Woodlawn earns way to Pop Warner final

December 08, 1993|By Rich Scherr | Rich Scherr,Contributing Writer

Throughout much of this season, the toughest challenge for )) the Woodlawn Rams has been playing well enough to land a spot in this weekend's Pop Warner 10-12 national championship game.

Lately, though, the local team has faced an even bigger challenge.

Getting there.

But after winning each of their 10 games this season, the last three coming in the state and regional playoffs, Woodlawn players have carried grocery bags, sold candy and raffle tickets and solicited donations of over $11,000 -- enough to get them to Saturday's title game in Santa Clara, Calif.

Their many hours of hard work have come as no surprise to coach Tony Lee. He says it's the same quality that helped lead his team to the finals in the first place.

DTC "These kids will do anything I ask of them," said Lee, the Rams' second-year coach. "There's no back talk, they come to practice every week and they listen. This is the only team I've ever had [in eight years of coaching] where the kids actually enjoy practice."

And in the case of this team, practice, so far, has made perfect.

The Rams have outscored opponents, 200-45, and already have won the Maryland and Mid-Atlantic Pop Warner championships.

Last month in the state title game at Mervo, the Rams scored a 12-6 overtime win against Northwood -- the organization that two years ago won a national Pop Warner title in the 11-13 division.

The coach of that Northwood team, Dunbar High's Stanley Mitchell, says the key to winning is relaxing and sticking to the game plan.

"Just play your game," said Mitchell, The Baltimore Sun's 1993 High School Football Coach of the Year. "You have to get your kids focused and try to keep them away from the crowd. There's a lot of interference around there."

Mitchell said that a key is having the players weigh in as soon as possible so that "they can eat as much as they want."

If Woodlawn is going to fatten up on opposing Winston-Salem, N.C., however, it will need more than high caloric intake. Winston-Salem is known for its strong running attack, said Mitchell.

But power football is the Rams' trademark.

The team features six running backs, led by Wayne Jackson, Bryan Johnson and Jeffery Price, and only one quarterback, Mikal Plummer.

"Everybody wanted to run the ball," said Lee, who designed a ground-oriented offense that features double tight ends, a flanker in the slot and two running backs.

Other weapons include Ramone Simpson, who has returned three punts for touchdowns; tight end Rome Holly, whom Lee calls "Mr. Everything;" powerful Sean Tilley, a nose guard and fullback; reliable center Omar Howard, who hasn't botched one snap this season; and kicker Jarrod Vincent, who won the Baltimore-area Punt, Pass and Kick competition.

But this team has more going for it that just athleticism. All season, Lee has stressed education, and the players have responded.

Thirty of 31 attained the required 73.5-percent school average to play in regionals, a fact Lee says is a source of pride for the team.

Another is the manner in which they raised the money. While Lee took to the radio and television airwaves to make his plea, the players took to the streets.

This past Saturday, in a driving rainstorm, they went with team "moms" Juanita Thomas and Nancy Amer to grocery stores along the Liberty Road corridor, where they sold candy bars and raffle tickets, and carried grocery bags, with every cent going toward the trip.

"It was a lot harder than I expected," said Kenny Thompson, an outside linebacker. "A lot of the players didn't think they'd have to actually go out and ask for money, but we're all really excited to go."

Area business leaders have picked up the bulk of the tab, helping the team pay for $10,000 worth of round-trip airline tickets.

"They've never felt like this before," Lee said. "It's been beautiful. The community has really come through, and the kids are living out a dream."

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