Don't ground Zucco he has Cats flying

SIDELINES

October 20, 1993|By PAT O'MALLEY

Those "boo birds" who have been circling Arundel High in Gambrills since last year had better fly south, because head football coach Bill Zucco has got the Wildcats flying high.

It might be time for the critics to lay off, take a hard look at the record and give Zuke credit for what he is doing with a program that has been down for a few years.

Recently a group of Arundel High football parents met to discuss how to oust Zucco as head coach. That was after a lackluster 20-0 loss to Glen Burnie (4-3).

TC As it turns out, the Glen Burnie loss would be sandwiched between two major upsets, a 20-14 triumph over then sixth-ranked North County (currently 6-1 and No. 9) on Oct. 1, and Friday's 30-14 romp over then No. 15 Severna Park (4-3), a team that had embarrassed the Cats, 45-14 last season.

All three Arundel losses have been to winning teams -- Calvert County's Northern (6-1) by 28-15 and by 22-15 to Broadneck (5-2). Arundel was down 22-0 in the Broadneck game and nearly pulled it out.

Arundel athletic director Bernie Walter was told about the parents' discontent before the Severna Park game and said, "I doubt if they will come to me, because they know I support Bill.

"He straightened a few things out at the end of last season, made a couple coaching changes and look what's happened since. The team has really improved and I think he [Zucco] has them on the right track. The parents who have complaints need to step back."

After a rocky start in 1992 in which the Wildcats lost their first six games, Arundel has gone 7-4.

The Cats won three of their last four, including a 27-0 romp over neighbor Meade and stand at 4-3 going into Old Mill (1-6) Friday night. The two major upsets are among this year's four wins, which put Arundel in position to have its first winning season since 1985 (9-2).

Arundel last went .500 (5-5) in 1990 and in 1988 after a run of dominance during the early 80's under Buddy Hepfer, who stepped down after the 1991 (4-6) season. Hepfer was 93-61 in 15 seasons and Zucco, the school's JV coach succeeded him last fall.

Zucco coached JV football on and off for 15 years at the Gambrills school where he first began teaching in 1966. He first coached under the late Jerry Mears and then Hepfer before landing the top position.

But it was a job that some parents thought should have gone to a younger man than Zucco, 52.

"Hey look, I know some people want my job and I learned a long time ago that dealing with complaints is part of the territory," said Zucco. "And I'm not ready to give this job up because I still love coaching."

Zucco admits that last year was frustrating, "especially at the beginning when we couldn't win a game, but we've turned it around because of our seniors who have showed a lot of leadership."

The 12th grade contingent was undefeated in JV football their ninth grade season and, according to Zucco, "have a winning attitude that is showing this year."

Zucco also pointed to the senior nucleus of his football team being the nucleus of a State 4A championship baseball team in the spring.

"I know some people around here don't like to hear it, but some of our top seniors are baseball players and playing for Bernie [Walter, also head baseball coach], they know how to win," said Zucco.

Those senior football/baseball players are Jeff Hedrick, Kevyn Dodson, J. P. Noon, Jamie Stoddard and Tony Costanzo and juniors Casey Trout and Russ Allen.

"Of course, I want all our teams to do well and be competitive, and Zucco has the football team moving in the right direction," said Walter.

It's the gripers who are moving in the wrong direction.

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