- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The coaching landscape across the county high school football scene will sport a different look come the fall.
Two head coaches have recently stepped down, creating vacancies for the La Plata Warriors and McDonough Rams football programs.
Luke Ethington departed his post at McDonough after five highly successful seasons that culminated in a 42-14 overall record and amassed a 31-9 tab in Southern Maryland Athletic Conference games.
His helm atop McDonough was highlighted by winning the Class 2A state championship in 2010 with a 21-14 victory over Middletown of Frederick County at Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium, which the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens call home.
Ethington carried the Rams to their third playoff berth in his final season last fall, finishing with a 9-2 record after they fell at home to Gwynn Park of Prince George’s County, 18-7, in the 2A South Region semifinals. McDonough boasted its second co-SMAC championship under Ethington in 2012, winning the honors twice in three years.
After deciding earlier this month to call it quits at McDonough, Ethington chose not to comment at this time about leaving the program. He will later provide his comments on the matter for the Maryland Independent.
Also bidding farewell to his team is Pat Hoiler, who was at the helm of La Plata for the last three seasons in an effort to turn around a program that has struggled for wins throughout much of the 2000s.
“As a coach, I expect 100 percent commitment from my players and if they can’t be fully committed, I don’t want them part of our program,” Hoiler said in explaining the reasoning for him stepping down. “I don’t know if I could give them 100 percent as the leader of our team [going forward]. Football is year-round. It’s not just something you do come Aug. 15 [with the start of preseason practice]. I only know how to coach one way, and that’s all in. I’m not one of those types that can do it [half-hearted].
“So I’ve got to be fair to the school and community and administration, and I had to take myself out [of the position as head coach].”
Both La Plata and McDonough are currently accepting applications to fill their coaching vacancies.
Hoiler was a combined 7-23 overall as La Plata’s frontman, going 5-19 within the SMAC. His final season on the Warriors sidelines saw him finish 2-8, 1-7 in SMAC.
“The administration was amazing. They were so supportive of everything I did,” Hoiler said, making sure to highlight the tight relationship he has with his La Plata superiors. He plans to be back at the school next year in his teaching position while continuing to lead La Plata’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter. “I don’t ever want people to think [my departure as football coach] is because [La Plata] is not a good place to work, because it’s great. I just couldn’t be committed 100 percent.”
Hoiler, 34, has spent the last 20 years of his life in the sport, spending his entire high school career at McDonough as a player before graduating in 1997 and moving on to compete in college for four more seasons at Frostburg State.
Since college, he’s coached for 12 years at Northern, Thomas Stone, North Point, McDonough and at a high school in Winchester, Va., before his most recent time with La Plata. Hoiler’s only other head coaching gig was at North Point for a couple seasons when the high school first opened and before it had a varsity football program.
“I’m just going to enjoy my spring and summer coming up [without football in my life],” said Hoiler, who has no plans to coach at any school in the fall. “Football is not going to go anywhere, so if five years down the road I’m ready to get back in it again, I’ll do it.”
Despite wins being hard to come by at La Plata for Hoiler, evidenced by his best season with the Warriors coming in his first campaign in 2010 when his team was 3-7, 3-5 in the SMAC, he steps away with plenty of warm memories.
“Was I disappointed by looking at my record? Yes. But do I feel like I was an effective coach? Yes, I do,” Hoiler said. “[Few wins] doesn’t mean I wasn’t successful. I have no regrets. I truly gave everything I could. Maybe it was not in wins and losses, but I feel like [during my three seasons] there were a lot of differences made in the hallways [of the school for my players]. I feel like I can go to sleep at night knowing I have no regrets. I miss [being the head coach] now.”
Just because he was unable to turn the program around in terms of its win-loss record hardly means Hoiler believes there is little hope for La Plata.
“You can’t predict the future,” he said. “If I couldn’t do it, who’s to say someone else can’t come along and make them a contender? Every team has different seasons [of growth and improvement]. [La Plata’s turnaround] is not up to me anymore.
“But I’m not going to say it can’t be done or won’t be done.”
Among what Hoiler is most proud of during his La Plata tenure is the Focus and Finish program he implemented on his team last fall. Focus and Finish was as much about off-the-field accountability for his players as their output in the heat of battle.
“It all sums up to accountability,” Hoiler said about Focus and Finish. “If the kids are able to look at why we were successful and why not, then it was a success. I think five years down the road will determine [the success rate of the program]. Hopefully, that’s when it shows. I do see [positive results] now [from Focus and Finish] and hopefully, I’ll continue to see it.”