BERLIN- A formal changing of the guard took place on Monday with former Cambridge-South Dorchester Coach Jake Coleman officially announced as the new head football coach at Stephen Decatur.
Coleman, 38, was formally announced as the new head varsity football coach at Decatur on Monday, replacing popular Coach Bob Knox, who ran the program for over three decades and whose name graces the new turf field at the Berlin high school. Coleman coached at Cambridge-South Dorchester for 14 years after taking the head coaching position at just 23 years of age.
Last year, Coleman joined Knox’s staff at Decatur as offensive coordinator after a one-year hiatus from coaching high school football and became the heir-apparent to lead the Seahawks. Although he was formally announced as the new head coach on Monday, Coleman has already been working on the smooth transition.
“We’re very excited about the opportunity to transition,” said Principal Tom Sites on Monday. “We’ve been through very few coaches in our football history and we expect Jake to be here for a long time. We feel blessed and fortunate to bring Jake down here from Cambridge.”
Coleman played football and baseball at Cambridge-South Dorchester in the mid- to late-1990s and won a handful of state championships at the school. He continued his athletic and academic career at Salisbury University, where also played football and baseball, before returning to coach and teach at Cambridge-South Dorchester.
Coleman became the school’s youngest head football coach ever at the age of 23 in 2003 and continued a remarkable legacy at the Dorchester County School. Coleman’s teams won 10 straight 1A Bayside Conference titles and made the state playoffs in 10 straight years, claiming two regional championships. His teams went 92-51 during his tenure.
He stepped down from Cambridge-South Dorchester following the 2018 season, citing a need to be closer to his son’s football teams. After a one-year hiatus from coaching at the high school level, Coleman joined Knox’s staff last year as offensive coordinator before being formally named the new head coach at Decatur this week. Coleman said academics, character and accountability will come first and success on the football field should naturally follow.
“I’ve been blessed to surround myself with unbelievable coaches and I’m building my team here at Decatur,” he said. “Academic standards are huge for me. I always try to transcend from being just a coach to a mentor and even father figure. We’re going to have a team GPA standard and we’re going to stick to it. This is about doing what’s best for our student-athletes.”
Coleman said one of his early goals in creating a renewed enthusiasm around Decatur football.
“One of the early things I’m trying to do is recruit more kids to come out for football,” he said. “We want to get 33% more student-athletes out there initially and I hope to double it. That’s a lofty goal but I think we can do it.”
Again, Coleman spent last season on the sidelines at Decatur as an assistant and said he plans to retain the same basic building blocks while implementing his own program. He said Knox was responsible in part for his transition to Decatur.
“I was fortunate to work with Coach Knox last season and get a behind-the-scenes look at Decatur football,” he said. “Coach Knox was largely responsible for this. He came to Cambridge-South Dorchester and we talked about this opportunity. His teams have always been disciplined and physical and we’re going to stick to that tradition.”
Coleman said he would adjust and adapt his program based on the personnel year in and year out, and even from game to game.
“As far as schemes, we’re going to mold them to the student-athletes we have,” he said. “We’re going to change and adapt to the talent and depth we have.”
Coleman was reluctant to set finite goals in terms of number of wins or post-season expectations initially, but will go through the process. Judging by his track record, that process will pay dividends.
“As far as goals for next season, that’s hard to answer,” he said. “I tend to focus on the next day and the next week. I don’t want to tie myself to something unrealistic. We’re going to take some baby steps and go through the process. If we do all of those things, the wins will take care of themselves.”
Coleman said expectations were always high at Cambridge and he hoped to return Decatur to that standard.
“Cambridge was a pressure cooker and I put a lot of pressure on myself,” he said. “I am a Seahawk now, but I will always bleed Cambridge. I want to become a fixture in this community. I’m going to focus on outworking people and doing the things no one else is willing to do. I’m up early and up late studying film. I’m all about the grind.”