MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - When Martinsburg did something uncharacteristic during a historic three-year championship run in football - namely, lose a game - coach David Walker broke from his normally laid-back demeanor.
His voice raised a few levels when the Bulldogs examined the game that saw their top-10-nationally 32-game win streak end in a three-point loss at Westminster, Md.
"That's a day I won't forget,'' all-state defensive lineman Dildeep Dhatt said when Martinsburg reviewed game film for the first time. "We were on point. We had to make it up to him. That film was ugly. When we watched film, as players, we knew what we did wrong.''
The Bulldogs did little else wrong during the rest of the season, winning their next nine games in fairly convincing fashion to claim their third straight state Class AAA championship and equal a record established in 1970 by Charleston High School and coach Frank Vincent, who was Walker's college coach at Glenville.
"He gives you the don't-let-anybody-take-something-away-from-you,'' all-state wide receiver Cedric Brown said. "He wanted us to know that this is the greatest times of our lives if we work together.
"He griped about what we needed to fix, and the next week we practiced hard and did all the little things right. He always talks about that: 'Do the little things and good things will come.' ''
The best thing for the Bulldogs came as Martinsburg beat Cabell Midland 38-14 in the state championship game to run their three-year record to 41-1.
Walker's players saw him smile maybe a little more after the title game, played the first Saturday of December at Wheeling Island Stadium. Martinsburg outscored four opponents by 190-35 during the playoffs.
"He's a very humble man,'' Brown said. "I think he wanted to celebrate more after the third one. He was very happy we were able to do something no one else has done in a long time and was happy because it was his former coach [Walker equaled]. That was in the back of his mind.''
Today, Walker is front and center as the winner for the second time in three years as the high school coach of the year, named by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association. He also won the award after Martinsburg's first state championship in 2010, the Bulldogs' fifth appearance in the final - all under Walker.
The award covers all scholastic sports and covers a period of time from April 1 to March 31 of the next calendar year.
Walker will be honored at the Victory Awards Dinner May 5 in Clarksburg.
Finishing among the top five behind Walker are Dave Marshall, a girls basketball coach who led Bridgeport to its first girls basketball championship; Garland Thomas, the Tug Valley boys basketball coach who led his team to consecutive state championships, in AA in 2012 and Class A in 2013; Rob Archer, the Huntington wrestling coach who guided the Highlanders to their first championship and ended Parkersburg South's four-year run of titles; and Tom Harmon, who led Wayne to a repeat championship in Class AA football.
Walker's Bulldogs were able to remain atop the Mountain State's football world despite graduating nearly 20 seniors, including a two-year starting quarterback, from their second title team.
"He's definitely the best coach I've played for - definitely,'' Brown said, adding emphasis. "He's very prestigious, been decorated with so many awards that he doesn't like to talk about it. We're very thankful he came to Martinsburg when he did. We couldn't ask for none better.''