Don't be surprised this week on Halloween night if a shadowy figure, about 5 feet 11 and 185 pounds, cleverly disguised in an Old Mill football uniform with his identity hidden by helmet and face mask, visits the grave of Edgar Allen Poe and leaves, instead of the traditional bottle of cognac, a football.
In fact, the Old Mill offense this year could be called (with apologies to Baltimore's most famous dead writer), "The House of Rusher." Patriots' senior tailback William Beverly, who says Poe is his favorite author, is giving opposing coaches nightmares trying to devise game plans to stop him.
He's everywhere. On offense, he's running the ball (142 carries for 790 yards, 12 touchdowns), catching passes (23 for 355 yards, 15.4-yard avg., four TDs), recovering fumbles (one, returned 84 yards for another TD). On defense, he has intercepted three passes, including a touchdown saver in the end zone with 43-yard return in Friday's 20-2 Old Mill win at Arundel. He averages three tackles per game at safety, said the Patriots' eighth-year coach Pete Regala, "Mostly saving tackles."
Of course, Beverly returns kicks and holds for place kicks, too. He's among area leaders in rushing, receiving and scoring (17 TDs and a two-point conversion for 104 points).
And -- even Poe couldn't make this up -- Beverly's nickname is "Boo."
Not surprisingly, it was a ghost of a play, one that didn't even count, that gave Beverly his biggest thrill this year, his first season starting. "It was in our second game," he said, "against South River. We'd been working on a sprint draw a lot and it hadn't been working. The team was getting frustrated and we wanted to tell the coaches to take it out. Then I went 77 yards on it and it was called back [on a penalty], but we got confidence in the team and the coaches. Things started to click. Since then we've found a way to score."
There's another mystery, of the administrative variety, surrounding the No. 8 Patriots (7-1, 4-1 in the Anne Arundel 4A league). They trail Severna Park by a game in their league, yet "Right now we're on top of Region IV in points," for the state playoffs, said Regala.
The Patriots play host to Broadneck (1-6, 1-5) this Friday before closing the regular season at Glen Burnie (6-2, 4-1) the following week.
Old Mill hasn't earned its record with a one-man fright show, either. Four other seniors -- quarterback Eric Scott, guard Brian Evans, tackle John Bussey and defensive tackle Taray Rollins -- are major contributors to the Patriots' success.
Though college coaches are interested in Beverly, including some from Division I schools, he admits he might have to go to prep school or junior college first. "This year I'm pushing it hard," he said. "One of my goals -- since my parents helped me so much -- is to get an education so I can help them out when I get older as much as I possibly can . . . Football won't last forever."