Football gives Severn duo new college-play options Football: Melton, Hatch, better known for basketball, are now drawing recruiting interest in both sports.

September 27, 1996|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,SUN STAFF

It was the round ball that was in their plans, but now it could be the oval-shaped ball -- or both.

Severn's Dennard Melton and Jeff Hatch were well on their way to college basketball a couple years ago before taking a detour to the gridiron. Neither had played a down of football before entering high school, and now the helmet sport has given each an option.

At 6 feet tall and 190 pounds, Melton is a junior who runs the 40 in 4.5 seconds. Hatch is a 6-foot-8, 245-pound senior and 4.8 runner.

Division I schools are showing interest in them for both sports while the duo gives Admiral foes double trouble in two seasons.

Melton was a local phenom at 7,playing basketball for a Severna Park travel team. The likes of DeMatha and Mount St. Joseph high schools took notice of the promising Glen Burnie resident, along with Severn.

"My mom [Yvonne] made me go to Severn, because my rec coach, Ed Wilson, recommended Severn," said Melton, who started in both sports as a freshman. "I'm glad they made me do it."

Hatch also grew up in the Severna Park area, playing under Wilson. At 11, he was 5-foot-7, and by his freshman year at Severna Park High had grown to 6-foot-5.

A basketball starter his first two years at Severna Park, Hatch showed a lot of potential with his size and was considering

playing football for the Falcons last year.

But Hatch and his parents, Paul and Hope, felt that his academic situation would be better served down the street at Severn. So, he transferred and strapped on the helmet and pads for the first time.

"I always had an interest in playing football, but when I was younger, there was no place for me to play," said Hatch. County youth leagues have weight requirements instead of grade eligibility. But given the opportunity, he emerged as a second-team All-County lineman last year.

"I picked up football naturally and really enjoy it. In basketball, you are more closely scrutinized, while football has more team aspects. Defense is my favorite. I love to hit people."

Melton also is a natural -- the first football player named All-County his freshman and sophomore years. In ninth grade, as a running back, wide receiver, occasional quarterback, kick returner and defensive back, Melton scored 16 touchdowns and had six interceptions.

Last season, Melton scored nine touchdowns and picked off three passes as the All-County, all-purpose back. Moved to option quarterback this year by coach John Beckman, Melton already has scored seven touchdowns, giving him 32 in his career.

John Vereen, a 1994 All-Metro back who recently graduated from Navy Prep school, owns the Severn career record for touchdowns (44) and total points (272). Melton has 152 career points three games into his junior year.

"Dennard is a natural quarterback, and having the ball in his hands every play makes sense," said Beckman, who considers both to be Division I prospects.

Often the strapping Hatch throws the initial block to spring Melton on one of his long-distance touchdown jaunts.

"It's exciting to play with Dennard," said Hatch. "He's an awesome athlete. You make a block for him, and he has a chance to score from anywhere on any play."

Melton has been amazed at the progress Hatch has made as an interior lineman.

Colleges such as Maryland, Richmond, Georgia Tech, the Naval Academy and Villanova have shown more than a passing interest in Hatch as a football player. Hatch impressed last summer at the Reebok Combine camp at College Park and was invited back for the Elite Camp for linemen.

"I used to be quiet, but football has changed me a lot and given me more self-confidence," says Hatch, who, like Melton, intends to pursue business management.

"I'm trying to be a motivator as a captain in football, but I'm not sure if that's going to be my sport . It would be tough to do both."

Hatch received nearly 100 basketball letters and attracted serious interest from West Point, Lehigh, Richmond and Bucknell. Hatch attended the 5-Star summer camp in Pennsylvania and played on the Madison Bucks team that made it to the AAU Nationals.

Such football powers as Penn State, West Virginia and Auburn have taken notice of Melton, while Syracuse, West Virginia, Connecticut, Miami of Ohio and Northwestern are interested in his basketball skills.

Melton, All-County basketball second- and third-team as a freshman and sophomore, did not attend football camp last summer but may this summer. His time was spent playing hoops in the Eastern Invitational in New Jersey and for the Running Aces.

"I hope to play both sports in college," said Melton. "In some people's eyes, I'm a better football player than I am a basketball ++ player, but I've been playing basketball since 7."

It was all so simple for Hatch and Melton -- before football.

Pub Date: 9/27/96

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