Coachspeak: Calvert Hall football coach Donald Davis
Editor's Note: This is the first in a new series of interviews with local coaches that will run in Varsity Letters.
In his fifth season at Calvert Hall last fall, Donald Davis guided the Cardinals to their first conference championship since 1982. It was nearly a perfect year for the Cardinals (11-1), who finished with the MIAA A Conference championship, the No. 1 ranking in The Baltimore Sun, the No. 1 ranking in the MDVarsity.com statewide media poll and – of course – a win over Loyola at the Turkey Bowl.
The Cardinals returned to the practice field Wednesday having graduated 26 players from that team, including Defensive Player of the Year Daniel Yarborough and first-team All-Metro offensive lineman Ben Curtis.
We caught up with Davis this week for five questions about the upcoming season, which will include, for the first time, an A Conference championship playoff with the top four teams advancing to semifinals.
How do you talk to the guys about the transition from last season when you were A Conference champions and finished No. 1?
The same way I did when we came out of the season that we were 4-7. Every team is a new team that presents new opportunities and every team has to sculpt its own identity. That’s what we preach to our guys.
What are the key positions you need to fill after last year’s graduation losses?
I think primarily the offensive and defensive fronts. We’ve got some guys that are going to get an opportunity to play maybe early, and they’ve got to take advantage of those opportunities.
Who is the team to beat in the A Conference this fall?
Gilman. They have one of the nation’s best players in Cyrus Jones, who is versatile and electrifying, they have a great [coaching] staff, and they have a great many guys returning from a very good team last year. And if you look at the way they ended the year playing, I think you could say they are pretty good. They were on fire at the end of the year. Look at the point totals they put up down the stretch and how they played defensively down the stretch. I think they were absolutely playing as good as anybody maybe in the region at the end of the year.
What is the key to your team remaining competitive in the conference?
I think some of it has to do with taking advantage of the preparation and opportunities we have – guys being in shape and playing hard and playing together and when we are presented with opportunities in games, taking advantage of them. Some of it’s got to do with luck and staying healthy, and if we are unfortunate in that [and] some guys get banged up, then some guys have to step to the forefront and pick up where the injured guys left off and continue to press forward.
How does having an A Conference championship game change the season?
It obviously adds games to the season, so you’ve got to plan for that and you’ve got to plan for the long haul if you are fortunate enough to win enough games to get into a post-season situation. I certainly believe it adds some excitement for the players, particularly seniors who are at the end of their career and are presented with an opportunity to add games to their high school experience. As a coach, you know that you’re going to have to face one of these guys again. If you’re fortunate enough to make the playoffs, you know you’re going to have to match wits with another great coaching staff again. It’s not a one-shot deal. You meet a guy or group of guys early in the year that you know you may have to see them again and if you lose early in the year, you’re presented with the opportunity to do it again, to make good on something maybe that didn’t go your way early.