This story was corrected July 3, 2013. An explanation follows the story.
“Take control of your program,” Sherwood High School football coach Chris Grier told the 40-some players who showed up for workouts on June 26.
It's the same message Grier, 30, tells himself. The Sherwood graduate (Class of 2000) is the Warriors' fifth head coach in six years. DeMatha Catholic's former freshman team helmsman took the reins in March from Mike Bonavia, who now is a resource teacher at Albert Einstein High. During the conditioning session last week, Grier looked out over the Sandy Spring school's weight room at his hastily thrown-together coaching staff and offseason training program.
“Sometimes a younger guy who's hungry and back coaching at their own program is a dangerous combination,” he said. “We're gonna put the work in. We're gonna put the hours in. We're gonna do whatever we have to do to be elite.”
As Sherwood, once one of Montgomery County's most feared football programs in the 1990s and 2000s, slipped from the ranks of the elite after an undefeated state championship season in 2008, Grier aims to steer the Warriors back to the bygone era of his days as an offensive lineman with then-Sherwood coach and current Our Lady of Good Counsel coach Bob Milloy. During Milloy's tenure, the Warriors won two state titles (1995-96), went to one more and played in two state semifinals. Grier was part of the program during the 1996 season.
Gone is the “Stormin'” moniker that for years ran in front of the football team's name. Former coach Al Thomas inserted the nickname as a motivational tool in reference to the U.S. military storming the beaches of Normandy on D-Day in 1944.
Gone is the team's old League Lineup website, replaced instead by the crisp and clean-looking www.sherwoodfootball.org. Gone is the crusader-like sword from Sherwood's helmets, swapped out for a suave blue 'S' with a cursive “Warriors” script running inside in white.
The young coach's changes harken back to a period of Sherwood's unquestioned athletic dominance, to which Grier would like to return.
“I walked into an established program where we still need to do a lot of work to get back to where we were,” he said. “But in the community of Sherwood, the type of athletes we get, the tradition, it shouldn't be a long road to re-establish what we're trying to get back to.
“I want to show the kids where this program has been and where we want to go back to.”
Grier played offensive line at West Virginia University his junior and senior seasons after transferring from a junior college. He spent his fifth season at WVU as a student manager on the team. After graduation he went on to coach high school football in Long Island, N.Y., while getting his master's degree in physical education at Hofstra University.
Once he received his degree, Grier coached the freshman team at DeMatha and eventually worked his way up to varsity offensive line coach while teaching physical education at A. Mario Loiderman Middle School in Silver Spring.
After Grier was hired as Sherwood's football coach, he and offensive coordinator and math teacher Randy Thompson transferred to Sherwood, where both will teach in the fall. Running backs coach Marquis Bell and junior varsity offensive and defensive line coach Dan Soso also teach at the school as well.
With all that oversight, Grier says Sherwood players haven't worked this hard in the offseason for years.
“I wasn't sure how they would take to hard-core discipline, hard-core structure, accountability and things like that,” he said. “But I gotta tell you, from our first meeting, from our first week or two of workouts, all I kept hearing was, 'kids love it.' They love having the structure. They were craving that and they've really bought in from day one.”
Senior running back Elijah Spottswood agrees. He says previous teams lacked the organization Grier and his staff have brought to Sherwood.
“I like the disciplinarian in him,” senior running back Elijah Spottswood said. “It's making us better.”
When Grier interviewed March 5 for what he calls his “dream job,” he said he had no trouble finding his way around the building. Aside from a new wing of classrooms and new offices for the athletic director and football coach added in 2008, Sherwood has been left unchanged, stamped in Grier's mind as Montgomery County's bastion of football prowess.
“The way I see it,” he said, “Sherwood is still the last Montgomery County team to win a state championship.”
Former Sherwood High School football coach Bob Milloy won two titles with the Warriors. The first came in 1995 before current Sherwood coach Chris Grier attended the Sandy Spring school..