Third-year Dons head coach after his team opens the season with a 56-0 win over Gilman
by Gary Adornato
The 2019 football season is underway and so is our selection of the Baltimore Touchdown Coach of the Week. The first honor of 2019 goes to Anthony Zehyoue, head coach of Loyola Blakefield. His Dons opened their schedule on Saturday with a 56-0 rout of Gilman School, on the road in Roland Park.
According to Zehyoue, the Dons entered their opening contest full of promise.
“At Loyola, we were excited for the new season for a variety of reasons,” said Zehyoue. “We have tremendous respect for the game of football and for Gilman, so our preparation in pre-season was focused on execution and competition. Our coaches and players have been working extremely hard this offseason to get ready for the season, and I hope we continue to see the fruits of our labor. Overall, I was pleased with our performance, but, the season is sixteen weeks long with many strong opponents, so we have to stay humble in this process and continue to develop and improve weekly.”
Now in his third year with with the Dons, Zehyoue, who played on a national championship team Louisiana State University in 2007, is starting see his program take root.
“First, I am honored to continue to lead the Loyola Football Program along with my fellow coaches,” added Zehyoue. “As I begin my third year, a few things are different. First, I’m not coaching a position this year. While this was a decision I wrestled with, I believe this has helped me to better evaluate practices and meetings as well as assist all of our coaches and players with greater nuance. Second, I feel I have learned from the variety of mistakes that I made in my first two years as a head coach, and I work to continue critically self-evaluate and be open to constructive criticism.
“Finally, and most importantly, I hope that we are building a program that cares for the whole player (Cura Personalis). I want our Dons to enjoy their football experience at Loyola and become admirers and students of the game, but I also want them to understand that they are part of a much greater community concerned for their holistic development – athletically, academically and spiritually. Our program isn’t fully established, but I do feel that we, as players and coaches, are striving daily for continuous improvement.”
Loyola, once an MIAA A Conference power which won or shared six league titles between 1996 and 2008, is now playing an independent schedule. Zehyoue discussed the challenges and opportunities this situation creates.
“At the end of the day, we are interested in providing the best opportunities for our players to develop and compete. In creating our own schedule, we have the unique ability to diversify the experiences and exposure of our players and program. By playing traditional private school rivals here in the Baltimore area, local public schools, and private and public schools from the surrounding states, we are able to showcase our individual players and skills as a team in a variety of regions and settings. As I mentioned, we are very invested in the overall experience of our Football Dons. We have worked very hard to provide creative and unique opportunities for our players such as team trips and out of state camps to attend. We have rallied around the theme of competition this year. We compete in practices every day and hope that we continue to build on Loyola’s storied tradition of competition.”
The Loyola football staff, which includes Mike Fafaul (Offensive Coordinator), Bob Wright (Special Teams Coordinator), Scott Melville (Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers), Patrick Denney (Running Backs Coach), Tim Twiss (Receivers Coach), Mike Solwold (Tight Ends Coach), Randy Kiser (Defensive Line Coach) and Tavon Mason (Defensive Backs Coach), is an integral part of what Zehyoue is attempting to accomplish.
“These men are phenomenal people who also happen to hold amazing coaching and playing credentials. They work diligently to develop our players into the best version of themselves by teaching and challenging them. Their expertise, dedication and energy is on full display every single day, and I am privileged to work with and learn from them as well. Their contributions are a vital key to our success as a program.”
He also credited his staff and players with helping receive this recognition from the BTC.
“While I am very honored to be personally recognized by my coaching peers, I owe this honor to the larger coaching staff and the Dons who executed our game plan,” said Zehyoue. “I am also extremely humbled by this recognition, because I have a tremendous amount of respect for the coaching talent in the Greater Baltimore area.”
Finally, Zehyoue praised the work of the Baltimore Touchdown Club.
“The Baltimore Touchdown Club is an invaluable asset for our local high school teams, coaches, and, most importantly, football players in the Baltimore area. Raising national awareness of the level of talent and skill in the region is an important and vital concern of the BTC. The Baltimore Touchdown Club does a phenomenal job of promoting the game that we all love and hope to responsibly sustain and grow. I am especially grateful that young men in the area get an opportunity to compete and showcase their abilities in All-Star games and other outstanding events hosted by the BTC throughout the year.”