Long-time AD leads his squad to an upset of Calvert Hall as the Greyhounds remain competitive during a “difficult transition”

by Gary Adornato

Gilman football has a tradition of excellence that goes back more than 100 years and, over the last two decades, the Greyhounds have been the most dominant program in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association.

All of the most recent success, however, was enjoyed under the previous coaching staff, led by Gilman alum Biff Poggi. Poggi and the majority of his staff are now at St. Frances where they have built a national powerhouse in less than two seasons. At the same time, Gilman was thrust into a rebuilding mode which saw the Greyhounds lose nine times in 2016.

The man who stepped into the breach, athletic director Tim Holley, now in his second and final season as the Gilman head football coach, helped the program survive a difficult 2016 and, in 2017, has the Greyhounds competitive once again in the MIAA A Conference, including a 35-28 victory over then No. 8 Calvert Hall last Friday. The win has earned Holley the honor of being named the Baltimore Touchdown Club’s Coach of the Week.

Holley, who has also coached Varsity Baseball and Basketball at Gilman, originally was going to lead the team for just one season but out of respect to the current senior class, he decided to stay in the role for a second year. The school currently is conducting a search to find a permanent head coach which they plan to have in place for the 2018 season.

“I originally agreed to do it for one year. We wanted some stability last year and my headmaster agreed that I was the best choice to lead the transition,” said Holley. “To bring a new coach in this year, however, would mean that our current senior class would have played for three head coaches in as many years and we really didn’t want them to have that experience. So, I agreed to stay another year.”

Holley was an All-Metro football and baseball player at Gilman in the mid-70’s and he played college baseball at Penn. He returned to Gilman in 1985 as a teacher and coach, left for three years in the mid-90’s to serve as Athletic Director at Haverford School (PA), before returning to Gilman for good in 1997.

As an alumni player, athletic director and now head coach, Holley has a great appreciation of Gilman football’s tradition of excellence, especially the success enjoyed under Poggi.

“The accomplishments of the previous staff are the stuff of legend here at Gilman,” said Holley. “Consistently and over a sustained period of time, Coach Poggi and staff built one of the finest football programs in area history. Since his departure, we have tried to rebuild on the football foundation he and his staff laid and that which was built over the last 100 years or so of Gilman Football. I believe that our being competitive is less about the last two years but more about the last 100 years of tradition at our school.”

The victory over Calvert Hall underscored the pride that flows through the Gilman program.

“Building a culture of resilience has been a challenge, particularly after the great success our program had under Coach Poggi. Prior to his departure, the expectation for Gilman football (internally and externally) was to achieve and succeed at a consistently high level. Since his departure, success and winning have been more difficult to achieve.

“I believe that the ‘secret’ to building resilience is to create an expectation that hard and consistent work will yield positive results. Our kids play and practice hard. Our coordinators and position coaches spend an enormous amount of time preparing and teaching the boys. Between work on the football field, film study, work in the weight room during the season and in the off-seasons, and competing as multi-sport athletes and coaches, all have built a work ethic that pushes them to continue to strive to achieve regardless of their circumstances or the results. Positive results don’t always mean wins on the scoreboard; sometimes positive results are measured in lots of other meaningful ways. I think that our boys and coaches expect to be challenged and expect to respond to that challenge through preparation, consistent work, and being their best selves in the easy and difficult times.”

Holley was almost embarrassed when told of his honor by the BTC.

“I am humbled, honored, and flattered, but in this case, this award is not about my personal achievement. The reality is that my role in our program is in more of a support capacity,” he said. “Many others are contributing in more substantive and essential ways. When I took the job of head coach, lots of fractures had taken place in our community and some valuable people were no longer going to be part of the program going forward. I felt that in order to move forward effectively and healthily, we needed to try to galvanize community support for the boys and that we needed to find a dedicated and knowledgeable coaching staff to teach the kids about football and life.

“Over the last 19 months or so, some healing has taken place, and I believe that our community has rallied around our boys in wonderfully supportive ways. In addition, I feel very proud that our coaching staff is a group of extraordinarily dedicated and knowledgeable men. Our coordinators (offensive, defensive, and special teams) and position coaches have provided an educational environment where the boys effectively learn football and character development applications . This award is in recognition of our boys, our community, and our coaching staff who have continued to persevere and strive positively through a difficult transition.”

The coaching staff includes the legendary Roger Wrenn, who built so many great teams at Patterson and Poly and has groomed many outstanding head coaches throughout the area. In addition, Roger’s son Russell, a 1996 Gilman alum, is the team’s offensive coordinator and assistant head coach.

Two other alums Chris Burnette ’08, the assistant defensive line coach, and defensive coordinator Jeff Gouline ’00 are also on the staff, as is long-time defensive line coach Johnnie Foreman, who also serves as the team’s chaplain.

The rest of the coaching staff includes Greg Calhoun (offensive line), Bobby Curran (special teams coordinator, linebackers), Robby Ford (offensive receivers, head JV coach), Phil Tran (strength and conditioning) and Marcus Wilson (defensive backs).
Holley also praised the work of the Baltimore Touchdown Club

“The Baltimore Touchdown Club (BTC) is a very valuable organization for high school football in the Baltimore metropolitan area,” said Holley. “This organization was founded to provide support for and recognition of the contributions of high school football players and coaches. The BTC provides schools in the Baltimore metropolitan region with supportive resources and outlets to help coaches give football playing boys in our area the very best exposure and support possible. The BTC is unique, as an organization, in its focused dedication to a specific sport in a specific area. The BTC has been a tremendous asset to the local football scene, not only at the high school level, but in general.”