Fauquier High’s previous head football coach traveled nearly 700 miles to interview for the job.
On Dec. 19, Karl Buckwalter drove only eight to do the same before becoming the Falcons’ next head coach.
Buckwalter, a 56-year-old Warrenton resident, accepted the Fauquier position Jan. 7 after stepping down as Dominion’s head coach in November following his 11th season with the Titans. So he replaces Joe Prince, who resigned from Fauquier in November with an 11-29 record as the Falcons’ coach over four seasons.
Prince joined Fauquier following a 22-year career as a head coach in Kentucky, while Buckwalter has lived in Warrenton since 2008 despite coaching at Dominion that entire time. So he will have a much shorter commute to his new job with the Falcons.
“It’s a chance to come home,” Buckwalter said Tuesday. “I know the rich history of football in Fauquier County and at Fauquier High School.
“I’m so excited to get going,” he said.
His stepsons, Brandon and Michael Seely, are recent graduates of Fauquier High, where Buckwalter plans to also teach physical education. And his 10-year-old daughter, Karlyn, attends Brumfield Elementary.
“I’ll end up teaching her, hopefully, at Fauquier,” Buckwalter said. “I’m not a guy that jumps from school to school.
“Being part of the community, that’s a huge selling point for me,” he said. “I’m excited to have the small-town-type atmosphere and getting everybody in the community involved in the program.”
Buckwalter strived for that during previously stints as head coach at Dominion, Colonial Forge (five seasons) and McLean (nine seasons) en route to a 122-139 career record. A McLean alumnus, he returned to that school and turned around a football team that had a 1-29 run leading up to his tenure as head coach. Then he built the Colonial Forge program as its first coach in history before taking over at Dominion, where he amassed a 50-67 record.
The Titans won the Dulles District championship in 2017 and in 2016, when they advanced to the Class 4 state semifinals with a program-best 10-3 record. Last season, however, the Titans finished with only a 3-6 record, including a narrow 21-14 victory over a winless Fauquier team.
Then Buckwalter left Dominion, hoping to build another football program from scratch at Independence High, a school that will open in Ashburn next fall. But he did not land that new job.
“You take the leap of faith, so to speak,” he said. “It’s funny how things happen for a reason. … When Fauquier opened up, I had to go for it.”
So, on Thursday, Buckwalter will be the sixth person introduced as the Falcons’ head coach in the past nine seasons. He follows Prince, who despite coaching only four seasons had the longest coaching tenure with the Falcons since Tom Ferrell, 1994-2004.
Prince, a 2014 Kentucky Football State 4A Coach of the Year and six-time district Coach of the Year, took the Fauquier job after leaving Owensboro High, for which he coached 12 years with a state runner-up finish. But the Falcons never made a playoff appearance with him at the helm.
In fact, with a 0-10 record this past season, Fauquier tied with its 1980 team for worst performance in the program’s 56-year history.
Neither Prince nor Fauquier athletic director Mark Holmes responded to repeated phone calls concerning Prince’s departure.
Prince actually succeeded Holmes as the Falcons’ head coach in 2015 after Holmes served as interim coach during the second half of the 2014 season. Holmes stepped in for Jamie Carter, who left the team abruptly midseason with no explanation from him or the school administration. Then he officially resigned after the season.
Carter took over as head coach in 2012 after Fauquier administrators first offered the job to Brad Metheny of Florida. Fauquier then rescinded that offer to Metheny 17 days later without a contract signed. So, comparatively, Buckwalter replacing Prince is a more traditional endeavor.
Prince’s .275 winning percentage is the Falcons’ worst since Ed Jefferies went 4-15-1 from 1964-65 (.200). It’s also the worst of Prince’s career, which includes five head coaching jobs. He now has a 160-136 career record, while the Falcons have a 288-288-11 mark in their history, including a 21-41 run since the start of the 2013 season without a playoff victory since 2002.
In fact, Fauquier has only four winning seasons since 1997, but Buckwalter welcomes the challenge of rejuvenating the program.
“Everywhere I’ve been we’ve been part of a building or rebuilding programs, and we’ve always got it” done, he said. “Our goal is to get into the playoffs.”
At McLean, Buckwalter took over as head coach in 1990 for a team with only one win over three seasons. By 1995, he was named the Washington Post All-Met Coach of the Year after leading the Highlanders to a Group AA Northern Region Division 5 championship and a 12-1 record for the best season in the program’s history.
“It’s a building process,” he said. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun too.
“It’s going to take some time,” he said. “There’s always going to be challenges and things to change the culture, and get the players and community more involved, and get them to believe.”
Buckwalter plans to meet Fauquier’s potential players Thursday prior to a “meet and greet” event for the community.
On the field, in addition to his head coaching duties, he plans to serve as defensive coordinator, as he has done during most of his career. His defense typically features three-man defensive fronts with blitz packages.
“We don’t do substitutions and personnel packages, we just change formations,” he said. “I like to bring a lot of pressure and make a quarterback, a high school kid, make a decision. Come from different areas and at different angles.”
Offensively, he plans to run a spread with his quarterback either in the shotgun and under center, while featuring run-pass-option plays and split-back plays.
“My goal is to make [opponents] adjust to us,” he said. “If we make you make a bunch of adjustments, we’re going to win the game.”
He hopes to begin a weight room program with the Falcons next week with an eye on the official beginning of practice Aug. 1 at 12:01 a.m.
“We’re going to have Midnight Madness,” he said. “That’ll be when the  Fauquier Falcons are born.”