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High School sports

St. Frances football coach Messay Hailemariam named NCMFC 2022 High School Coach of the Year

St. Frances football coach Messay Hailemariam, who led the Panthers to an 8-1 mark and the No. 1 ranking in The Baltimore Sun poll in the 2021 season, has been named the National Coalition of Minority Football Coaches 2022 High School Coach of the Year.

In his second stint as head coach at St. Frances — he previously had the lead role from 2011 to 2015 — Hailemariam maintained the program’s national excellence as the Panthers closed out the season ranked No. 4 nationally by USA Today. He’s been part of the program for 11 years, serving as an assistant under former co-coaches Biff Poggi and Henry Russell the previous four seasons.

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Hailemariam will be recognized at a virtual awards ceremony at 8 p.m. Thursday.

“To be recognized nationally, it’s pretty cool,” he said. “It was really an award that’s won by the culmination of hard work the players put in, the [assistant] coaches around me and a school that believes in us. So, it’s an honor to receive it. The coalition, it’s a platform that’s amazing for minority coaches to get the recognition.”

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Entering the 2021 season, Hailemariam faced considerable challenges. He was replacing the legendary Poggi, who led the program to national prominence before leaving to become associate head coach at the University of Michigan. Also, the Panthers were coming off a two-game 2020 season due to coronavirus restrictions. He responded impressively with the team playing a demanding national schedule.

After a season-opening loss to Florida’s St. Thomas Aquinas, which played a full season the year before, the Panthers closed the 2021 campaign with eight straight wins.

“One of the things we always preach and we talk about daily is it’s not if, it’s when. You get hit in the mouth and have to kind of figure out how to overcome adversity and obstacles,” he said.

Founded in June 2020 by Maryland coach Michael Locksley, the NCMFC and its foundation are dedicated to preparing, promoting and producing minority coaches at all levels of football.


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