Breakthrough season for Meade, Hartman Team wins respect despite loss in playoffs

November 26, 1995|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

The impossible dream never came true for the Meade football team Friday night.

The Mustangs were overpowered, 41-0, by a Gaithersburg squad that could easily pass as a collegiate football team.

The 11-1 Trojans had it all: size, speed, execution, strong special teams and outstanding coaching.

It's hard to imagine how someone beat Gaithersburg this season but Watkins Mill pulled off a 6-2 upset over the Trojans in a driving rainstorm Oct. 20.

In that game, Gaithersburg was without its top running back, Dereck Lancaster, who was out with a broken collarbone. Lancaster rushed for 145 yards and two touchdowns against Meade Friday night.

But it was obvious Friday night in the state Class 4A semifinals that Gaithersburg would have beaten Meade with or without Lancaster. The Trojans have been winning big for 38 years under 70-year-old coach John Harvill.

Gaithersburg has a well-established, first-class program that receives a lot of support from the community and has the luxury of playing in an impressive stadium.

Meade just can't match that kind of tradition.

But third-year Meade coach Jerry Hartman can make up a lot of ground on the Gaithersburgs with a vast knowledge of the game, incredible patience and an ability to communicate with young football players and lead by example.

The Meade players look at Hartman and have instant respect for the fact that he has been an assistant football coach at the Naval Academy and an assistant at the University of Washington, Purdue, Kent State, Kansas State, the University of Pennsylvania, Eastern Michigan and Colgate. He also worked one year for the Cleveland Browns in the scouting department.

Hartman has been around and he knows football.

This season he transformed the Mustangs from a 1-9 squad to an 8-4 team that made it to the final four of the state 4A tournament. Meade started off 7-1 before stumbling a little down the stretch against two quality teams, North County and third-ranked Arundel.

But the Mustangs were still good enough to get the eighth seed in the tournament and had a chance to get revenge on Arundel, 14-7, in the quarterfinals.

That 14-7 come-from-behind victory in the final 2:38 over the top-seeded and then unbeaten Wildcats was the "big win" that Hartman was looking for to give his program some major respect.

Now it's time for Meade to build on that respect.

Hartman tried his best to make sure his players weren't devastated by the Gaithersburg beating.

"You had an outstanding season. You did a lot of things right," said Hartman as his players huddled around him in the middle of the Gaithersburg field.

And he warned his players to "never let anybody see you get too carried away with your emotions after a game. You only embarrass yourselves, your school, your families and me if you do that."

The Mustangs heeded Hartman's advice and maintained their composure in the aftermath of the 41-0 pounding.

One of the few highlights of the evening was a couple of nifty 10-yard runs by Roman Harrison who wound up with 45 yards on 11 carries against the Trojans' big defensive line.

Harrison finished the season with 1,676 yards, placing him third on the all-time single-season rushing list in Anne Arundel County.

That is quite an accomplishment considering all the outstanding runners that have gone through the county and that Harrison is only 5-foot-8, 175 pounds.

Harrison exudes class in everything he does and is a disciple of the Hartman philosophy that says the team that prepares the most wins the most.

The longer Hartman coaches at Meade the more Roman Harrisons he will develop and the better the Mustangs' program will become.

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