By Duncan Agnew | [email protected]
Despite boasting a roster of Division I-caliber players and coming off of two consecutive strong seasons, Episcopal High School ended its 2017 football campaign with a disappointing 5-4 record.
After last year’s less-than-stellar season, the team returns to the field this month with a new head coach, a new signal caller and a number of quality playmakers. The goal: another Interstate Athletic Conference title.
The hope is to recapture the momentum the Maroon had under former head coach Panos Voulgaris, who led the team to back-to-back conference championships in 2015 and 2016, following years of mediocre performances. Voulgaris departed from Episcopal in June, leaving the athletic department to search for his successor.
EHS Assistant Football Coach Warner Blunt knew the man for the job: Mark Moroz, his former colleague who was then head coach at Christ School in Asheville, North Carolina. Blunt picked up the phone to call Moroz as soon as he heard that Voulgaris planned to leave.
“[Blunt] kind of gave me a heads up that it was open. I just went through the process, and this school is so impressive,” Moroz said. “I’m just anxious to take it over and keep it going.”
Over the last seven years, Moroz led Christ School, which is also a boarding school, to a whopping 63-17 overall record and three 10win seasons. He’s bringing his record and experience to Alexandria as Episcopal head coach and admissions officer for the school.
“Living on campus, this is something I’ve been doing for the last seven years, so I understand what it takes to be a dorm parent and kind of the big picture of boarding school,” Moroz said.
Moroz grew up in Toronto and played Division I college football at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, which competes in the powerhouse Atlantic Coast Conference. After college, he played professionally for several years in the National Football League and Canadian Football League. When his playing days were over, Moroz joined the Wake Forest coaching staff.
While he loved working at his alma mater, Moroz said coaching at the high school level was always his goal. After a brief but successful stint coaching at the collegiate level at Wake Forest, he landed his first high school gig at Forsythe Country Day School in North Carolina and, from there, Moroz joined the coaching staff at Christ School.
Moroz said he’s looking forward to working with the coaching team at Episcopal.
“I had an opportunity to come up in the spring and work with all the guys, and it’s an amazing coaching staff,” Moroz said of Episcopal. “We share a similar coaching style and philosophy. It should mesh really well.”
In addition to the staff, Moroz will also inherit a host of impressive players. Senior defensive backs Litchfield Ajavon and Salim Turner-Muhammad headline the Maroon roster. The two have committed to the University of Notre Dame and Stanford University, respectively.
Moroz said other impact players to watch are offensive linemen Taylor Burns and Parker Jenkins, as well as defensive backs/wide receivers Bryce Steele, Barry Curtis and Elijah Gaines.
“It’s going to be fun to coach this group,” Moroz said.
When it comes to the starting quarterback and running back duo for the Maroon, Moroz said he will make a decision after pre-season practices. As of right now, two quarterbacks are competing for the starting job, while Moroz continues to evaluate at least seven potential running backs. This fall, Episcopal will have to replace star quarterback Seth Agwunobi and workhorse running back Perris Jones, who both graduated and were last season’s leaders of the Maroon offense.
Moroz said Episcopal, like all boarding schools, faces the yearly obstacle of having to start practice weeks after most day schools.
“There’s definitely a challenge there, but again, it’s something I’m used to,” Moroz said. “My mindset has always been to work efficient[ly] and work smarter, not harder.”
Moroz, as a veteran boarding school coach, knows that playing sports is a big part of his players’ lives. He said his responsibilities as a coach extend beyond the field.
“That’s why I love this environment so much, is doing what I can in the dorm and just trying to build great relationships with these kids,” Moroz said.
Episcopal faces its first opponent of the season, Gilman School, in Baltimore at 1 p.m. on Sept. 15.