I keep waiting for Bob Greene to wink.
You remember Bob Greene. Rookie head football coach from Milford Mill High School. Good strategist, great talker. Excellent motivator, even if he sometimes assists his opponents.
As his players walked slowly toward the team bus Saturday at Wilde Lake -- the taste of a 42-0 trouncing fresh in their mouths, a promising season derailed in the Class 1A semifinals by a Wildecats team that has not lost in two years -- Greene reflected on "the comments."
A week before, Greene made some interesting pronouncements, whichseemed on the surface almost made in jest. He told reporters how much he couldn't wait to play Wilde Lake. He guaranteed a close game, said his team had the speed to beat Wilde Lake and -- this is where things got serious -- declared that the Wildecats had impressive size but lacked aggressiveness.
You look at Wilde Lake, and you don't figure a team this talented, this close to recording back-to-back, statechampionships as needing a wake-up call.
But Greene's comments, which were copied and distributed throughout the school five days before the game, served as a lightning rod for the Wildecats. All week inpractice, they never questioned who would win and advance to this Saturday's finals at College Park. The only questions revolved around whether Wilde Lake would record its eighth shutout and how many pointsit would pile up in the process. The coaches and players were equally steamed.
Saturday, they showered Greene with cold reality.
The defense overwhelmed the Millers, allowing just four first downs, 27net yards and only one trip across midfield. They kept Milford pinned inside its own 35-yard line for the entire first half, while the Wildecats were taking a 22-0 halftime lead. They recovered two fumbles,intercepted quarterback Jerome Dennis once and sacked him five times, one of which produced a safety.
The offense scored six touchdowns by crushing the Millers up front and rolling up nearly 300 yards. They scored 20 points in the final eight minutes, thanks to two poor Milford Mill punts and a turnover, all of which gave Wilde Lake possessions inside the Millers' 20.
In all, the Wildecats were faster, more skilled and quite aggressive.
Greene knows this. He watched the same one-sided show along with nearly 2,000 spectators. But he refused to admit his pregame comments were a motivational gift that should never be given.
"I don't regret my comments," he said. "You haveto use every edge you can get."
Edge? What football school has this guy been attending? The Buddy Ryan Remedial Clinic? You don't bad-mouth a team that has won 25 straight games and has outscored this year's 12 victims, 354-47. You invite them over for dinner. You offer to wash their cars.
"We didn't want to come in here with our tails between our legs," he said.
Good point. Of course, Greene also hadsomething to do with the Millers departing that way.
Greene then delivered the grand finale.
"My guys played to the best of their ability, but they (Wilde Lake) are a great team. They have better athletes," he said. "And this (wet) field really killed us. We were wearing the wrong shoes. Did you see the way our guys were falling down?"
Milford Mill's runners slipped occasionally on the soggy surface, as did Wilde Lake's. But most of the Millers who fell down had one ortwo Wildecats stuck to them.
As for the field conditions, what did Greene expect? Hadn't he bothered to look out the window Friday andnotice the 12 hours of non-stop rain? Wrong shoes? I'm about to falldown laughing.
The game proved once again the value of old advice. You don't give the big, bad bully another reason to push you around. Kicking a weakling while he's down is reprehensible. Kicking a giant while he's standing is just plain stupid.
For a few fleeting moments Saturday, Greene's "strategy" actually worked. The Wildecats were in such an emotional frenzy that their concentration suffered.
On Wilde Lake's first possession, wide receiver Pat Brown -- the team's scholar-athlete, of all people -- drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, killing the drive.
"We wanted to make the big play or the big hit so bad that we were over-aggressive," said running back DamonHamlin, who was flagged several times for illegal motion, but scoredthree touchdowns and rushed for 104 yards.
The Wildecats scored on two of their next three possessions to take a 13-0 lead midway through the second period. The first touchdown resulted from a one-play drive, a 28-yard run by Andre Martin (nine carries, 74 yards, two TDs). The second was a three-play, 22-yard march that Hamlin finished with a 7-yard run.
Tony Farace sacked Dennis for a safety 40 seconds later. The Wildecats made it 22-0 in the closing seconds of the half on a 1-yard run by Martin.
Wilde Lake then went nearly 16 minutes without scoring in the second half. But in the final eight minutes, the Wildecats went crazy. Thanks to great defense and poor punts by Milford Mill, two straight Wildecats drives started inside the Millers 20. They each ended quickly with touchdown runs by Hamlin.
Then, in the final 20 seconds, Wilde Lake made its statement. Martin picked off a tipped pass and ran 28 yards to the Milford Mill 1. The entire junior varsity unit trotted onto the field, and on the next play, freshman running back Alan Anderson scored. The Wilde Lake bench cheeredlouder than it had all day.
"I don't care if they scored 90 points. I don't care about that," said Greene. "If they got mad because I said a few things, that's par for the course. I didn't like the way they talked to me after the game."
I'm still waiting for Bob Greeneto wink.