Henderson Downplays Ranking

Mustangs 11th In Poll After Surprising Win

September 13, 1991|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,Staff writer

Meade football coach Hayse Henderson barely managed a smile when asked the question. Of course, for the somber Henderson, this rivaled a moment of hysteria.

He admitted reading the selections made by a group of reporters predicting last week's games, and how the visiting Mustangs were given no chance of winning at Springbrook. Or even coming close.

One writer picked them to lose 52-7, another 49-0. And this seemed conservative.

Now, one area poll has the Mustangs at No. 11. They even received at least one vote in the state poll, which placed Springbrook at No. 15.

So, isn't is somewhat ironic that the local media that denigrated Meade last week -- and all of last season -- suddenly is embracing it, albeit somewhat reluctantly, after the 20-14 upset win?

"A ranking, to me, is just a matter of opinion," Henderson said before Tuesday's practice. "It doesn't say that much. I'm not impressed."

And his players? "I try not to let them see stuff likethat. All that does is interfere with their thinking and so forth. It makes them think they're better than they actually are," he said.

Any form of flattery is a pleasant change. Henderson is more accustomed to the second-guessing and unkind remarks that come with the job-- and a 1-9 season, the worst in school history.

One day, they're ridiculing your program, and the next, they're ranking it in the Top 20. Go figure.

Henderson even took some heat for choosing Springbrook, rather than a lesser opponent, for the season-opener.

"Lastyear, I was asked to try and schedule a Class 3A or 2A team," he said, "and to quote some of the people, 'You need to get a win right from the beginning.' And I said right off the bat I'd like my team to goagainst the best.

"I don't think my AD agreed with me, but I think now he does."

In August, the second-year coach said the Mustangsneeded to face someone like Springbrook to see "where we stand." Butfew people expected Meade to still be standing after knocking helmets with the Blue Devils of Montgomery County -- winners of six state championships.

"They came over here certainly not intimidated by us," said Springbrook coach Bill Milloy. "I think Meade's a pretty goodfootball team, and they might turn out to be a very good team. I certainly hope so, or we're in a lot of trouble."

Henderson said the win "sets the tone for the year. It says we're just as good as any team out there."

But not everyone is convinced the Mustangs are thatgood. They wonder if Springbrook took the game lightly -- a claim Milloy disputes -- or if Meade was the beneficiary of some sort of fluke.

And practically every member of the team has heard warnings about tonight's opponent.

"Some people are saying, 'Well, you've still got to play Annapolis,' " said senior quarterback John Oxendine.

Henderson didn't let his players dwell on Saturday's conquest for very long -- "They had the weekend" -- before all thoughts turned to the Panthers, who squandered a 11-point lead in the fourth quarter and lost to Randallstown, 18-17, last week.

"That's probably going to be a tougher contest for us than Springbrook, because they're coming off a loss, and we have to play them at Annapolis," Henderson said.

"I saw them play Friday night, and they're a good team. They have alot of backs, just like we do. As a team, they probably have more speed than we do. They have a good quarterback in (Rick) Mears, who canthrow the ball and who runs the wing-T very well."

Meade counterswith its much-maligned wishbone attack, which never got untracked last season because of inexperienced personnel. The Mustangs averaged three turnovers a game, and the formation became an easy target for critics.

The negative talk lessened after Saturday's game, however, when Meade rushed for nearly 400 yards, including 166 by sophomore Kenny Walker (three touchdowns), and didn't commit a turnover.

"If you don't believe in any offense, it's not going to work," Oxendine said.

The Mustangs believe.

"Actually, the wishbone is a simple offense," Henderson said. "It's geared toward a high school program. It's not a fancy offense; you don't try to trick anybody. You go rightat them, they know what you're coming after them with, and it's justa matter of them trying to stop you."

It's up to Annapolis coach Roy Brown to devise a way of stopping the Mustangs, who he says are "every bit as good as Randallstown, maybe a little better."

"They've got an outstanding offensive line and backfield. They're an exciting team," he said.

He considers the wishbone similar to the wing-T,without as much misdirection.

"It's a power running game with a lot of options, and to me, that's as exciting as throwing the ball," he said.

Brown, whose Panthers struggled past Meade last year, 14-10, won't call tonight's game crucial, even with the possibility of another 0-2 start and a game next Friday against highly regarded North County.

"The season's not over if we're 0-2 or 1-1," he said, "butwe want to win as many as we can."

So does Henderson, naturally, and a victory over Annapolis would be another step toward gaining therespect that was missing last season.

"But even if we lose to Annapolis, I don't think you can say that we're a worse team than we were in the beginning, because Annapolis is a good team. They just had some bad breaks Friday night," he said.

"But I think we're able to play with them."

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