To say these are unprecedented times is an understatement and fall football coaches and teams will not open under the lights this September but instead are scheduled to open on Feb. 1 in a condensed season.
The Star will begin a series of stories on the local fall Henlopen teams and their coaches, beginning with coach Mark Quillin and the Seaford Blue Jay football team.
Coach Quillin was announced as the new leader of the Blue Jays and although school doors closed in March, coach Quillin organized his staff and began the labor of love to build the Blue Jay program. “I have a great group of men and once school starts we will start workouts and be able to get together with the kids,” said Quillin.
Returning will be Tyler Justice. “Tyler knows the kids, they are used to him being around and the kids love him,” Quillin said.
Matt MacCoy will work with QB/DL and Dylan Fox will work with DL/OL. Joe Paleen (OL/DL) and Don Golacinski will also be a part of the staff. “Don and I have been friends for over 20 years. We coached together and against each other. He has a great background and will work special teams and stats,” said Quillin.
New to the team staff will be two Seaford alumni, Clint Dunn and Andrew Lamberton.
“Clint is my defensive coordinator and we work great together. Clint always told me if I ever had the chance to coach Seaford to count him in. He has Seaford in his heart, a great coach, and family man,” Quillin said. “He (Lamberton) coached at Tech for about a year and we hit it off. He has a great rapport with the kids and will coach QB and nose guards.”
Lamberton is excited to have Jamal Austin, “As soon as I saw him coaching basketball, I knew I had to scoop him up for football. He also lives in the community and will work with WR/OLB,” said Quillin.
Three Delmar alumni Jensen Dennard (RB/DB), Paul Hudson (OL/LB) and Frank Braham (RB/DB) also join the staff.
“Jensen works in the school, acquired his doctorate, and will be a great role model,” Quillin said.“Frank was a great athlete and called me when he returned to the area. He said would like to be involved with a school who is changing things around.”
Also joining the staff is Jamont Matthews (WR/DB). Coach Quillin said, “Every position has two coaches and they will see the 12 coaches and the excitement we have; it will be infectious.”
Coach Quillin said the coaches plan to use the delayed start to their advantage. “Many of the coaches do not know the kids and it will give us the time to build the relationships,” said Quillin. “When approved, we will get in the weight room and start building kids up, and bringing them together. The weight room is where the season is built and once we start in September we will have these months to get these kids together.”
Austin said, “The schedule is probably good thing playing basketball first because we are expecting a special season and hoping it will flow into football. Those two programs feed off each other. The kids are definitely pumped up to see a program and many kids feel they haven’t been coached up in a long time so they are excited about the experience.”
Coach Quillin added, “Once they get to know all the coaches and see Clint and know he is a Seaford guy, or Andrew the baseball head coach, and these guys who played championship football at Delmar and the rest of the staff, we have a lot of guys going to be able to show them how to win. I think we will begin to have success this year.”
The first goal is relationship building and then football techniques. “Xs and Os are fun but not as important right now. We are going to coach to win and we want people get excited and develop the program that our community can be proud of and best way to do it is a good quality staff with guys in the community and in the school building,” said Quillin. “They want to win but it will take commitment, they have to be here on time, be here every day, success comes with a price of dedication.”
The staff knows and is sensitive to the struggles the players may be feeling, especially with the loss of Jeff Akins. Tragedy impacts the kids,” Austin said, “Football will give them the opportunity to pick up that memory and really come out and play hard for Jeff. We coaches need to step into that spot for Jeff.”
Dunn added, “These moments show us the frailty of life, how precious the moment is, and to be in the moment. This here is the opportunity to use a tragedy and let’s build that legacy together and be part of something that will be talked about for years.”
Dennard shared, “Those lives that Jeff touched may have more motivation to take this opportunity, don’t be that guy to miss out because you didn’t put forth the effort, dedicate everything they do this season to Jeff.”
Coach Quillin said, “When there is a loss, people look for something to attach to and something special, football is a way to escape all the craziness in life. They can put it behind for a moment and be a kid, to heal, sports can do that. People don’t realize how important sports can be to young men and women. Sports help them escape some of the hard stuff that goes on in life, it is a true blessing to be a coach.”
Seaford’s infamous pit is new again, not only with fresh paint but by hours of work by Doug Henry and the maintenance staff of Seaford and the coaches. “This is special, looking around The Pit I can still see the “x” on the window, it was the last year with Cap (Ron Dickerson) and now I stand here with one of my old coaches (Dunn), a lot of memories in here and it is looking better than it has ever been. It is an honor and privilege”.
Lamberton added, “Truth be told I don’t think these kids could care less about what was done in the 80’s.” Clint Dunn agreed, “It is okay the way this program has been in the past and the way these kids have been treated in the past, that is okay because they are coming in with a chip on their shoulders. They are going to be tired of being the punching bags and it is going to be loud and clear and preached through us that we are no longer the punching bag.”
Coach Quillin said, “It will be interesting to see the look on their face and exciting to show them the new things we have. They will realize after the first practice that there will be a new philosophy of football. At the end of the day it is not what we believe, they have to believe. We care about them, we love them, and we are down here for them and if they come out and practice with passion, enthusiasm and pride we will take care of the X&0’s and them together to be successful.”
Quillin said the interest if impressive, “I have numbers that right now are 78 kids on the roster that we reach out to every single week. The goal is to have a full varsity and to have our first JV team. The biggest thing is to be able to reach out to these kids in the off time and that is what I am trying to do, let them know we are still working to build this team and we are interested.”
“The ability of our coaching staff to deal with adversity, teach the players how to handle adverse situations. How we react in the first few weeks will be key. We have to battle through and work hard to do a little bit better the next day,” said Quillin. “Coach (Delmar coach David Hearn) always battled through adversity, every day is a new game. As a coach I may be struggling from a loss on Friday, but I have to get myself out of that funk so the kids can realize it is a new Monday, new week, we care about you, we love you and we want you to do your best.”
The youth programs also diminished in the last decade when the Parks and Rec program closed as well as Pop Warner. “Pop Warner is back and although they cannot play this fall, Mike Ryles is working to rebuild the program. I’ve also had good conversations with Shawn Williams of the Elite program and how we can link the youth programs to the middle school to the high school programs,” Quillin said.
Dennard said, “I played for coach Q and am excited to work alongside coach Q. We went from a state championship team in Delmar to a 1-9 season.”
Dennard said he learned through coach Quillin how to win again. “By my senior year we were 10-0 and he can definitely turn a season around. He is about winning.”
Dennard said many questioned why coach Quillin picked Seaford, “Why not? If he is ready to do that, trust me he is infectious.” Dunn added, “He is non- stop and he motivates you to take your coaching and enthusiasm to the next step. When it gets rolling you can’t stop it and special things will happen.”
Quillin said it is important to him that his team build character while developing a good relationship inside the school and with their teachers. “The young men really want to be attached to something and maybe for some football becomes that avenue for kids to be attached. Through football we can help them become productive citizens and good fathers,” said Quillin.
Dunn built on Quillin’s thought, “That is one way that the old school tradition will be still be in effect when we were playing, you didn’t want to get sent to Cap. Nevermind the principal but it was another if they sent you to Cap and it will be the same with Q in the building. The teachers will learn quickly that he is an asset to them, sending a kid to him will have a bigger impact than sending them down to the office. He is an old school guy and at the same time a twist with the new, you can still feel the traditions and ghosts; it just looks different.”
The coaching staff has drawn interest and Justice said, “Some of the other schools know that some of the best athletes who they have ridden to great success in the past years actually have a Seaford address, so I think they have a right to be concerned. As we show signs of success, kids will believe they don’t have to leave Seaford to have football success.” Dunn said, “Our priority are the kids in the building and from there we will work on keeping kids, foster kids that are ours now.”
The coaching staff is committed to their work and they hope the Seaford community will come out and show their commitment. Coach Quillin said, “Every time I go to the Food Lion, I always get someone who goes by me that says “Go Jays”. I think the community is very special and winning brings people to the stadium. Another goal is to walk in on that first Friday night in February where there are 1,000 Seaford fans in the stadium. We want them to have something to watch and cheer about.”
Quillin said of his preparation to take on the Seaford Blue Jay football program, “When I first got the job here, I called five of my very close coaching friends and asked the question, ‘What is the one most important things’ and they told me to make sure you have the right staff.”
Quillin said he wants the Seaford community to know, “You have to have good men, good coaches who have a passion for football, we are about the kids. The key to turn things around are the men in this room. We care about them and about Seaford community.”
“It has been a different summer. It is usually filled with 7 on 7, weight trainings, team camps and I haven’t done any of it so it is trying and I keep in touch with kids,” he added. “We are going to use the fall months to get these boys ready.” Braham said, “People follow a winner and coach Q knows how to build relationships with the kids. He knows how to win. ”