Coachspeak: South River football coach Lance Clelland
Lance Clelland, pictured here during his days as the coach at Meade, is the new man in charge at South River. (Photo by Matt Roth/Patuxent Publishing)
Baltimore native Lance Clelland returns to Anne Arundel County as one of five new county public school football coaches, taking over a South River team that has been striving to break into the county’s upper echelon of Arundel, Broadneck and Old Mill.
Clelland, an All-Metro offensive lineman at McDonogh in 1996, played at Northwestern, spent a preseason with the Ravens and played two years of arena football in Philadelphia. After that, he assisted at McDonogh for six years and coached Meade in 2008 and 2009. He coached high school football in Florida last season but eagerly returned to Maryland to take over the Seahawks, who finished 7-3 last fall.
We asked Clelland to talk about the upcoming season, as the Seahawks aim to post another winning record and take a crack at the county’s big three.
Why did you want the coaching job at South River?
The first reason we came back was for family reasons, just being closer to our own family. The second was for me professionally the great opportunity that South River represented. It was the only school that I went through the application process fully and I just saw a tremendous opportunity. It was a school that I held in high regard, the people I had dealt with from the AD to the principal to the players to the students, everyone I ever dealt with in my days in Anne Arundel County at South River. When that job came open, I immediately leapt at it.
What is the main challenge in taking over a program that has been up-and-coming but can’t quite break into that top tier?
I think that’s what South River is. They’ve been kind of middle of the pack in the county the last few years. Last year was a good year. Getting them over that hump is my challenge and my goal. It really begins and ends with teaching the players that they have to understand what they’re doing on the football field and teaching them that the knowledge of what we want them to do is their power, so they can react faster. My theme for the boys this week is that knowledge is power. When the they know what to do on the field, they can take their brains out of the equation and just react.
What is your football philosophy, your style on both sides of the ball?
For me, it begins with defense. Defense gets too complicated sometimes in high school football. You have to choose in football where you want to be complicated, and for us, that’s certainly offense. Defense, on the other hand for me, is about reaction. It’s about being fundamentally sound, having great technique, being good tacklers, having great pursuit to the ball, being able to know what the offense is trying to do to you and being able to adjust accordingly. Our offense I try to make as fun as possible for the boys, and that’s obviously finding creative ways to move the ball so they have fun playing. Obviously, we want to run the ball well. We want to pass the ball well. We want to expose the weaknesses of the defense. I try to stretch the field vertically both with the running and the passing.
How have the guys taken to the things that you’ve changed?
I think they’ve responded great. They really have welcomed change. I’m going to be in the school. I’m a social studies teacher at South River, so I'll be with them a lot during the day. They’re very ready to keep the winning that happened last year and they’re really open to change. They’re open to the style of coaching I bring, just the way I want to teach them. They’re very, very receptive. I could not ask for a better group of boys to coach this year. I’m changing it enough to keep it true to my own style but also keeping to some of what they’ve done in the past. I’ve retained almost half the coaching staff, so there’s a lot of continuity with that.
What makes Anne Arundel such a competitive football county?
I think just the parity. I think there’s a lot of parity in the league. On any given week, you have Annapolis competing with Arundel or Severna Park and Broadneck – there’s good rivalries there. Meade and Arundel pass the [Mears] trophy back and forth and South River and Southern pass the south county trophy back and forth, so there’s a lot of in-county rivalries. It first starts with the rec leagues. The rec leagues are all over the county. They all play each other from little boys all the way up to the high school level. It’s just a great county for football because of that. Broadneck, Arundel and Old Mill are near the top of everyone’s poll, but there’s a lot of competition within those three and within the league as well.