Film festival stars state's best players

December 11, 1992|By Chuck Acquisto | Chuck Acquisto,Contributing Writer

The Maryland Scholastic Football Coaches Association' fourth annual film festival this week might not have compared to Cannes, but for dozens of senior high-school football players, it was a strong link to earning a college scholarship.

For 35 college football programs, the recruiting fair was a chance for coaches to do mass holiday shopping at relatively low cost.

High-school football coaches from across the state were on hand to meet with college assistant coaches at College Park's Park View Inn Wednesday and yesterday to push talented seniors via videotapes at the MSFCA's recruiting fair.

"It's a good one-stop shopping center," said Randallstown head coach and District VI director John Buchheister, who was pushing his seniors Bill Garrett, Kevin Anderson and Jevon Dolan to West Virginia Wesleyan assistant Brian Jozwiak.

"We've been doing this for four years and it's been beneficial for us in Baltimore County," said Buchheister. "Unfortunately, it's impossible to tell exactly how many kids get scholarships as a result."

Hammond head coach Joe Russo has seen at least one of his players benefit from the event.

"Two years ago, Cliff Epps received a scholarship from James Madison University as a direct result of this film festival," Russo said. "It's just great for high-school players who may be Division I-AA or Division II talented, but are overlooked for whatever reason."

The film festival grew out of MSFCA members' frustration at having senior players passed over by Division I-A and I-AA college programs.

It may be no coincidence that since the film festival began, the number of Division I-A college football scholarship players per capita has risen in Maryland.

A Gannett News Service study showed Maryland ranks 13th in the nation in football scholarships per capita (151 total players), just behind Virginia.

"We must be doing something right if our per capita is higher than Texas," said Patterson head coach and MSFCA president Roger Wrenn. "Part of the fair's success is just matching guys with the right schools. I don't know if overlooked is the right word for some of our players."

Wrenn was pleased with this year's college turnout, noting many college assistants viewed tapes until 3 a.m. yesterday while others arrived at 6 a.m. yesterday to begin the process.

"This event works for this state because there are relatively a low number of high schools and geographically it is a small region," said William & Mary assistant Chris Thatcher.

For the film festival, the MSFCA rents eight rooms, supplies 16 VCRs and hundreds of videotapes.

Jens Rygh, the MSFCA film festival coordinator, said 278 colleges were invited, ranging from Michigan to Fork Union Military (Va.) Academy. Each college is charged $65 to help cover food and lodging.

"I first got the idea while bird-dogging and driving college coaches all over the state," said Rygh, a 42-year-old Prince George's County probation officer. "On a good day, a college coach can visit five or six high schools. Now, they're just walking from room to room seeing dozens of schools and as many as 150 players."

Even more beneficial to college assistants is the presence of high- school coaches and fellow college assistants.

"At our school, we don't have nearly enough kids from this state," Lehigh University assistant John Bonamego said. "From what I've seen, there are good high schools and players here."

Jozwiak, a former All-American at West Virginia and a No. 1 draft pick of the Kansas City Chiefs in 1986 who played at Catonsville High, said the smaller Division II, III and NAIA schools with limited budgets need such film festivals.

"We can't afford to go visit every kid. Here you can come watch films, listen to other coaches talk about players and we can narrow our focus down to a handful with relative ease," he said. Virginia and New York have similar fairs, he said.

The film festival is just one of several programs the MSFCA has instituted in the past few years. The first combined workout for high-school juniors was held last May at College Park, and another is scheduled this spring.

"We had the players run the 40,measure their vertical leap,do the standingbroad jump and measure how far they can toss a medicine ball,"Rygh said. "Thenwe mass mail these resulys to the colleges during the summer.It's just partof making this state more recruitable.

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