Turning point for this year's Joppatowne squad came last season Juniors raised level of team

September 27, 1992|By John W. Stewart | John W. Stewart,Staff Writer

The turning point for this year's Joppatowne High School football team actually came last season.

A group of junior second-year starters complemented the seniors, and the unit began showing it could play with the top teams in the county.

The Mariners were suddenly in games that had been routs the year before, and they went to the state Class 1A semifinals. Three games into the current schedule, the team was undefeated and had yet to give up a point.

Three of the senior leaders -- two-way starters Mike Harris, Chris Carr and Kris Weber -- talked about it the other day.

"We came up together, and we had a different [footballmentality," said Harris, an offensive guard and linebacker. "We had won in rec ball and then won as JVs. We were used to it.

"The varsity teams here had been getting whipped 72-32, 33-0, scores like that, and there had been losing seasons. Where we had not been competitive before, now those big scores became 12-6 and 27-26. We showed we could play with teams like Aberdeen and C. Milton Wright."

Joppatowne went 7-3 in the regular season and was unscored upon for its first four games before losing to Aberdeen, 12-6.

"The ones we lost could have gone either way. Before we were getting killed," added Carr, a tackle who plays bigger than his size (6-foot-2, 215 pounds).

Harris said, "If someone scores on us this year, it will just make us that much tougher the next time. We've been focused on this since the end of last season."

"Besides, we understand Coach [Karlis] Larson's philosophy. We see how things are supposed to work and that makes us work harder. Our intensity, on and off the field, builds through the week, and by Thursday we're hard to contain. We're the 'new breed.' "

Weber, 6-1 and 170 pounds, is a solid blocker and tackler. "He's nasty," said Harris, laughing, "He loves to hit."

Where the Mariners' defense had dominated the first two games (Rising Sun and Bel Air), the offense started catching up in a 20-0 win over John Carroll.

"The offense had a couple of long drives, and the defense allowed one first down," Carr said. "We have some younger players and they are getting better every week."

Weber said, "We're playing as a unit; not worrying about personal stats. Last week, Chris took over the game. Before that, was Avion Epps, and Jason Boswell before him. We know we'll get the job done."

Defensively, fumble recoveries, interceptions and a blocked punt have contributed to touchdowns.

Junior Chad Gary and freshman defensive back Wendell Davis each have two interceptions, and ends Cable Miller (forced a safety) and Rodney Briscoe (40-yard return of a fumble for a touchdown) have anchored the defensive line.

Offensively, running back Gary is the second-leading county scorer with four touchdowns, and quarterback Darrell Everett has shown steady improvement. Against John Carroll, his eight completions (in 16 attempts) were nearly as many as in the first two games combined.

"Our start was not unexpected, although shutting out three teams was a pleasant surprise," Larson said. "We didn't know whether we'd get off this quickly, but we knew we had the potential to be good.

"The determining factor, however, will be injuries. Our success depends on not having any, because we don't have a lot of depth."

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