For private school running backs Joey Conte and Jason Wade, the riseto the upper crust of the county rushing statistics has been a smooth one.
But for opposing Maryland Scholastic Association C Conference defenses, their ascension has been anything but harmonious.
Wade, a senior at Severn School, is the county's third-leading rusher, with 628 yards on 59 carries, followed by St. Mary's Conte, whohas rushed for the same amount of yards, albeit on 87 tries.
Wade, who averages 10.6 yards every time he touches the ball, is second only to Meade's Kenny Walker in the scoring column, having found the end zone on 10 occasions.
The 5-foot-9, 170-pound runner scored sixof his touchdowns on the ground and two by way of the pass. Wade's other two touchdowns came courtesy of a 75-yard interception and a 33-yard return of a fumble recovery.
"He's a team leader on both sides of the ball," said Severn coach Jim Doyle, whose Admirals are the only undefeated team in the C Conference at 3-0. "He's a hard-nosed slasher with better than average speed.
"He's shifty and deceptive, and he'll give the hit and not
just take it. He has the capabilityof breaking a couple of tackles, he has real good balance and he knows how to give a hit."
When he's not looking for holes coming out of the Admirals' backfield, Wade can be found plugging them from his three-year home at inside linebacker. Wade, an All-County selection in lacrosse, leads Severn's stingy defense with 73 tackles, including 29 first hits.
"I wish he was more interested in pursuing footballafter this year, but he's going to be a lacrosse player," said Doyle, noting that he was happy that Wade stuck with football his senior year. "He has the potential to be an awesome football player, but he'salmost guaranteed a scholarship in lacrosse.
"All of his friends play football and I think that's the reason he came back this year. He didn't want to let his friends down. His brother (Ryan, who has gone on to play lacrosse at the University of North Carolina) sat out football his senior year to concentrate on lacrosse, and that was a real blow to our program. Fortunately, Jason didn't do that."
Conte may not cradle the lacrosse stick quite like Wade
does, but his statistics on the gridiron are similarly majestic. Despite his size -- 5-foot-7, 142 pounds -- Conte has surfaced as the county's third-leading point-scorer with nine touchdowns and two extra-point conversions.In addition, he has caught 11 passes for 167 yards for a 15.2 yard per-catch average.
St. Mary's coach Brad Best attributes Conte's success to his experience and mettlesome nature.
"Joey is all heart," Best said. "One hundred and 40 pounds of him is heart. He's a hard worker who pushes himself to the brink. He's a very instinctive runner, a slashing type runner. He's the type of runner that you seldom get a solid hit on. He's very quick."
Conte said, "Coach told me I was going to carry the ball more this year and I was excited. I did a lot of lifting and running over the summer and that's helped me, but the line has been doing great. I've just been fortunate enough to getthe chance to carry the ball."
Conte's most productive effort to date was his 16 carries for 193 yards in the Saints' 35-14 win over Archbishop Spalding, but Best says his most impressive outing was against St. Paul's, when he rushed for 103 yards on 21 carries in a 19-14come-from-behind win over the Crusaders.
"He got a lot of tough yards in that game," Best said. "He broke a lot of tackles. When we send some films out to colleges, that will definitely be one of them."
Best says he believes his star can shine in Division III ball and perhaps even play at the Division II level in college but concedes that the one thing going against Conte, at this juncture, is his size.
"A couple of coaches have already shown some interest in him," Best said. "They like his quickness. He could probably be a great receiver in college, because he's got great hands and he's not afraid to block.
"In our conference, a lot of teams come to our games and knowthey have to stop Joey. He doesn't have the luxury of sneaking up onpeople, but he still manages to get it done."
Conte and Wade willtry to get it done when the archrivals meet in their final game Nov.2 at Anne Arundel Community College. Whether the C Conference title will be on the line that day -- as it was last season -- is unknown.
What is known, however, is that no matter what's at stake, a war will be waged.
"I'm looking forward to it," said Conte, whose team has bowed to the Admirals the past three years.
They'll be ready, and so will we."