Growing pains at River Hill Football: Mounting losses by green, small team prove challenge for 'veteran' captains Kelley, Pich.

September 29, 1996|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,SUN STAFF

Losing hurts. There's no way around it. River Hill juniors Mike Kelley and Beau Pich especially feel the pain after every defeat. But in a season of losses, they are trying to remain upbeat.

Redistricted to the new high school from Glenelg, Kelley and Pich are the only two Hawks with varsity experience on the Class 1A, first-year team that is winless. The Hawks haven't even come close to victory, losing even to another first-year, Class 1A team, Long Reach. The Hawks have been outscored 101-27.

River Hill, with no senior class and just 24 players, has plunged into a full varsity schedule against bigger, established Class 2A and Class 3A teams. And the Hawks appear to be in over their heads.

"It probably would have been a good idea if we had just played other Class 1A teams this season," Kelley said. "It's no fun playing in blowouts. It's hard to get psyched up when you know you are going to lose."

Kelley is used to winning. In seven seasons of youth league football, he played on two undefeated teams. One team, the 8-to-10 year-old Columbia Bulldogs, went 11-1, losing only in the Pop Warner national championship game in California. It outscored its opponents, 309-15. That was 1989.

"It's a big change losing all these games. It feels weird," Kelley said.

This season, Kelley must play against some of his former Bulldog teammates, such as Wilde Lake's Dain Lewis, Josh Vanderwagen and Tony Jackson, and Oakland Mills' Fardan Carter and Centennial's Scott Bross.

"We'll try our hardest, but I'm really not looking forward to the Wilde Lake game," said Kelley, a lineman for the Bulldogs but a running back and defensive back in high school.

Wilde Lake is the county's best team and has a lot of seniors. Kelley hopes his former teammates won't show him any mercy.

"I'd be insulted if Wilde Lake started the second team," he said. "I want to play them at their best."

In the first three games, two at cornerback and one at linebacker, the 5-foot-10, 156-pound Kelley made 37 tackles and recovered a fumble. He rushed 31 times for 65 yards.

"He's been impressive from day one. He's coachable, aggressive defensively, and runs hard offensively," River Hill coach Don Van Deusen said. "He's an over-achiever. He's not as big as he plays. Even if you have your eyes closed, you can still tell when he makes a hit."

The thing Van Deusen likes most about Kelley is his leadership.

"He hasn't gotten down. He's willing to work with the young kids. It's been a pleasure, because the kids are really trying," Van Deusen said.

Pich, who didn't play youth league football, also praises Kelley's efforts.

"He knows what to do," Pich said. "He's always in the right place. And he'll hit you."

Pich, a 5-foot-10, 163-pound left-hander, threw for 1,005 yards and 10 touchdowns last season.

"We know we have a young team and have to go with the flow," Pich said. "There's no sense being critical. We're still learning the run-and-shoot offense. It's hard. But it will be good."

In three games, he completed 18 of 62 passes for 271 yards and carried 14 times for 85 yards.

"I had heard Beau could throw, and he's impressed me with his accuracy, but his running has been a pleasant surprise, VTC especially with the limited blocking support he gets," Van Deusen said. "And he had six or eight passes dropped against Howard."

Because River Hill operates a run-and-shoot offense, the Hawks play with no fullback or tight end, a factor that puts more pressure on the offensive line.

"Our line works hard but still lacks technique," Kelley said.

Despite the losing, Kelley said the team is close-knit and that fan support has been good.

"People have been behind us, and that's hard to do when you're struggling like we are. I'm trying to give the younger players confidence and to explain to them what to do. Our goal is to be a lot better next season."

Pub Date: 9/29/96

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