Larry Washington's proficiency at transporting a football great distances through heavy traffic may be exceeded only by his gift of prophecy.
"I was telling all the seniors last year that we'd go undefeated and be No. 1," Randallstown's prolific running back said yesterday. "We had so many guys back."
So many, but mainly Washington. He is the main reason the Rams (12-0) will play for the class 4A state championship tomorrow in a 2 p.m. showdown against Thomas Wootton (also 12-0) at Westminster.
That setting will provide the conclusion to Washington's remarkable high school football career, a career that spanned three high schools and four different head coaches. It is a career that saw Washington rush for more than 1,000 yards at both Dulaney and Randallstown in 1988 and '89. This year, he doubled his pleasure and ran for 2,021. He is believed to be the only metro area player to gain 2,000 yards in one season.
When he hit the magic number in last week's 21-7 semifinal playoff win over Oxon Hill, Washington accomplished his own personal goal for 1990.
"In the beginning of the year, I said I wanted to rush for 2,000 yards," he said. "I thought I could get it in the regular season by averaging 200 yards a game. One hundred [a game] isn't anything to me."
John Buchheister, the Randallstown coach, was not necessarily party to the 2,000-yard campaign.
"I was more concerned with keeping him healthy than rolling up yardage," Buchheister said.
Toward that end, Buchheister allowed Washington a mere three carries (for 24 yards) in an easy win over Lansdowne. And after Washington piled up 71 yards in the first half against Franklin, he got a second-half rest.
Washington probably could use it, too. When he isn't torturing defenses with his splendid combination of speed and power, he plays free safety for the Rams. He picked off seven passes this year and returned three for touchdowns. And when he's not doing that, he's on the kick return teams. Tomorrow, to get a little more speed on special teams, he'll play on the kickoff team as well.
But it is clearly Washington's ball-carrying ability that has college recruiters drooling. So far he has scheduled visits to Tennessee and Clemson, and probably will visit Miami and Maryland.
Does he want to stay close to home as a collegian?
"[Maryland] is the home football school, so I'm going to give them a chance," was all he would offer.
Said Buchheister, "He's probably the best running back in high school I've ever seen. And that includes Ernie Torain [Poly], Alvin Lee [City], Charles Pittman [Edmondson] and John Spangler [Poly]."
Said Chuck Klimek, who coached Washington at Dulaney, "He hits top speed faster than any high school running back I've ever seen. Some runners are gliders. He's an accelerator. He's a Division I blue-chipper."
Washington's high school travels started at Loyola in 1987. He played varsity as a freshman, but left the school because of bad grades. In 1988 he was a one-man gang for Klimek, rushing for 1,058 yards, catching 10 passes for 169, and returning kicks for a total of 470 more. "His mom moved to the Randallstown area after that," Klimek said. "We did everything we could [to keep him] under the rules."
Last year Washington played for Ken Johnson at Randallstown. He rushed for 1,067 yards, averaging nearly 10 yards a carry. His only regret was he didn't carry the ball more. After the season, Johnson became athletic director and football coach at Chesapeake. Washington wound up with his fourth head coach when Buchheister moved over from Milford Mill.
"Coach Buck gave me the ball," said Washington, who has blossomed into a 6-foot-1, 200-pounder with 4.5 speed.
As good as he was in the regular season, Washington has been even better in the playoffs. He single-handedly destroyed Seneca Valley with 319 rushing yards and five touchdowns in a 33-21 victory that Buchheister described as "kind of breathtaking."
Against Oxon Hill, Washington bulled for 202 yards and two TDs.
"Once the playoffs started, I kicked it into another gear," he said.
This week Washington found himself reflecting on a career that has known no boundaries . . . in range of schools or depth of success.
"I can't believe it's about to end," he said yesterday, looking ahead to tomorrow's grand finale. "I like our chances of winning.
"I hope I go out a winner, and leave my mark."