As far as continuity goes, there simply could not have been a better match. Will Patrick has been the Louisa County football program’s assistant head coach and offensive coordinator the last two seasons. He’s been some form of assistant, starting at the middle school as an offensive coordinator in 2008 before moving on to become the junior varsity head coach, then moving up to varsity and serving as a running backs, special teams, offensive line, defensive line coach before becoming an offensive coordinator. He graduated from Louisa in 2002.
In short, Patrick checks off every box you’d possibly want if you’re a Lions administrator, fan, parent or player. And so Wednesday afternoon, Louisa athletic director George Stanley made it official by announcing Patrick was the football team’s next head coach.
“I accept the challenge of following in (Fischer’s) footsteps with no fear in my heart,” Patrick said during his introduction. “Having the opportunity to be the head coach at Louisa, where I played, is an honor. Being able to give back to the community that’s given me so much is more than I can ask for. I love this place. I love Louisa. I love Louisa County High School. I love these young student athletes we have here.”
Patrick’s promotion to head coach marks just the fourth change in 15 years with Fischer starting in 2003 and serving through 2010, former assistant John Meeks taking over in 2011 through 13 and Fischer returning in 2014 and retiring after the 2017 campaign. During that time, the Lions have won three Jefferson District Championships, have gone unbeaten through the regular season three times and made the state championship game twice.
“For two years I’ve changed our single wing philosophy just a little bit to add some spread concepts and things of that nature,” Patrick said. “For the past two years our JV and middle school teams have been running it so the kids know the system.”
After graduation from Louisa in 2002, Patrick went on to play fullback at James Madison University. He was a member of the 2004 Division I-AA championship team before graduating and coming back to Mineral. Patrick climbed the coaching ranks working under Fischer, then John Meeks and then back for Fischer. As an offensive coordinator, his 2017 offense broke the program records for points with 634 and total yards with 6,200. Louisa’s 14 wins were also a program record.
“I’ve been here 10 years coaching,” Patrick said. “I’m just so proud because literally, I bleed green and gold through and through. This is my hometown. When I was at Madison on my nameplate — where it tells you your name and jersey number and below it, where you’re from — mine said Louisa, VA. I loved explaining to everyone where that was.”
With Fischer’s health becoming a concern again in 2016, Patrick was tasked with day-to-day operations for the program, giving him a pretty solid preview of what it’s like to run things.
“The last two years I’ve learned so much, from ordering equipment to handling the hallways,” Patrick said. “The players, I’ve got a great relationship with them and hopefully we’ll continue to develop that and grow with all our student athletes.”
While the Lions will need to replace 18 of their 22 starters next season, they have a pair of talented linemen back in Logan Yancey and Robbie Guinn, one of the top linebacking recruits in the country in Brandon Smith, plus a young defensive back and quarterback poised to take over the offense in Jarrett Hunter. For this group, having a familiar face like Patrick running the show in 2018 is exactly what they want.
“We wanted this bad,” Hunter said. “Coach Patrick is a fun coach. He’s always energetic and excited but also looking out for everybody… First game we have to come out and make a statement. We have to let everyone know that last year wasn’t a fluke.”
After Patrick was introduced and spoke briefly, Fischer stepped up and gave a glowing endorsement of the Lion’s newest head coach.
“I always had a statement — that if you had half my passion, you’d always be successful — and (Patrick) surpasses my passion and he will be successful,” Fischer said. “Louisa football has a long way of upward travel that it can go. We’ve only scratched the surface of what we can be. I want my son (Troy) to play for coach Will Patrick. That’s how committed and dedicated I am, how much I believe in him. I need everyone, not just in this room, to get the word out and support this man.”
The former head coach also urged all in attendance just how long it took himself to build the Lions up into a state power, not once, but twice.
“It’s easy to forget the days when a Mark Fischer football team was 3-7,” Fischer said. “What coach Patrick needs is time. He’s needs an opportunity and he needs support from community, from parents, from everybody that has anything of interest with Louisa County football. Because I can tell you, I’ve been doing this for a long, long time and it ain’t easy.”
Patrick’s playing days at Louisa might have been before Fischer’s time at the school. But if it wasn’t already abundantly clear before, Patrick’s time on the sidelines with Fischer have left one lasting impression. One that’s made him the newest leader of the Lions.
“We’ve got a core group of guys coming back, some young talent in the pipeline,” Patrick said. “I think we’re going to be just fine here. The tradition will continue.”