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Ambrose steps down from Middletown post

December 03, 2004|by MARK KELLER

keller@herald-mail.com

The only era Middletown High School football has ever known - the Tim Ambrose era - has come to an end.

Ambrose resigned his position last week, ending his 31-year tenure as one of the winningest coaches in the state and putting the school in the unusual position - for Middletown, anyway - of searching for a new football coach.

Ambrose will retain his position as the school's athletic director, a job he has held for seven years.

It was the choice to keep that post that led to Ambrose giving up his football job. In May 2003, Frederick County Schools ruled that athletic directors could no longer serve as coaches.

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Ambrose, 55, said he had hoped the county would grandfather the new rule in, allowing him to keep both positions until he wanted to give up one or both. When that did not happen, he asked for - and was given - a grace period until the end of the 2004 season before he had to make his ultimate choice.

"I was pushed into a corner and had to make a decision," Ambrose said. "It wasn't a choice that I necessarily wanted to make."

He indicated before the season began that he had not decided if he would return as the Middletown coach in 2005. Middletown principal Dr. Debra Munk told Ambrose she needed a decision by Dec. 1.

"I wasn't going to labor over the decision and be aggravated by it during the season," Ambrose said. "I'm at the point when I can retire when I want with full benefits. I still love what I'm doing and I enjoy doing the AD thing. I'm lucky to have a job that I enjoy so much."

Ambrose compiled a 248-78 record as the only coach in the history of the program. He is sixth on the state's all-time wins list.

He began his coaching career in 1971 with a two-year stint as an assistant at Thomas Johnson. It was during his second year at TJ that he was chosen to lead the startup of the Middletown program.

The Knights won or shared 14 Monocacy Valley Athletic League titles. Middletown also made 12 trips to the postseason and advanced to the state finals in 1981, 1991 and 2002, but came up empty in all three title games.

The lack of a state championship doesn't diminish Ambrose's career, at least in his eyes.

"I decided a long time ago that I wasn't going to measure my success by state titles," Ambrose said. "The reason I kept coaching was the enjoyment I got from my fellow coaches and with the players, seeing them develop and grow and become successful."

Middletown finished 5-5 each of the last two seasons. The Knights held their playoff destiny in their hands this year, needing a win over Walkersville to qualify for the postseason. Instead, they lost to the Lions for the first time in eight years.

Last season, the Knights closed on a four-game winning streak to reach the .500 mark.

Those 5-5 seasons, however, kept alive a streak of 29 straight years without a losing season. The only losing seasons for the Knights came in the first two years of the program. They were 4-6 in each of those years.

Ambrose said some of his most enjoyable years were when he coached sons Rob, a 1988 graduate, and Jared, who graduated in 2000.

"It was a great experience for me, but you'd have to ask them how they felt about it," Ambrose said. "They got me 24 hours a day then, all sides of me. I was always on their butts."

Like anyone who's done any job for 31 years, Ambrose said there are too many good memories to pick out one as the best.

"There were plenty of great opportunities," Ambrose said. "Playing in Ravens Stadium was magnificent, playing at Maryland against Allegany ... those are things that stand out.

"But the greatest thing was working with the kids, seeing them fail and rebound and get better. I never worried about scores, I worried about kids."

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