Chesapeake High School football has made massive strides from “one game matters” to “one game at a time.”
It was a cool and breezy day in Pasadena, Maryland where we found Chesapeake High School varsity and junior varsity football teams practicing on each end of the football field in front of the school.
At one end, Coaches are running drills with JV athletes donning white jerseys. Technique and physicality are the focus of the drills. On the other side in blue jerseys, coaches are going over formations, packages, and assignments with the varsity players.
In the middle of it all, varsity head coach Rob Elliott monitors the progress, shifting his gaze from one group of players to the other. At one point, Elliott calls out some of his varsity players for not picking up the correct assignment while seamlessly shooting back to the JV squad and demonstrating the proper tackling technique.
Entering his 8th year as varsity head coach for the Chesapeake Cougars, he is the only coach in school history to have taken a team to the playoffs, a feat he has accomplished twice in the last three years.
“I know the history of being a Chesapeake player,” said Elliott, a graduate of CHS in 1986.
For decades, the only thing that mattered to Cougar faithful was beating Northeast. The “Dena Bowl” decided whether or not the season was a success, but Elliott and his staff have created a new culture. “What it’s done is change the expectations to our players. We’re not happy with just beating Northeast or not having a losing record. Its changed the bar of where we’re trying to be.” said Elliot
Luckily for fans of the yearly matchup between the two Pasadena football teams, the stakes for the game have also been elevated. Last year, both teams were playing for an opportunity to go on to the playoffs. Chesapeake won that game 17-0.
“It’s a very special game. Coach Baldwin has done a great job turning them around,” said Elliott. “Last year we enjoyed the fact that it was the first year that both teams were playing for a playoff spot.”
Elliott has been around Pasadena football for about 20-years. He developed the Panthers youth football program before taking over the Cougars JV program in 2009. He understands the players and their development in a way few else possibly could.
Unlike some, Coach Elliott believes that most if not all of this players should go through the JV program. The social and physical differences are too great. It is a continuation of the developmental process that he uses to bring out the best in his players. His approach is also a way for him to understand what talent he has come in year after year.
Instead of trying to bring in a system that he has developed and forcing his players to adapt to that scheme, he adjusts the scheme every year to fit the strengths of that year’s squad. “I didn’t bring one system. Each year our talent is different,” said Elliott. “It changes and we have to have multiple fronts.”
Chesapeake has progressed leaps and bound from decades of losing, and coach Elliott knows that he has created a new legacy at the bottom of Mountain road. “A successful season used to be just beating Northeast. Then it was going .500. Now a successful season is making the playoffs.”