I remember the day well. It was Monday, June 20, 2011, when Arrowhead athletic director Kevin Flegner called me and told me that the school had just hired a new football coach to replace legendary 29-year veteran coach Tom Taraska, who had resigned about two months earlier. He told me that then-37-year-old Greg Malling had been selected to lead the powerhouse Arrowhead football program
At the time, what did we know about Malling? Absolutely nothing. He had previously been a head coach in Maryland for five seasons, compiling a not-so-brilliant record of 18-33 at Wootton High School. From there he left to be the offensive coordinator at Leesburg High School in Florida for just the 2010 season.
Malling's strong suit was offense, serving as the architect of a spread offense that piled up some of the best passing numbers ever seen in Maryland high school football when he was a Wootton.
When many of the loyal band of Arrowhead football fans found out about his record at Maryland and his penchant for spreading things out and throwing the ball a lot, they started shaking their heads. I had hundreds of people calling me or seeing me on the street, at church or the store, asking me why in the world would Arrowhead hire a guy who plays that kind of football.
And why in the world would Flegner and the AHS administration hire a guy with a losing record like Malling had as a head coach? The questions never seemed to end, asked right until the season started in late August.
There were doubters all over the place, even after he led the team to a second-place finish in the Classic 8 Conference with a 6-1 record and an 8-2 mark overall. When the Warhawks lost to visiting Verona by a 44-28 score in the second round of the WIAA Division 1 playoffs after giving up almost 600 yards, people were still not sold.
But what a difference a year can make.
Malling, now in his second year, has proven to be a great hire for the Warhawks. The low-key head coach has convinced every Arrowhead football fan, past and present, that his multiple-look offense is something special, especially when you have the kind of gifted athletes the Warhawks have this season.
Arrowhead is piling up yardage and points in record numbers this season, even after losing their talented quarterback (Ryan Saeger) to graduation. They've scored 50 or more points in three of their six conference games to date, something no other team has ever done in the proud 57-year history of the school.
Right now, with one game remaining before the playoffs begin, this offense - the one nobody seemed to care for when they heard about it - seems to be unstoppable. Malling's Warhawks are not only undefeated (7-0) but also ranked No. 1 in the state by the Associated Press. AHS is averaging more than 47 points per game.
Not only is Malling's offense impressive, but thedefense under new coordinator Dave Pfeiffer is just as strong, giving up just 71 points on the season. Thirty-six of those came in two halves of football in the first two games of the year. In the last five games, the Arrowhead defense has giving up just seven points per game. Flegner and Malling appear to have hit a home run with the hiring of Pfeiffer, who was a standout tackle for the Warhawks in the 1970s. The field is also named after his father Frank, who taught and coached football at AHS.
Of course, all the people who doubted Malling's hiring back in the summer of 2011 can no longer be found. But I remember some of those guys and remind them about it whenever I can. All Malling's teams have done in less than two years is go 15-2, a winning mark of 88 percent. That's pretty good, isn't it?
Malling's hiring was a stroke of genius by Flegner and the administration. With each impressive victory, every Arrowhead fan in town has become a believer.
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Sports director JR Radcliffe and Time Warner Sports Channel's JP Cadorin discuss local sports. Latest episode: JR and JP dive into a crazy situation at Marquette surrounding the departure of Wally Ellenson from the basketball team and discuss the twice-rejected "success-based factor" plan in the WIAA (12:45). Packers Plus beat writer Rob Reischel chats with JR about the pros and cons of Packers general manager Ted Thompson and what to expect in Thursday's draft (26:15), and Mukwonago alumnus Nate Tanguay talks about playing for an FCS powerhouse in North Dakota State and teammate Carson Wentz, who could go first overall in the draft (55:00).