Coach has Owls believing in winning Football: Mantinaos brings western Pa. approach, preparations to Westminster, a losing team last year that is off to a 2-0 start.

September 19, 1996|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

Frank Mantinaos comes from a different place, where football simply dominates the land.

Growing up in western Pennsylvania, the Westminster Owls' 28-year-old, first-year coach was either watching the Pittsburgh Steelers win Super Bowls or outside playing football. Every Friday night in the fall was devoted to high school football, with 7,000 fans the norm at most high school stadiums.

But Mantinaos, who played at New Castle High before becoming a two-time Academic All-American at Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pa., was quick to understand the Friday-night magic started long before kickoff.

"I learned you have to go out and work and bring something with you every day. We'd practice five, six hours a day until the street lights came on," he said. "It was physical and very disciplined. That's where I built up my understanding of the game."

When Mantinaos, who spent the previous five seasons coaching Thomas Stone High in Charles County, arrived at Westminster last May, he told his new group they could have a perfect season this fall and achieve whatever they wanted. Since, he's worked on making them believe that.

"The first thing they had to do was change their mental aspect -- not to expect losing, but learn to win. And you first have to do the work," he said. "You have to visualize winning first -- before you can go out and win. There's always a price to get what you want.

"You have to always think of a positive outcome, and if things don't work out, then you learn and go on from there."

Westminster's new regimenstarted with the two-a-day practices in August. At the start, there were 110 players. Today, a healthy 80 remain on the three teams -- varsity, JV and freshmen.

The theme is basic: "You have to give it up 100 percent every play, every day in practice, and the game will take care of itself," Mantinaos said.

So far, so good.

After winning two games all of last season, the Owls are 2-0, with an overtime victory over Woodlawn and a come-from-behind victory at Severna Park.

"First, the overtime win and then to come back to win on the road against a good team like Severna Park shows the character of this team," Mantinaos said.

As coaches, he continued, "we can put things out there. But it's the kids who have to go out and bite at it, and that's to their credit -- they've responded. When we started with those two-a-days, there was nothing for those kids to hold on to. The two wins reinforcetheir confidence."

Mantinaos says there's still plenty of room for improvement, and the Owls haven't played four strong quarters in a game yet. But things are coming around.

Senior quarterback Billy Mays is improving in the Owls' new option offense. Running backs Dante Partlow, Corey LaPrade and Brian Tozer (out this Saturday with an injured shoulder) are all doing their share, with Randy Smith anchoring an improving offensive line at left guard.

On defense, middle linebacker Ryan Banks is making big plays, and Brian Davidson leads the team in tackles.

"We're real excited about the start, and our confidence is growing," said Mays. "Last year, we didn't have enough maturity, and the attitude was we didn't think we were going to win. That's the big thing coach [Mantinaos] has brought, the attitude that we can win. He gets it set in our heads."

The Owls' next challenge is their biggest to date -- a trip to Prince George's County to take on a Douglass team that last week knocked Dunbar off the Baltimore area's top ranking.

Mantinaos and the Owls can't wait. "At first, the kids were like 'wow, they beat Dunbar.' Now it's 'let's go get them,' " Mantinaos said.

"They're one of the top teams in the state, and it gives us an opportunity to elevate our program in one game. We're excited to be able to play against them, and it's great going in 2-0. This will be a good measuring stick to see where we are."

Pub Date: 9/19/96

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