Quince Orchard High School plays at a 4A level, is located in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and is ranked the #6 football team in the state (according to MaxPreps). The Cougars team has produced some notable football alumni, including Florida State Seminoles special teams coordinator and defensive ends coach John Papuchis and NFL defensive lineman Zach Kerr. Furthermore, some college players from Quince Orchard include Kent State running back Marquez Cooper, Texas Christian University linebacker Johnny Hodges, and Penn State defensive end/linebacker Demeioun Robinson.
Fresh off of an undefeated, championship season, head coach John Kelley leads the team to what looks like yet another promising season. With other championship seasons in 1991, 2007, and 2018, Kelley knows how to lead and manage his team. After a few assistant jobs after graduating from Towson University in Maryland in 2004, Kelley took on the job as the defensive line coach at North Carolina Central University in 2007. Kelley would become the defensive coordinator at Quince Orchard shortly after in 2009, where he would stay and become head coach in 2014.
Earlier this week, I was given the honor to speak with Coach Kelley. When asking how the team looks so far, he went in depth about the team, how he got there, and what makes him as good of a coach as he is. “We lost a lot of guys on the offensive line, we lost about four former All-Stars and three or four of our stars in our secondary… Usually, this time of year, you’re just trying to evaluate where guys fit in best. The more reps we get, the more it becomes clear.”
“It’s just about trying to get better every week. We get nine games that are guaranteed for us, so we just try to take each game one at a time. The key is to get better every game, to improve every game, and to build off of each one.”
“I played in high school, I played in college, then I spent six years coaching college football. I knew as a player that I wanted to coach… I didn’t really want to sit behind a desk. I couldn’t do that. I love teaching, I love watching kids develop, I love working with kids… so I knew I wanted to get involved in that. I made some phone calls [while at North Carolina] back up here, since this is where I’m from, and I became defensive coordinator in 2009 and head coach in 2014. That’s where we’re at now.”
“Probably the most important [value to instill as a coach] is discipline. If you’re disciplined, that transitions to other important values, like effort and how hard you’re gonna work. If you have discipline, you’re gonna work hard. And when you’re an adult, you’ll get things done.”
“I think the most important thing a coach has to do… is to be able to build a rapport and a relationship with your players. They kinda fight a lot, right? And you’re the coach right? But at the same time you’ve got to have a relationship with them as far as they can trust you, talk to you about things promptly… I think – from a philosophy standpoint – I would say that just that relationship piece is important to me. It makes a difference.”
This upcoming season, Coach Kelley pointed out a few players who will stand out for the Cougars: Kendall Johnson, Zack Anderson, Jaylen Harvey, and Iverson Howard. Johnson, a senior, started last season for the team at outside linebacker, and has committed to Duke already. Anderson, a senior, is an offensive lineman who has committed to the University of Massachusetts. Harvey, a junior, is a defensive end-outside linebacker hybrid, with multiple offers on the table. Howard, a sophomore, is the All-Star running back for the Cougars with a few offers on the table, and will be a focal point for their upcoming season.