Is Severna Park senior John Jennings the best running back in the county? His own coach won't admit as much.
Not that Falcon coach Andy Borland doesn't think so. He's just not saying.
"I hate to put that on any kid," Borland said, "but he's a great running back."
And Jennings' presence makes Severna Park, at the very least, a good football team.
He's coming off a season where herushed for 1,350 yards and scored 13 touchdowns, leading the Falconsto their third county championship in four years and a berth in the state playoffs.
But Jennings won't allow the expectations of others to affect his performance. Or his hat size.
"I try not to let all the talk get to me," he said after a Saturday morning tri-scrimmagewith St. Mary's and South River. "It's too much pressure, and my head will swell and I'll mess up. I just have to keep my cool, like lastyear."
At one time, he envied Old Mill back William Beverly, lastseason's media darling who since has graduated.
"There was a lot of talk about how Beverly was the best, and
that made me run faster and stronger and harder," he said.
Now, he has the field all to himself.
"The only qualification that really hurts him is his height," Borland said of the 5-foot-7 back. "If he has a great year, boy,it should be a college scholarship somewhere."
That's because Jennings packs 225 pounds on his short frame. He bench presses 325 pounds and runs the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds. "He runs like a deer. He's just a stud," Borland said.
The offensive line he's running behind is suspect, however, after graduation left Severna Park with only two returning starters -- All-County guard Mark Miles and tight end Rob McCandless.
"We have a hell of a lot of holes to fill," said line coach Russ Roberts.
Jennings said, "The line has struggled, butwe have a solid foundation. If there are any problems, we'll work them out."
The Falcons also need junior Tim Bowerman to assert himself at quarterback. He was a starter early last season before giving way to Steve Foreman.
Bowerman has plenty of weapons in Jennings, McCandless, and running backs Travis Koballa and Aaron Cree, among others.
The outlook is even rosier on defense, where starting backs Gerald Cager, Matt Glenn and John Novak return. The fourth spot shouldbe filled by sophomore newcomer Sean Miller, who impressed the coaching staff with his hard hitting and special teams play.
Last season ended bitterly -- a 34-3 loss to Springbrook of Montgomery County in the 4A state quarterfinals.
But any thoughts of retribution among the returnees is aimed toward High Point, which contributed to Severna Park's 0-2 start with a 19-13 season-opening win last September.
Bowerman was 5-for-6 for 67 yards and one touchdown, and Jennings rushed for 82 yards and one score. But the Eagles "ran over us" with their power-I attack, Borland said.
"We've lost to them the last two years," McCandless said, "and the goal of the returning players isbeating them."
Borland made certain his team has that opportunity.
"We want to play somebody tough. We don't just want to play anybody," he said.
"Some coaches look for an easy win in their first game. We want to play somebody, and High Point is somebody."
. . . in brief
School nickname: Falcons
School colors: Blue and gold
Name of field/stadium: George Roberts Field
Address: Robinson and Evergreen roads, Severna Park, Md. 21146
Phone number: 544-0900
Principal: Oliver Wittig
Athletic director: Andy Borland
Cheerleading adviser: Deborah Woods
Marching band director: R. Thomas Powell
School enrollment: 1,690