This past season, Blake Varsity Football accomplished a historic feat: the first playoff win in school history. While many saw just the result—the 16-0 win against Magruder—what went on behind the scenes to prepare this team, and this program, for such a challenge can be attributed to recently stepped down Head Coach DeShawn Anderson.
Coach Anderson was hired seven years ago to lead Varsity Football and immediately went to work, turning a conglomerate of players into one dedicated, cohesive unit. He grew up in and around the sport, with experience as a high school and college athlete, and knew what it takes to achieve. After having years of defense and offense experience in MCPS, including helping start up Northwest’s JV football program, he looked to take on a new challenge as head coach.
“This is where I want to be,” he says, recounting his arrival to Blake. “This starts my journey as a head coach.”
Before his arrival, Blake football was not known as a competitive opponent in Montgomery County. Coach Anderson taught the players a well-rounded approach to the game, both on and off the field. He made note to transform the athletes’ attitude towards their gameplay and academics, turning Blake football into more than just a sport: a true team.
“One of the things that we struggled with prior to his arrival was students not participating all four years,” says Athletic Director Jared Fribush. “That’s really been a non-issue for the last seven years. That’s due [in] no small part to what Coach Anderson brought to the program. Kids were wanting to be part of the program.”
“From our first conversation, I knew he was a person of high character and he was motivated to turn this program into a winner,” adds Bryon Marshall, who was hired by Coach Anderson as an assistant coach a year after his arrival.
A winning program he did create. After only having one playoff appearance in school history, Blake suddenly became a name to look out for, working all the way up to this season’s playoff win. Even though they didn’t win that next round, Blake’s ability to compete is the most notable impact of Coach Anderson. Moments like beating Seneca Valley a few years ago for the first time ever under his lead are a great example.
“He had a major impact not only on our physicality, but [on] our mentality as a whole,” says Senior Captain Stephen Forbin. “[He made] sure that instead of not trying to lose, we were trying to win.”
“I’m a pretty intense person on the football field,” Coach admits. ‘Success doesn’t take breaks’ comes to Forbin’s mind when he thinks of his coach. This offensive mindset has helped his players learn to bring a similar attitude towards every part of the game.
But, wins weren’t the only thing he was looking for as he came to lead the Bengals. They just happened to be a nice touch.
“Our whole goal is to develop young men and give them lessons and structure they can use throughout their life,” Coach says. “[and] make them successful and make them better people. I figured if we could do that, we’d win some games anyway.”
He hoped to develop his players into men of character: “I hope they understand the type of commitment and effort it takes to be successful, not only on the football field, but in life. Understanding goals, how to set goals, and how to work towards them and stuff like that. If I made this program the best thing they had [in] their life, then I’m a failure to them, and I didn’t want that. I want it to be a part of their life.”
Most people know Coach Anderson as simply a coach; however, he also teaches at Blake in the Technology department. Amazingly, being both a teacher and the coach of Blake’s biggest sport did not get in the way of fulfilling either role to the highest extent. He usually finishes his grading and planning in the mornings, leaving time between classes and during lunch to focus on the game. He would watch film during his planning periods and go over it with his players during lunch. After school, he presided over weight training or study hall sessions, only to coach his players through practice for hours later on.
It’s hard to overlook his chill, humorous demeanor off the field. He says this has helped him strengthen his relationships with his players: “You’re human. It’s okay for you to be silly, to be funny, it’s okay for you to have [emotions].”
Although his long days and intense dedication did motivate his leave, his passion for growing his players and their winning expectations will not be forgotten.
Mr. Marshall extends his gratitude for Coach’s time with the program: “Coach Anderson’s impact on this program will last forever. He has laid the foundation for success here at Blake for the next coach and their future student athletes. He came in with a plan 7 years ago and never [wavered] from his beliefs and standards that he set for everyone. It’s safe to say that he has left some pretty big shoes to fill.”
“From the outside looking in, people see Friday nights, and they see wins and losses,” says Mr. Fribush. “They don’t see how much time that a coach puts into this. The football coach usually puts in a full year’s worth of coaching. I’m really grateful for what Coach Anderson has done at Blake.”
Coach Anderson’s impact on and off the field is something Blake football won’t forget.