Patriots are sinking while Admirals ascend Bruised, winless Patriots fighting for their future

September 25, 1992|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,Staff Writer

For members of Old Mill's football team, the season hasn't been about winning, it's been about survival.

Injuries may be a part of the game for other programs, but they've been a way of life for the winless Patriots.

They have seen their best players removed from the field with varying ailments, and their hopes of winning a third straight Region IV championship suffer a crippling blow.

"It's been a combination of a lot of different nagging injuries," said Old Mill coach Pete Regala, trying to rationalize an 0-3 start.

"In this game, it's a matter of who's going to be healthy and who isn't. It depends on who has the studs, and right now, we don't have as many. There aren't too many things you can do about that."

One alternative was to shuffle some of the remaining heathy bodies, which he did in preparation for tomorrow's 7 p.m. game at Meade. The changes are being kept a secret, but Regala said, "If they don't pay off this week, maybe they will down the road."

They won't if his personnel continue to drop like the temperature.

So far, the 10th-year coach has watched as senior linebacker Brian Jones -- Old Mill's leading tackler last season -- went down with an ankle injury, and junior lineman Dan Ramsey broke his right leg in the opening game, a 14-13 overtime loss to LaPlata.

Senior Israel Deschaine hurt his right knee last week in a 33-7 loss to Severna Park. He was scheduled to undergo surgery yesterday, and Regala said he doesn't expect the 6-foot-2, 232-pound tackle to return this season.

"That's a tough loss for us," Regala said. "We only had a couple players coming back [from last year], and that was one. And with [Jones] hurting, it makes things tough."

So does having senior defensive end Byron Brown sidelined with a virus. These guys aren't immune to illness, either.

The Patriots already were reeling after graduation took most of their starters. Regala spoke of rebuilding during August practices, but he never expected to find this many holes.

"The players are responding real well, though," he said. "The attitude's been real good. They're still working hard. They haven't quit, and the coaching staff hasn't quit.

"Right now, we're just trying to get enough depth and get the kids to know what they need to know. There are still seven games left and anything can happen. If we can get started this week, hopefully that will turn things around."

One bright spot has been the play of senior running back George Epps, a transfer from Arundel who rushed for 142 yards last week. He scored both touchdowns against LaPlata on a 50-yard fumble return and a 12-yard reception.

"He's done an outstanding job and we're glad to have him here," Regala said. "The only question I had at the beginning was do I play him at running back or quarterback?"

The LaPlata game was an omen, with the injuries and a failed two-point conversion in overtime deciding the outcome.

Penalties and the inability to contain Chesapeake running back Brandon Steinheim, who rushed for 113 yards and three touchdowns, contributed to a 23-10 defeat to the Cougars the following week. The score was tied, 10-10, after three quarters, before the Cougars broke loose to go 1-1 and match their victory total of each of the past two seasons.

Then came the loss to rival Severna Park, when Old Mill reduced the number of penalties and rushed for over 200 yards, but couldn't keep the score close.

Two Severna Park interceptions led to touchdowns, and a fumbled punt by Old Mill resulted in another.

"We had mental mistakes that cost us. Unfortunately, whenever that happens and we're not doing the right things, the other team scores," Regala said.

Each miscue takes the Patriots another step closer to being exiled from the playoffs.

"We have an outside shot now," Regala said. "Anything is possible. I've seen teams make it before with three losses. You never know what can happen.

"We've gone through our share of injuries. Maybe it's time for someone else to have theirs."

Meade has enough problems of its own. The Mustangs dressed 19 players in losses to Springbrook, 20-13 in overtime, and Annapolis, 28-0, but won their first game last week, 18-10, over Queen Anne's.

"We're not looking at their misfortune. We're looking to play a good team," said senior Chris Yurwitz, who started at quarterback against Chesapeake and Severna Park.

"We've learned not to guess with teams. We thought Chesapeake would be weak. We'll play Meade as hard as we can."

They'll need that kind of effort, and good health, through the remainder of the season.

"I've seen progress the last three games," Regala said. "Hopefully, we've improved just enough to be on top next time. We've had our problems, but we're working to solve them and I think eventually we'll be back on the winning track here.

"It's been difficult, but we'll survive."

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