Just over three years ago, Steve Crounse shocked many in Southern Maryland Athletic Conference football circles when he left his longtime post as the head coach at Patuxent to move north in Calvert County to take the reins at Northern.
Now, three seasons and three playoff appearances later, Crounse is making another professional change, as he recently stepped down from his coaching post at Northern to accept a position as the offensive coordinator at DeMatha Catholic High School in Prince George’s County.
Having the opportunity to join the coaching staff with the perennial Washington Catholic Athletic Conference, a program that enjoys a prominent national profile, was simply something Crounse could not decline.
“Honestly, it’s taking a swing at being part of a national high school program. It’s one of those jobs that’s the pinnacle of my profession,” Crounse said. “When I had the opportunity it was hard for me to pass it up.
“I talked with [DeMatha head coach Bill] McGregor. We had a real good talk and interview and I was presented with the opportunity. I discussed it with my family. I’m turning 50 next month and I think it’s one of those opportunities that being part of something like that is something we all covet a little bit. We want to work with elite athletes and see if the things I’ve done over the last 27 years ... what level you’re at as a coach as far as the Xs and Os and player development and everything like that. For me it’s just a great opportunity to step up onto a bigger stage and take one last swing.”
After 15 years at Patuxent that saw the Panthers maintain a spot in the upper echelon in SMAC and included regular playoff appearances that peaked with a 2015 2A state championship, Crounse made the move to Northern prior to the 2017 campaign to help resuscitate a program that had been forced to forfeit four wins the previous season.
In his first season guiding the Patriots, the team reached the postseason for the first time in 14 years. Northern logged a 10-2 record and reached the 3A South Region final. A year later, the Patriots were 8-4 and again reached the region championship game. This past fall, Northern finished 5-5 and were eliminated in the first round of the postseason. While the team was just .500, it was close to being much better with four of its five losses coming by five points or less.
“I loved my experience at Northern,” said Crounse, who will still be a teacher at the school and be the school’s head baseball coach this spring. “The program had been in a little bit of disarray. There was a pretty dark shadow cast over it. I took a risk and wanted to try to build that again. I think in three years we at least got the lights shining brightly on the future and the kids have all responded real well to changing the level of expectations that they have. The community supported our mission and it was a great experience and one that will be special to me on this journey that I’m on as far as coaching and impacting young men.
“We had great support from [Northern Principal] Steve Williams and [Northern activities director] Stacy Karcesky and all of the faculty and all of the community and all of the kids in the school. It was great, but for me at this point in my career I really couldn’t just pass up the opportunity to go do this.”