Lilly's strength contributes mightily to St. Mary's success

September 30, 1994|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,Sun Staff Writer

Jason Lilly remembers when football was a joke around St. Mary's High in Annapolis. That joke ended when Brad Best (36-17 to date) took over as coach six years ago.

"Football used to be a joke around here. Everybody thought we had a team just to keep the lacrosse players in shape, but that ended when coach Best came in," said Lilly, a Crownsville resident who has attended the Catholic school since first grade.

"Now the students and parents expect us to win, and it's been a blast playing football at St. Mary's."

Lilly (5 feet 9, 175 pounds), a three-year varsity running back, gave archrival Severn School a blast last Friday night at Anne Arundel Community College.

In a 39-30 victory over the Admirals, Lilly rushed 33 times for 193 yards and touchdowns of 9, 4, 3 and 19 yards.

"It was an incredible game, the most exciting game I've ever been in," said Lilly, who ran his season totals to 80 carries for 559 yards (a 7-yard average) and six touchdowns.

Lilly ran for 1,008 yards as a second-team All-County back as a junior and has set 1,500 yards rushing as his personal goal for 1994.

Currently averaging 186 yards per game, Lilly needs to average 143 yards rushing in the remaining seven games to reach his goal.

He's confident he can do it, and his coach believes he can.

"Jason was not tackled for a loss one time last year and has yet to be thrown for a loss this season because he gets off on the ball with a great burst of speed [4.7 runner in the 40-yard --], squares his shoulders and goes," said Best.

"He has very good leg strength because he has worked hard in the weight room and is really tough to bring down on the first hit. Jason always gives that second and third effort, which makes him so tough to tackle."

Lilly, a team captain, credits his line and a "great blocking fullback" in senior Dan Collins for his success.

Lilly chose tailback his freshman year because he said he was "too small for the line and didn't have good enough hands to be an end, so I narrowed it down to running back."

Lilly possesses resilience and has a high resistance to pain and injury, as evidenced in last year's Calvert Hall game.

In that, the final game of the season, Lilly rushed for 130 yards in the first half before Best and his staff discovered Lilly was playing with a separated shoulder.

"Jason didn't play in the second half and we lost, 15-13, on a field goal in the final 30 seconds," said Best.

"He's one of those kids who doesn't want to come out of there, no matter how hard the hit.

"He's been banged up pretty good several times but keeps on going. Because he lowers his head and hits you, he often gets headaches, but nothing to get him out of there."

His future appears to be with a Division II or III school, although he also plays midfield for one of the top lacrosse programs in the metro area.

"I love football, and that's what I want to play in college," said Lilly, who has a 2.9 grade-point average. He has received feelers from Towson State, Randolph Macon and Salisbury State.

Best, who coached at the collegiate level in Pennsylvania and New Mexico before coming to Annapolis, is convinced that Lilly can play in college.

"He can definitely play at the Division II or III level," Best said.

While such decisions are being made, Lilly is hoping that No. 9 St. Mary's (3-0), which he calls "a young team coming together and learning from its mistakes," will be in the thick of the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association Conference race.

After a nonleague game at Westlake tomorrow night, the Saints will play league games against four ranked teams in McDonogh (No. 3), Gilman (6), Mount St. Joseph (10) and Calvert Hall (12).

Chances are if he reaches his goal of 1,500 yards rushing, the Saints will be right there in mid-November.

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