Doug DuVall faced several challenges at Wilde Lake this year, besides upholding the usual high standard of football in the county's strongest program.
First, the Wildecats lost numerous standout players to graduation after their state championship last year. The defensivesecondary and offensive line had several question marks. On paper, the team didn't figure to replace the departed talent.
"The big challenge was to try to come back and repeat as state champs," said DuVall, the Howard County Sun's Coach of the Year.
"Once you say you're going to do that, you put your feet in concrete. Wehad a lot of good players who needed to become great players in order to do it."
DuVall had his share of proven talent to work with, players like linebacker Brent Guyton, running back Damon Hamlin and lineman James Easterly.
But he also had his share of adjustments to make. Like turning Blaize Connelly-Duggan, an accomplished defensive tackle, into an effective offensive tackle. Like making a strong center out of Cedric Benning, a senior who had hardly played organized football. Like making a dependable full
back out of senior Aric Swezy, a part-time player last year. Like getting steady production out of a five-man receiving corps.
DuVall did all of that, not to mention assimilating two senior transfers -- Andre Martin and Shane Allen -- and senior walk-on George Bradford, who had never played football,into the Wilde Lake scheme.
Martin, a gifted transfer from BishopMcNamara in Prince George's County, was a critical contributor to the defense immediately, but he also gave Wilde Lake added punch in theoffensive backfield in the second half of the season.
Allen, a transfer from Wyoming, became a force at defensive end. And Bradford started every game at safety, while giving the Wildecats excellent field position all year with the best punting in the county.
DuVall left his mark in another way. The Wildecats, like a typical championship team, got better each week.
After two close victories in their first three games, they tore through their county schedule unbeaten, recording shutouts in six of their next seven victories and outscoringthe league, 237-13.