Veteran coach leads the Knights to the school’s first undefeated season as they hunt first playoff victory


by Gary Adornato

Coming at the conclusion of what is believed to be the first and only undefeated football regular season in the history of Parkville High School, Knight’s head coach Justin Payne has been named this week’s Baltimore Touchdown Club Coach of the Week.

The Knights previous best was a 9-1 effort in 2005 and when Parkville hosts Wheation High School on Friday night, in a 4A North Region semifinal at Perry Hall High School, Parkville will be in search of another first – a playoff victory.

Payne, who has steadily improved Parkville’s gridiron fortunes since arriving in 2015, said there has been one special ingredient in the team’s success.

“I would have to say consistency,” said Payne. “This is my fifth year here at Parkville and many of our players have been with us since the beginning. At the end of every season I have the kids that have played all four years for Parkville to stand up. My first year I had three kids stand up. This year I will have 12 that will stand up, next year even more.

“For the most part, I have had the same coaching staff for entire time I’ve been here. These kids have bought in to what it means to be a part of a program. not just a year to year football team. Our main focus as a staff was to change the culture and perception of Parkville Football, around the county and in our community.”

Coach Payne wants his players to buy into the team’s goals.

“Things like work ethic, off season workouts, grades, discipline, respect, pride and believe it or not fund raising; I want these kids to believe that they can be the best football program in the state,” he said. “I’ve been coaching in the state of Maryland since 1997 and I have coached in three different counties. I have been blessed to have worked with a lot of great high school coaches during that time. The knowledge and experience that I have gained from those guys in the past 23 years have been what fuels the foundation of some of my philosophies. I’ve been around many successful programs, so I have experienced what takes to be one.

“I also know what an unsuccessful program looks like as well. I started my coaching career at my alma matar Oakland Mills High school. I learned so much about football and life from my mentor and friend, the late Ken Hovet. What I learned from him was so crucial in building the foundation we have here now at Parkville. In this day and age many coaches are changing their philosophies to cater and or conform to the kids we coach nowadays. I feel in order for programs to be successful, you have to make the players conform to whatever it is that defines the culture of your program and what you expect as a coach.”

Payne mixed no words when asked what his team’s post-season goals are.

“Annapolis! I would hope that is the goal for all of the top seeded teams in post-season. We just have to keep our identity, keep doing what got us to this point and I think good things will continue to happen for us. This is a new experience for all of these kids. Playoffs are something that has eluded Parkville for almost 15 years. The school is still waiting for it’s first playoff win in school history. It’s going to take hard work, discipline and a little luck to win it all.”

The coach expressed gratitude at being honored by the BTC.

“It’s a great honor, anytime that you are recognized by the guys who go through the same triumphs and tribulations as you. It means a lot. The fact that these are my peers, they understand the struggles of being a high school football coach. They understand how difficult it is to win, so when we are recognized, it helps validate you in some ways and makes you feel like you doing the right things for these kids. We don’t get a lot of recognition over here on Putty Hill Road (even with 9-0 record), so it does make me proud.”

Payne, who serves as his own defensive coordinator, said he has enjoyed to luxury of delegating many other coaching responsibilities to his staff.

“Words can’t express the gratitude and appreciation I have for my coaches. I have been comfortable enough to delegate way more this year then ever, and I think that is a direct correlation to our success. Rick Zentz (Offensive Coordinator/Assistant Head Coach) has been coaching over 40 years in Maryland and Pennsylvania. I don’t have enough time or paper to explain what this man means to our program. He has implemented an offense that many have criticized and not many run. He has mastered it. And because most of these kids have been in the program for 3-4 years they have become very good at it. He is a true football coach and an enormous asset to our family. I would not have been able to do what I do as a head coach without him. I am fortunate to have another true head coach on my staff.

Matt Hebert (Special Teams/Runningbacks/Defensive Backs) has been at Parkville for over 10 years and is a carryover from the prior staff. The job he does with our special teams is phenomenal. He does an excellent job breaking down film and preparing the scout team offense. Not only does he prepare the scout team he physically runs it as the scout team QB. Parkville alum Joe Golzynski is a young energetic OL/DL coach. I moved him up to varsity this year and he has done a great job with our linemen. I see him one day being a head coach somewhere.”

Payne also praised the work of the JV staff which includes head coach Ray Zacharski (5-3 this season), who came with Payne from Milford Mill and “does a nice job preparing our kids for varsity,” as well Devin Nibbs, Steve Ullah and Ben Berger.

Finally, please share your thoughts on the Baltimore Touchdown Club and the work it does to support and grow high school football in this area.

“The BTC is such a great organization filled with good coaches and great men. This is a wonderful way for us to grow as coaches and bond on and off the field. I have learned so much about high school football due to my involvement with the BTC.

“The time and efforts that the BTC puts in to ensure our players get the recognition and the best support they deserve, speaks volumes. All the members of The BTC have teams they coach and families to support. They still find time to help each other and support the kids so that they are afforded the best opportunities to be successful. I want to say thank you to this organization in the humblest way for being honored as Coach of the Week.”