Fallston knocking on back door of playoffs Football

November 08, 1992|By John W. Stewart | John W. Stewart,Staff Writer

Before Thursday night's football game between Fallston and C. Milton Wright, the game appeared to mirror two teams that had reached the final regular-season game from opposite directions.

Both are fundamentally sound with strong runners, tough defenders and big-play players.

C. Milton Wright came in with its 32-game regular-season winning streak, including a 9-0 season that had seen it climb steadily in The Baltimore Sun poll to No. 2, behind only City College.

On the other hand, with little fanfare, Fallston had come together with a good, solid entry. The Cougars, who had not had as much as a .500 record since 1985 (they were 3-7 last year), lost their first two, then won six of their next seven, including the last two by shutting out North Harford and Havre de Grace.

A win would have assured Fallston a playoff berth in Class 1A, but after the 21-6 loss it will have to wait for the selections to be announced today.

Regardless, the idea of mentioning Fallston's football team and state playoffs in the same sentence would have seemed ridiculous in recent years, as the program was beset by problems on and off the field.

Dave Cesky, backed by 17 years of coaching experience, had an idea a successful season was possible when he watched some of his charges in a four-week seven-on-seven passing league that C. Milton Wright coach Steve Harward organized last summer.

"I could see the enthusiasm and the success our players had, and I believed it would carry over," the Fallston coach said.

"Our big problems early were injuries and no depth. In addition, Nick Johnson, a starting running back, was late coming out and missed the first two games."

The Cougars wilted in 100-degree heat at Loch Raven, losing 12-7, then lost to Edgewood, 12-6.

"The opener was a coaching lesson. The heat got us, and we weren't ready for that type of game," he said. "As a result, we stepped up our running -- and overall conditioning -- tremendously. It has paid off, too, because we're stronger and we have won some games in the fourth quarter."

A game it won in the first quarter, creating a lot of sudden interest in the process, was its 42-0 whipping of Havre de Grace 10 days ago.

Johnson, a slender 6-foot-1 junior, rushed for 139 yards and three touchdowns. Mike Weaver, a 5-11, 175-pound senior, ran for another 114 yards, and the defense gave up minimal yardage until the outcome was no longer in doubt.

The Cougars have a strong group of seniors who know how to win. They were successful on the JV level, and although that does not carry over sometimes, they, in Cesky's words, "know what it takes to win."

Among the two-way leaders are Weaver, a running back and a linebacker; Craig Rhoten, an offensive lineman and a linebacker; Brad Baker, a wide receiver and safety, and Kris Kapinos, a safety.

"Weaver is our steadiest player. He's had several 100-yard rushing games and is a tremendous blocker. He and Rhoten are big-play players on both sides of the ball," Cesky said.

Of Rhoten he said, "He's one of the best I've coached. He averages about 20 tackles a game. In our overtime win at Northeast, they went for a tying two-point conversion, and he was the one that stopped the ball-carrier in the backfield."

Baker, one of the county's top receivers on offense and defense (four interceptions), "has come through with some big catches for us, and he has drawn a lot of respect from other teams. In one game, he had five defenders around him and we threw to another receiver for a touchdown."

Kapinos is listed as a safety on defense, but the team's alignment often has nine-man front, with Kapinos called upon to come up on possible running plays and get back on others for pass protection.

Overall, the team has 14 interceptions -- most since the 1981 team had 15 -- with every starter in the secondary and two linebackers getting at least one.

Elsewhere on defense, Fallston uses two down linemen -- senior Keith Lee and junior Chris Harrison -- and has seen excellent improvement by its defensive ends, junior Adam Hewat and sophomore Mike Ballard.

By this afternoon, Fallston's season could be history, but the seniors can go out knowing they made meaningful contributions to a program that appears to have turned around, evoking memories of the school's winning tradition of 10-15 years ago.

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