When Chuck Markiewicz arrived at his alma mater Arundel just over 18 years ago, he set out to build a community devoted to football success within a strong family environment.
It is now up to a member of that football family to continue those goals, as the Wildcats strive to continue in their role as one of Anne Arundel County’s best.
Former offensive line coach Jack Walsh, who played at North County under Markiewicz in the late 1990s before coaching under him for more than a decade, was named his mentor’s successor last week.
“Coach Mark set a standard where I cannot just come in and be an OK coach,” Walsh said. “The day I got here, there was something different about this place. It is just a fact and you cannot avoid it. The standards are set a little higher. I like that expectation. I like that rich tradition that we have here.”
The Wildcats won a state title in 1975, but had not reached the playoffs the previous four years before Markiewicz came from North County and established a tradition that featured 13 playoff appearances, including 12 straight from 2003-14. Along with Old Mill and Broadneck, Arundel has been a constant threat for county, region and state titles for nearly a generation under Markiewicz. Those expectations will continue under Walsh, who will retain almost all of Markiewicz’s staff, including offensive coordinator Dave Doy and defensive coordinator Jason Gilman.
“If I did not think that they would hire someone who would keep up the tradition, I would have never left,” Markiewicz said. “I wanted to make sure the program was in good shape. I found out that Coach Walsh got the job on Facebook and then had dinner with a lot of the guys the other night. Coach Walsh will do a wonderful job and I wish him and all of the coaches my best.”
Walsh, who currently serves as a strength and conditioning teacher in the Gambrills school, joined the staff soon after graduating from Frostburg State University with a degree in health and physical education in 2005.
“I just stopped by to catch up with my former coach and he told me there was a spot on his staff,” Walsh said. “I just jumped at the chance to work with him.”
Walsh came on board as the junior varsity offensive line and defensive line coach before moving up to varsity in 2010 as Markiewicz’ O-line coach. Arundel’s teams routinely place at least one offensive lineman on All-County, a fact Walsh is proud of.
“I think the offensive line, and this is my biased opinion, is the most important position on the football field,” Walsh said. “I have seen teams with average players in other positions win with a good line. The ‘Shut up and work’ mentality that offensive linemen bring translates to a good football team when everyone does that as well. Here, the 40 to 50 points we score a game happens because of the offensive line. Our offensive linemen are not the biggest people, but we demand a level of toughness and we teach a level of self-confidence in what they do.”
Walsh has already received numerous congratulatory texts and greetings from his players, and his offensive linemen are especially happy.
“For them, this is like a running back scoring a touchdown — I think they are as excited about it as I am,” Walsh said. “They are excited for the rest of the team to see how a typical practice with Coach Walsh looks. They are looking forward to seeing the shock factor among the other kids.”
Arundel athletic director Kevin Necessary, a former colleague of Walsh on Markiewicz’ staff, is thrilled with the continuity, discipline and pride that will remain with the program.
“Coach Walsh is one of the most effective and influential educators that I have had the pleasure to work alongside,” Necessary said. “Our community should be excited to watch Coach Walsh and his staff continue the tradition of excellence that has been established in our football program.”
That tradition of excellence included 146 wins the past 18 seasons under Markiewicz, who concluded his coaching career with a 243-99 (.711) record in 31 seasons with Chesapeake, Meade, North County and Arundel. That makes him the winningest coach in Anne Arundel County history. That is not what Walsh needs to set out to be to keep the Wildcats successful.
“I don’t have to be the next Coach Markiewicz; he has told me that,” Walsh said. “I have to put my own spin on this. I can tell you this, on Friday night, you will see a similar product, it is just that the process to get there might be slightly different than in the past. Coach Mark told me that all the congratulations are great, but now I have work to do. And he is right. We need to get better as coaches and players from today until the start of practice in August.”
Walsh is married with one child and his wife carries a huge load herself as the AACPS coordinator of health, physical education and dance.
“She knows the life of a football coach and me getting home at 7,8,9 at night is nothing new,” Walsh said. “She is a rock star in her own right at work and we agreed that we need to get a calendar and start putting stuff down, so it is there. It is communication and knowing that we have work each of us must do. That is the way I have been brought up in football. Always been a family thing.”
Now, it is time to work. Asked if he was most excited about the first fall practice or the first Friday night game, Walsh said that he was most excited about that day’s 2:30 p.m. workout.
“I did not take this job because coaching football is fun and cool,” Walsh said. “I want to keep Arundel football at a very high level for as long as possible. We need to take care of the details, so we can focus on what the football team can be. It is that excitement that makes me want to do the job. Our staff wants to put a stamp on this that the people before us can be proud of.”
That last call from Markiewicz also represents the funny irony of the current situation. Although Markiewicz retired from his head coaching position, he has moved over to Kyle Schmitt’s staff at Archbishop Spalding as, you guessed it, offensive line coach.
“When I called him, we talked about a spring practice we have coming up at Spalding,” Markiewicz said. I wanted to talk about an agility circuit he runs with the linemen. We work very closely. I know I was his mentor, but now, he will be mine.”