Wmc, Russians Find New Detente On Gridiron

Green Terrors And Their Hosts Exchange Lessons

March 18, 1992|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,Staff writer

American football.

It's amazing how a single, common bond can help overcome seemingly boundless barriers.

On Sunday, the Western Maryland College football team had its first joint practice with the Russian all-star team it defeated, 47-7, last night in Moscow.

The idea was to teach the Russian players a little bit more about the game Americans are so familiar with.

But the task wasn't quite that simple.

Whatever it took (Western Maryland senior wide receiver Andy Steckel diagrammed plays on his hand), the Green Terrors players found a way to communicate with their Russian counterparts.

Along the way, they also found some new friends.

"On Sunday, our players didn't know what to expect," said WMC sports information director Scott Deitch in a telephone interview from Moscow last night.

"They just kept working at it and working at it, doing the best they could to teach them our game."

"A lot of friendships have developed along the way. (Running back) Eric (Frees) madea good friend with a Russian running back. Our guys truly respect the Russians in the way they're trying to learn the game."

As last night's historic game came to an end, the two teams left as one big group -- neither in any particular hurry to leave the field.

Deitch said several Russian players visited the Western Maryland squad last night for an informal gathering, and players from both teams are scheduled to have dinner together tonight.

The game itself went without a hitch, he said, aside from the low ceiling, which played havoc with both teams' kicking games.

An enthusiastic and surprisingly knowledgeable crowd of about 4,000 fans watched the Green Terrors easilyhandle the bigger, but far less polished, Russian all-stars.

"We played against a class bunch of gentlemen," Western Maryland coach Dale Sprague said. "They have some very, very good athletes. They're very hard-nosed. They're going to be a good football team in a couple of years."

Misdirection runs and the option were the two main weapons the Green Terrors used on their way to victory.

There were somehighlights for the Russian team, however, including eight completed passes, a 43-yard kick return and a touchdown on their final drive --capped by an 11-yard scoring toss.

With the game now behind them,the focus for the Western Maryland players will be finding out a little more about the Russian way of life. Today, they will be visiting the Kremlin, a trip scheduled for yesterday, but postponed because ofa protest rally.

"The only Russians they've truly met are the players," Deitch said. "Now they'll get more of a chance to be in the middle of everything and see the way of life here."

What stuck out most to many Western Maryland players when they first arrived in Moscow was how dirty and bleak the city was.

"It's the dirtiest, grungiest place I've ever seen," said senior WMC linebacker Jim Webster.

Deitch added, "There's a lot of broken down cars along the street and trash along the sides of the street. A lot of construction projectswere started, but there was no money to complete them, so there is alot of construction equipment on the streets."

"There's a sense that they (the Russian people) feel they're turning the corner but they're just not sure how long it will take."

Perhaps Sprague summed it up best: "They're getting an education in football, and we're getting an education in life."

Will Englund of The Baltimore Sun Moscow Bureau and The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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