Pardon Walbrook High's Billy Hice if he seems a bit optimistic for a football coach who hasn't even seen his team this year.
"I'm excited. I'm tickled pink," Hice was saying one day last week.
Hice won't get his first look at his team until Thursday, the first day of summer practice for all high school teams in the Baltimore area.
Hice's optimism does not stem from the prospect of victories. If the Warriors don't win one game this season, at least they will be comfortable and their travel time will be cut significantly.
Walbrook students move back to their Walbrook Junction campus after three years away. Walbrook students attended classes at Southwestern while asbestos was removed from the Walbrook building.
The Warriors were able to play their home football games at Walbrook the past three years, but the constant travel from southwest Baltimore to Walbrook Junction put a strain on the program.
The Warriors practiced at Walbrook, which meant loading the team on the bus everyday for a 20-minute ride from Southwestern to Walbrook and back. By the time the players showered and headed for home, it was nearly 6:30 p.m.
"I think we'll get more players out for the team," said Hice, addressing a problem that has hampered most of the city schools in recent years. "I haven't had good numbers. Last year we had a good junior varsity, but the two years before that we didn't even have a junior varsity. The main downfall was having to catch so many buses to get home after practice."
Walbrook's fan support also dwindled. Hice said it's a lot easier to entice students to come to a football game when it's in their back yard as opposed to having to catch two buses from Southwestern back to Walbrook. Walbrook's senior class will attend classes at the Walbrook Junction campus for the first time this fall.
"The difference is night and day," said Hice.
Walbrook's program has remained competitive the past three years despite the problems. The Warriors have compiled a 10-15 record, and last year's junior varsity lost just one game under coach Gus Herrington.
When Douglass went through a similar situation in the late
1970s, having its students housed at another school while renovation work was done, the Ducks program was nearly devastated. Athletic participation declined, and Douglass' football team went 44 games without a win from 1982 to '88.
"We didn't fold," said Hice. "All of our athletic teams were respectable. We held our own."