Walter Johnson in Football Playoffs for First Time
Team hosts Urbana on Friday evening; coach credits hard work, family culture
The Walter Johnson High School Wildcats prepare on Thursday for the school’s first playoff game, which will be Friday evening at home against Urbana.
Photo by Glynis Kazanjian
Update: Walter Johnson defeated Urbana 42-10 and will play at Quince Orchard High School on Friday.
For the first time in their history, the Walter Johnson Wildcats have reached the state football playoffs.
Walter Johnson (7-2) will host Urbana High School (6-3) on Friday at 7 p.m. Walter Johnson is seeded 4th in the 4A West Region. Urbana is seeded 5th.
Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda is 63 years old. The football program started a year after the school opened, according to Athletic Director Thomas W. Rogers.
Rogers said the state football playoffs began in 1974.
Walter Johnson is in the Maryland 4A division, for the largest public high schools.
Walter Johnson coach Larry Hurd Jr., in his second season, credits the players’ strong work ethic and their buy-in to a family culture fostered by his coaching staff.
“There’s a lot of things that occur when success happens,” Hurd said Wednesday. “Everybody wants to look at the results and say they’ve had a great year, they’re 7 and 2, but there’s so much work that’s gone on in the back scenes.”
He said his players are talented and can play well, but he feels the Wildcats have something that other teams don’t.
“They’ve all bought into a family atmosphere,” Hurd said. “Family means something different to us. There’s a lot of teams that say in their huddle ‘1,2,3, family!’ Well, family has a meaning for us, and each letter of the word has a particular meaning. It means ‘Forget About Me, I Love You.’”
Hurd said his father Larry Hurd Sr., is the team’s defensive coordinator and his mother, Patricia Hurd, is the Wildcats’ director of football operations.
“We’re gonna do whatever it is that we gotta to do to make sure that our team is successful,” Hurd said. “We’re not very concerned with individual statistics.”
While statistics may not be at Hurd’s forefront, the Wildcats have bragging rights.
The Wildcats also excel on the ground, Hurd said. Running back Aaron Jones, a junior, has rushed for more than 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns, according to the MoCo Football website. He’s done so with a hearing impairment that requires a cochlear implant device.
“When you combine these good football players with a program where they feel they can be successful, they really believe in themselves,” Hurd said. “They’ve shown that. To be 7-2 in the 4A West of Montgomery County, one of the hotbeds of football, that’s quite an achievement.”
Maryland’s 4A West division includes 11 Montgomery County public high schools.
The top-ranked team in 4A West is Quince Orchard (9-0).
Winners from the 4A West, 4A South, 4A North and 4A East games on Friday will advance to the second round the following weekend.
The 4A championship game is scheduled for Dec. 6 at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis.
Walter Johnson senior Sharif Munn, a right tackle, said he feels the team’s success is due to the coaching staff and the attitude of the players.
“It’s the coaching staff and the players,” Munn said. “It’s everybody’s effort level and being positive. We all work together. We’re all one as a team.”
Hurd said the Wildcats are prepared to take on Urbana and he’s not considering who they would play next if they win.
“When you are in the state playoffs, you don’t look ahead or you will find yourself out of the playoffs,” said Hurd, who helped lead his high school football team to victory in the 1991 MPSSAA state championship as a quarterback for Quince Orchard. “It’s survive and advance. Move to the next week. The only team we’re interested in is Urbana.”