High School Football Preview

September 05, 1997|By John W. Stewart

Francis Scott Key Eagles

1996 record: 3-7

Coach: Mike Coons

Top players: Kevin DeCarlo, Sr., TE/DE; Scott Glover, Sr., SE/DB; Tony Mallardi, Sr.; QB/DB; Jason Wiles, Sr., OC/LB; Jason Zinkand, Sr., RB.

Outlook: After what Coons calls "a move sideways, since we don't go backward," Key will be operating under a new defensive philosophy this fall, a sharp departure from the past. A year ago, the team was outscored by an average of 25-14, and five teams scored at least four touchdowns.

"In the past we had played a containment game, giving up yards inside, but, hopefully, not getting beaten to the outside, the big plays. Now, we are smaller, leaner, and will play a slash-and-penetrate game. We may get beaten on some home runs, but we also have the chance to make some big plays, disrupt teams before they get started. One thing is certain, you have to be in shape to play defense for us."

Jason Wiles, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound senior, will play middle linebacker, the key spot in this scheme. He and end Kevin DeCarlo (6-4, 215) are the defensive stalwarts, solid players and the team's most energetic weightlifters. Coons made one move in the secondary, moving All-County free safety Scott Glover, one of several four-year players, up to a corner and filling his

place with junior Jason Richardson, "who gets to the ball really well." On offense, there are several excellent skill players, including tight end DeCarlo, one of the team's top receivers a year ago when he caught several for touchdowns, and leading rusher Jason Zinkand, a tough runner who likes going inside as well as out. Senior Tony Mallardi, a backup last year who did start two games, will be the starting quarterback. He is working to be more consistent at a higher level, and has shown good on-field leadership skills.

Up front, in addition to DeCarlo, Joby McCrobie will be a pivotal player at center. Otherwise both lines are somewhat inexperienced.

"Some of our players remember when we were 0-10 and 3-7 looked good. We threw in that 5-5 two years ago, then did not do as well last season. Now, the seniors say 3-7 is no good and they want the next step. Obviously, the goal is to win them all, but .500 is realistic."

Liberty Lions

1996 record: 5-5

Coach: Ken Johnson

Top players: Steve Balchunas, Sr., OT; Joel Denning, Sr., RB/DB; Adam Downes, Sr., OT; Justin Felmey, Sr., OC; Jason Ruch, Sr., OG/LB; Eric Salley, Sr., TE/DE.

Outlook: The big focus this season will be on putting up a better de- fense against the run than was shown last year. "We lost several games because we couldn't stop people," says Johnson. "We made some changes during the season to fit our strengths, and they worked out well because all those players are back." The Lions will have a front five that includes junior Jeremy Reule in the middle and tackles Chad Blitz and Austin Frederick. Blitz, a senior who did not play a year ago, is the biggest at 5-9, 240. Ruch, one of three two-way starters at guard and middle linebacker, played the last six games as a linebacker last year and wound up the team's second-leading tackler.

Off a recent scrimmage with offensive power Hereford, Johnson saw a huge improvement, especially against the Bulls' inside rush.

"We're expecting big things from this group," the coach said.

Offensively, seniors Joel Denning, a 500-yard running back/defensive back, and Eric Salley, a tight end/All-County defensive end are the other two-way starters. Denning will be joined in the backfield by senior Tres Johnson, a 5-8, 205-pound fullback rated the team's strongest player; junior Calvin Stacey, a running back from the JV, and junior quarterback Aaron Hutsell, up from the JV, and vastly improved over last year when he had players ahead of him at the position. Felmey, a 6-3, 225-pound junior, anchors a line in front of them has six returnees, including four starters.

North Carroll Panthers

1996 record: 6-4

Coach: Bill Rumbaugh

Top players: Rick Brown, Sr., RB/DB; Adam Crowl, Sr., RB/DB; Eric Etzel, Sr., QB/DB; Ben Fleming, Sr., OT/DT; Jeff Painter, Sr., C/DE; Eric Wilhelm, Jr., OG/DE.

Outlook: The only county football team with a winning record a year ago returns a half-dozen two-way starters, although one of them will be in a new position on offense.

That could turn out to be a key, however, as Eric Etzel, a running back last year, takes over for his brother, John, a graduated two-year starter.

"With his background, he'll be a play-action quarterback, which will fit in with our run-oriented offense," Rumbaugh says. "We'll probably run the ball more than 80 percent of the time."

It may well be a matter of handing off to a pair of fleet runners and getting out of the way, although he ran for 340 yards and four touchdowns as a junior.

The two elusive runners are All-County choice Adam Crowl, who ran for 1,016 yards and 10 touchdowns, and Rick Brown, 512 yards and five touchdowns.

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