Columbia Bulldogs grew quickly into a title team

December 09, 1992|By Rich Scherr | Rich Scherr,Contributing Writer

Head coach Fred Brooks thought they'd be a .500 team. Assistant Ed Sanford pegged them a couple of notches below his team of a year ago.

Nobody, not even the coaches, expected this year's 11-13 Columbia Bulldogs to be much of a force on the football field. Some questioned their conditioning, others their desire.

Three months later, the Bulldogs answered, completing an undefeated season with a win over Lacey, N.J., in the Pop Warner Mid-Atlantic championship game.

For a program that doesn't recruit athletes, unlike many of its opponents, the win was the culmination of a storybook season for Brooks, Sanford and assistant Joe Bross.

"It was pretty much of a dream season," said Brooks. "It surprised us how fast they developed. When we first got them, the line couldn't even block. They really learned and came on strong."

Said Sanford: "At first, they didn't have the enthusiasm, they weren't in shape and I just didn't think this team had it.

"Somewhere along the way, though, they managed to come together as a team."

The Bulldogs finished 12-0-1, the second team in Columbia Football Association history to win a regional title. The first, the 1988 8-10 team, included many players from this year's Bulldogs.

But though the Bulldogs dominated their competition, running the triple option to perfection in outscoring opponents 275-107, it was an early-season tie that might have been the turning point.

Squaring off against defending national Pop Warner champion Northwood in the third week, Columbia outplayed Northwood for most of the game and settled for a 12-12 tie.

The next week, against a Highlandtown team that had beaten them handily in a preseason scrimmage, the Bulldogs gave their best performance of the season, a 20-7 win.

"That was the most rewarding game of the season," said Brooks. "They had just been rolling over teams."

Captain and fullback Scott Bross said the Bulldogs' inspired play against Northwood and Highlandtown gave players the confidence they needed to push toward the championship.

"The third week was when I thought we really had a chance," said Bross, "but the fourth week was when I knew we could do it."

The Bulldogs rode that momentum for a good part of the season, and later, in the Maryland Football Association playoffs, defeated both teams in consecutive weeks.

With a little confidence, there was nothing the Bulldogs couldn't do. The players expected to win each week, and it was the job of the coaching staff to press the right buttons.

"The object is teaching the kids at this age to grasp something," said Sanford. "I believe in simplicity -- power football, no tricks. We were able to be successful because we have intelligent players who are good athletes."

The coaches wouldn't have it any other way.

"We practice hard, but when school starts, school is No. 1, football is No. 2," said Brooks. "We tell the kids they don't have time to skateboard or play video games. If they want to be successful, they have to study."

Once the whistle blew, the Bulldogs were a study in determination.

Running back Fardan Carter was a prize pupil. Carter, 13, who runs the 40-yard -- in 4.5 seconds, rushed for more than 2,000 yards, terrorized quarterbacks at outside linebacker and handled the kicking.

"He's always been a good player, but this year he was just dominating," said Sanford, also the vice president of the CFA. "He was as dominating as any player I've seen in this age group. He learned a lot this year."

Carter, along with backfield mate Dain Lewis, quarterback Casey Moffett, Bross and several others of the 25 players, plan to compete in high school.

Bulldogs alumni include Northwestern University's Corey Singleton, Penn State's Ricky Rowe and Maryland's Raphael Wall. This season, five former Bulldogs started on the Atholton junior varsity, including fullback Ricky Trott, who scored 14 touchdowns to lead the team, and two on the Mount Hebron varsity.

"We look at ourselves as being the farm club for most of these schools," said Brooks.

But producing top football players isn't the only goal of the program. It's also producing top kids.

"If they can work together and make something of themselves, then we've done our job," Brooks said.

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