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The Father of Seneca Valley Football, Coach Al Thomas, Dies at 76

Legendary Maryland football coach, Al Thomas, has died at the age of 76.

Al Thomas started the football program at Seneca Valley High School. Over the course of his coaching career, he won eight Maryland State titles, mentored thousands of young men, was inducted into the Maryland football coaches Hall of Fame, spawned a coaching tree of protégés who would continue his winning ways, and was greatly responsible for putting the small farming town of Germantown on the map.

Coach Thomas died Friday, December 23 after a long battle with cancer. He was in hospice care.

“He changed football in the State of Maryland,” said Terry Changuris, longtime friend and legendary Seneca Valley football coach. “He elevated everybody's game, or he would have won every year. He was my best friend back then. We were always together. And he taught me all he knew. And when I thought I knew enough. He let me know I wasn't even close. And I needed to work even harder.”

He began his coaching career in 1964 as an assistant to Gaithersburg coach John Harvill. A decade later in 1974, he started the football program at the newly opened Seneca Valley High School in Germantown. During his four decades of coaching, Al Thomas lost just 47 games as a head coach, while winning 242 games, a win total that ranks 10th on Maryland’s all-time list. His eight state titles are tied for most all-time with Bob Milloy.

In his first season coaching football at Seneca Valley, the school only went up to 10th grade, and his team played a JV schedule and went undefeated. The following year the school went to 11th grade, and the team moved to a full varsity schedule. “We went 6-and-4 without a senior in the school,” Coach Thomas told the Germantown Pulse in an interview in October for the story about the last football game to be played at the Seneca Valley field. That 6-4 season in 1975 was the worst record an Al Thomas coached Seneca Valley team recorded. “I thought that first season was pretty awesome. I knew we were going to be pretty good and the next two senior classes went undefeated.”

Coach Thomas’ 1977 “Pride of the Valley” team went undefeated, won a state title and gave up only six points all year, and those came on a turnover as a fumble was returned for a touchdown in a game against Gaithersburg. The defense blocked the extra point. The team would win 12 games with 11 shutout victories.