In the past, Chesapeake coach Tom Kraning has been at a loss for words when trying to find something positive to say about his football team.
The words of praise aren't exactly flowing off the tongue of the fourth-year coach, but Kraning has managed to assemble a few encouraging words regarding his 1991 Cougars.
At Chesapeake High, this is called progress.
"I can't ask moreout of the kids than what I'm getting," said Kraning, whose Cougars struggled through a 1-9 season last year. "We've got the kids who arewilling to do the work and want to do the job. The key is, they're starting to take pride in what they're doing out there.
"They're enjoying the fact that they're seeing some success. If we can get one or two wins down early and stay ahead of the wolf a little bit we should be OK. If we get down early or run into some bad luck it could be hard for us to put on the brakes and turn around."
Turning the program around is something that is on the minds of all the Chesapeake players. Most believe they have an improved squad and feel they shouldn't be taken lightly.
"We have a lot of revenge to take on the other teams," said senior Jamie Robertson, who returns at quarterback. "There'll be lots of paybacks. If we play like we can and not be intimidated by anyone, I know we can play with them and probably beat them. But we have to play up to our potential."
Senior co-captain Tim Wilde, a 5-foot-11, 205-pounder, said he has seen improvement over last year and hopes that the 24 returning seniors will launch the team back into respectability.
"We're looking to get some respect," said Wilde, an offensive and defensive tackle who also will handle punting and place-kicking duties. "I see no reason why we can't go 5-5, maybe even win eight.
"The key is, we have to keep our enthusiasm up. We didn't have enthusiasm last year. We have a winning attitude this year. We have the size and the people. We just have to keep the intensity going high."
Kraning is relying on junior halfback Brandon Steinheim to carry the weight of the offensive load. And for a guy who squatted 807 pounds in the preseason, Steinheim should have no trouble doing that.
"Brandon is the best athlete we have on the team,"Kraning said. "He's quick as a cat, and the kid can play. He's a stud."
Steinheim, whose 5-foot-8, 175-pound frame is not overly intimidating, believes his team can be successful if it stays focused and limits its mental mistakes.
"I think we can go at least 6-4," saidSteinheim, who also will start in the Cougars' secondary. "Our defense is going to have to play tighter than last year, and they need a lot of intensity. Our offense has to execute and not have any dumb attacks.
"Everybody that comes in here thinks they can run right overus. The next time they come in we're going to prove that we're not like that any more."
Right now, Kraning is confident that is team is "not like that anymore," but whether or not it's enough to pull theCougars out of the 4A cellar is still unknown.
"They're starting to believe in themselves, and they're working hard," Kraning said. "If the kids can stay there and give us the leadership we need, we should be OK.
"The hard part is we're going to need a couple of kids to step up. If they do, maybe we'll win half of our games. If they don't, we're going to struggle."
. . . in brief
School mascot: Cougars
School colors: Turquoise and gold
Name of field/stadium: Chesapeake High School Stadium
Address: Mountain and Mount Carmel roads, Pasadena, Md. 21122
Phone number: 255-9600
Principal: Harry Calender
Athletic director: Al Grau
Cheerleading advisers: Debbie Vernon and Diane Lamamphe
Marching band director:Stanley Sieradzki
School enrollment: 1,500