Area football stars get chance to have last word in '96 season Game pits city/MIAA vs. Arundel, Howard team

December 07, 1996|By Michael Lewis | Michael Lewis,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

With the high school football season over, there's just one more thing many of the Baltimore area's top players want for the holidays: another measure of respect.

And that's what will be on the line tomorrow in the inaugural Baltimore-Metro All-Star football game at Johns Hopkins -- a matchup that despite it's "metro" label lacks players from public schools in Baltimore, Carroll and Harford counties.

Nevertheless, the game will pit a squad comprised of players from the private and parochial schools that comprise the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association and Baltimore public high schools against the best from schools in Anne Arundel and Howard counties.

"I've coached a few of these games before, and sometimes the kids are only trying to impress the scouts and don't care about the game," said Roger Wrenn, the coach at Patterson High School who will be coaching the Baltimore stars. "But I think these kids want bragging rights for the area, and they're gonna go out and play as a team."

The contest will feature two of the state's best running backs on the Baltimore/MIAA side in Mount St. Joseph's Aaron Thompson and Dunbar's Ali Culpepper.

Thompson was named the All-Metro Offensive Player of the Year after rushing for 2,325 yards and 37 touchdowns this season. Thompson's yardage total ranks as the third-highest ever in the state. Culpepper, who runs a 4.3 in the 40-yard dash, ran for 1,262 yards and 15 touchdowns for the Poets this season.

"We've got some tremendous talent in the backfield, but we're going to spread the ball around to everybody and have a `D wide-open attack," Wrenn said. "So far in practice, no one's complained."

Defensively, Baltimore/MIAA will be led by first-team All-Metro selections Derry Williams from Dunbar and Tim Nicholas from Loyola.

The Metro squad, coached by Hammond High's Joe Russo, also is stacked with talent, but in the words of its coach, is definitely the underdog.

To compensate, Russo said he plans to try to run the no-huddle offense on Sunday, but admitted it will be very difficult because of the players' lack of familiarity with each other.

"All these kids have different meanings for certain words in the plays that we call, so it'll be hard to get everyone on the same page," Russo said, laughing. "We're going to come out with the no-huddle and see how it goes."

Metro features the area's defensive player of the year, linebacker Monte Graves from St. Mary's. Russo said that even though his team has only practiced together for a week, Graves has become the leader.

"Monte has been the most intense guy every day, being physical and trying to fire everyone up," Russo said. "We've heard their guys talking a little trash this week, saying they're going to destroy us. That's just making our guys work harder."

Metro also features first-team offensive lineman Marcus Boykins, 325-pound behemoth from Atholton, and North County split-end Chris Mangum, whose 118 career receptions rank him fourth on the all-time Anne Arundel County list.

"We think our linebackers and our linemen can shut down their backs," Russo said. "I expect they're going to mix up the running game and the pass."

Wrenn and his fellow members of the Baltimore Touchdown Club conceived of the idea for the game last year as a way to highlight Maryland's football talent to college scouts.

So far, the idea's worked. Wrenn estimates at least 30 major college scouts will attend the game.

Wrenn also said the annual game is expected to be played in the Ravens' new stadium starting in 1998.

"All year, a lot of these guys have been hearing about how good guys from other areas are, and now they'll get to see first-hand," Wrenn added.

"This is going to be the best against the best, and our guys are treating it just as importantly as they would a regular game."

All-Star game

When: Noon tomorrow

Where: Homewood Field, Johns Hopkins University

Tickets: $5 at the gate. Proceeds benefit Maryland's Hospital for Children.

Coaches: Roger Wrenn of Patterson High School is coaching Baltimore. Joe Russo from Hammond is coaching the Metro squad.

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