Mervo's Blake exits basketball court

April 20, 1994|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,Sun Staff Writer

Mervo's John Blake resigned early last month as boys basketball coach, ending a turbulent battle for a job he twice had to file grievances to keep.

"It was completely my decision to resign," said Blake. "It was getting too difficult trying to run two major programs at the 4A level, having joined the state association."

Athletic director Woody Williams said Blake submitted a letter of resignation to principal Christolyne Buie on March 12, adding that "the position hasn't been filled."

"The principal will make that appointment at the appropriate time," said Williams, who became athletic director in 1990.

"I've had a couple of other basketball coaches ask me to help with their programs," Blake said. "But right now, I've just made a decision to stick with football."

Blake had been Mervo's basketball coach for five years before losing the position to Williams -- a former Lake Clifton coach -- in October 1990. Blake filed his first grievance with the teachers union and was reinstated in the November before the start of that season.

Williams again took over the program during the 1992-93 season after an agreement with Buie, which neither would comment about. Blake filed a second grievance with the union in the fall of 1992 but did not receive a favorable ruling until the next March.

Blake coached for the 1993-94 season before stepping down last month.

"It's been a four-year struggle," said Blake. "And, honestly, that did have some impact. There was just too much wear and tear."

Abbott's on board

With little fanfare in early February, Brian Abbott, 28, was named football coach at St. Paul's, replacing the man he assisted for three years -- Mitch Tullai -- who retired last fall after 41 years.

Tullai, 65, ended his career with a 209-126 record and 10 Maryland Scholastic Association titles. He is the area's second-winningest coach behind Poly's Augie Waibel.

A 1985 St. Paul's graduate, a four-year varsity linebacker and running back, and an honorable-mention All-Metro pick as a senior, Abbott helped Tullai win his sixth crown in 1982.

Abbott, an assistant athletic director to St. Paul's Mark Reuss, played college lacrosse and football at both Springfield (Mass.) College and Towson University.

"It's an easy transition," said Reuss. "Coach Tullai's going to help out a little, but we have confidence that Brian can uphold the winning tradition."

An assistant at McDonogh for two years, Abbott said, "I'm looking forward to teaching the kids about football and life in general."

Lakers look good

Lake Clifton lacrosse coach John Baker has been pleasantly surprised by the Lakers' undefeated record through five games -- a considerable improvement over last year's 5-7 record.

With 16 returning lettermen, Baker has a more mature and experienced team, including goalie David Fulgham (11 saves per game) and leading scorer Paul Preston (25 goals), both juniors.

The Lakers' toughest challenges should come when they play host to once-beaten Poly on April 29 and Forest Park on May 9.

Lake Clifton's momentum has lasted through two consecutive overtime victories -- one Friday by 9-8 over twice-beaten Northwestern.

The Lakers also were impressive with a 4-2 win over City, which boasts the league's top-returning scorer, Ben Posil (39 goals, 17 assists last year). Fulgham had a season-high 16 saves against City, last year's 4A-2A league tri-champion with Poly and Forest Park, which was shut out in the first half.

This season's success is due in large part to a strong effort by defensemen Antoin Edmonds, Tory Gilliard and Cameron Battle. Nate Weed (seven goals, two assists) and faceoff specialist Rickey Mathews (five goals, four assists) also have made solid contributions.

Plienis wins big

McDonogh's sophomore All-Metro wrestler J.R. Plienis (209 pounds) placed first in both the Greco-Roman and freestyle events last weekend at the Cadet World Team Trials in Chicago.

Plienis, 15, won Greco-Roman for the second straight year and improved on last year's freestyle runner-up finish. He is ranked No. 1 by USA wrestling in both disciplines at 182.5 and 209 pounds. The Nos. 2, 6 and 9-ranked 209-pounders didn't place.

"I figured I'd do better than last year," said Plienis, who was third in last month's National Preps Tournament for McDonogh, losing an overtime semifinal bout to the eventual champ.

Also doing well was Havre de Grace's state runner-up Thomas Free (103), who placed third in Greco-Roman. Free was a second-team All-Metro pick and a Harford County and regional champ.

Next up are the June 24-30 World Championships in Chicago in which Plienis placed 10th a year ago as a Greco-Roman competitor.

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