Walker named state high school coach of year
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.''
Walker completed his 15th season leading the Bulldogs. He moved to Martinsburg after turning around a woeful program at East Hardy.
He has guided Martinsburg to the postseason in every year but the first season he took the helm, and along the way has become the state's winningest postseason coach with 30 triumphs. He broke the record of Moorefield's Alan Fiddler, who was Walker's college roommate.
"He knows what he's doing and knows how to put someone in the right position to be great,'' Dhatt said. "He knows hard work. As long as you work hard, he'll notice you.''
Brown and teammate Eugene German, the Hunt Award winner as the state's top lineman, both signed to play Division I football.
"He's definitely the best coach I ever played for,'' said German, who spent his first two years at Thomas Johnson in Maryland. "I love Coach Walker.''
Walker's players speak openly of their love for him.
"He's a great coach,'' Dhatt said. "I couldn't have asked for a better coach. He is the best coach I've ever had. I couldn't be more thankful to play for him.''
German said Walker's ability to relate to his players is what stands out.
"He knows how to communicate with players that we'll communicate back,'' German said. "He knows how to talk to us, definitely.''
The players say Walker chooses his words wisely and knows when to address them.
"All of the coaching staff, they don't show too much emotion,'' Brown said. "They like to crack jokes; they're very laid back. It's just a joy to be a part of that.''
For Dhatt, Brown and German, their days on the playing field with Walker are over. Their respect for and relationship with their coach, however, won't end.
"He's just one heckuva coach,'' German said. "I love him to death. His number's always going to be on my phone no matter what.''