New challenge for Wilde Lake

HOWARD SPORTS

August 28, 1994|By RICK BELZ

The four state football championships. The 174-41 career record. The still youthful face. The warm grin. The thick yellow hair that glistens when the sun hits it.

It's no wonder that some people call Wilde Lake football coach Doug DuVall "The Golden Boy."

He looks the part. And almost every team he coaches produces to its maximum.

He needs that golden touch now more than ever. He faces one of his greatest challenges in 21 seasons.

Doubt about Wilde Lake's invincibility is the first hurdle; graduation of key players is another; and practice conditions that no coaching staff should have to endure is the third hurdle.

During their three straight state championship seasons the Wildecats were 38-1.

Last season the record tumbled to 5-6; Boonsboro crushed the hopes for a fourth straight state championship by trouncing Wilde Lake in the state quarterfinal, 48-7; Southern-AA dominated Wilde Lake, 48-0 in a regular-season game; the Wildecats' league record was 4-3. Invincible? Hardly.

Now subtract 16 seniors, including impact players such as quarterback Seth Willingham, running back Mike Green, tackle Jay Green and wide receiver Jermaine Sutton, and just how good can the Wildecats be this season?

DuVall prefers to think positively. That's part of his personality. And one of the reasons he's so successful year after year.

"Last year we were three plays away from an 8-3 season," he said. Wilde Lake lost three close games -- to South Carroll, 15-14; Hammond, 16-14; Oakland Mills, 28-27.

On this season's practice front, positive thinking is enabling DuVall to turn around a potentially disastrous situation.

The demolition of Wilde Lake High School means that the football team must commute 4 1/2 miles back and forth from Wilde Lake's temporary home at newly constructed River Hill High, whose fields are not ready.

When football practice started Aug. 15, Wilde Lake was a demolition site.

Fences, most topped with barbed wire, surrounded every practice field. There was a sea of mud where parking lots used to be, and the loud rumbling noise of graders filled the air.

One practice field had three mountains of dirt piled about 100 feet high.

A brick storage shed and a rented 40-foot construction trailer served as make-shift locker rooms; the team had no phone, no electricity, no running water; toilet facilities consisted of two portables.

The coaches' office space, aptly dubbed "The War Room," was another rented 40-foot trailer.

"We had to put gates in the fences so the kids could get in," DuVall said. "We've built our own facility. It took most of the summer."

DuVall hauls 80 gallons of water each day in his four-wheel-drive -- the only type of vehicle that can conquer the mud.

"This is a Spartan camp," DuVall said. "I call this team my gypsies."

The players enjoy the novelty of the situation; they especially like having lockers close to the field.

One can sense a unity arising from the primitive conditions -- a sort of boot camp mentality that says we're going to survive this and be stronger because of it.

"You learn through adversity," DuVall said.

"The kids have been a pleasure in a real difficult situation. They've risen to the occasion."

The school, which looked like a gutted Halloween pumpkin before the first bulldozer hit it Aug. 24, will come down except for the gymnasium. But football practice goes on.

All of Wilde Lake's "home" games this season, except for homecoming at Centennial, will be played at Howard High, the defending county champion and preseason favorite.

That's fine with DuVall, a former Howard High football player. It's just more adversity to be overcome.

"People don't think we're going to do much this season, do they?" he asks.

Then he grins that grin.

And you can't be sure whether the grin is just bravado, or whether it conceals a knowledge that although its school building lies in rubble, the Wilde Lake football team will stand tall.

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