Quince Orchard defensive coordinator John Kelley has been promoted to head coach, the school announced Tuesday.

The hiring of the 33-year-old Kelley comes a month after longtime Coach Dave Mencarini stepped down at the Gaithersburg school to take the same position at Urbana.

“The last 10 years or so, Quince Orchard has established itself as one of the elite programs in the state of Maryland,” Kelley said. “It’s an outstanding opportunity. I look forward to trying to continue the success, and build on the success that Coach Mencarini has had here.”

A Germantown native, Kelley starred at Seneca Valley and was a first-team All-Met in 1998. He later went on to play at Towson. Kelley previously served as an assistant at Wesley College in Delaware, and later as a graduate assistant at Maryland for two seasons before working as the defensive line coach at North Carolina Central in 2008. He took over the defense at Quince Orchard in 2009, and has helped the unit mold a strong identity over the past five seasons.

The Cougars allowed just 10.4 points per game on their way to a 4A state title appearance in 2011, and pitched five shutouts while giving up just 7.2 points per game to reach the championship game again in 2012. Quince Orchard finished 10-2 and reached the 4A West Region semifinals in 2013, with the defense posting five shutouts and allowing just 11 points per game all season.

“We’re going to keep this train moving forward,” said Kelley, who teaches social studies at Quince Orchard. “As a coaching staff, do everything we can to put our kids in the right spot and try and have an impact on them.”

The search to replace Mencarini generated wide interest, Quince Orchard Athletic Director George Awkard said. He had coaches from as far as Wisconsin and Kansas inquire about the opening, as well as numerous prospective coaches from around the area, before Kelley’s hiring. The team has already begun winter conditioning, and Kelley’s staff is set for the upcoming season. The Cougars will return several key players in 2014, including All-Met defensive tackle Adam McLean.

“We’re really excited with Mr. Kelley coming on,” Awkard said. “He’s been with the program for five years, so that provides stability to the program.”