fine young man."
The players and Brown have mixed well, too. Running back Mike Dodd, the offense's big gun this season, said the players have enjoyed working with Brown.
"Everyone loves Coach Brown," said Dodd. "We respect him very much. We think the world of him."
Brown was well aware of the heat he'd feel if the Cavaliers stumbled this season. That's what happens when you fill large shoes.
"Any time you follow a legend, you've got the potential that if something doesn't go well, the blame falls on your shoulders," said Liberty coach John Magee. "He's the only thing that's different."
Magee coached with Brown under Parker for four years in the 1970s.
"He's not coaching a Kenny Parker team, he's coaching a Gene Brown team," said Magee, whose team fell to South Carroll, 13-0, two weeks ago.
South Carroll threw the ball a lot the past few years, thanks to quarterback Joe Goodwin, who graduated. The Cavaliers now run almost exclusively, thanks to a strong offensive line and Dodd.
Brown said, however, that this offense is not meant to show he'll do things differently than Parker. It's simply what fits South Carroll best.
"I try to adapt our offense to our personnel," said Brown. "We have a big offensive line and a big tailback [Dodd]. We'll use ball control [now and] try to throw a little more as the season goes on."
Brown said that, in the end, there really hasn't been a large number of changes. The tough part of the Central Maryland Conference schedule is coming up, starting with Class 3A state champion Linganore on Friday, and Brown advised patience for those expecting a state championship.
"I really didn't set too many goals in terms of wins and losses," said Brown. "The next several weeks we'll find out just what we can do. I don't think there's any extra pressure."