Don't label Panthers a 'one-year wonder' North Carroll trying to continue success of last fall's 6-4 team

High School Football Preview

September 05, 1997|By John W. Stewart | John W. Stewart,SUN STAFF

Was the winning record of a year ago simply a one-shot effort or the start of something big for the North Carroll football program?

The Panthers will begin to get some answers tonight as they open at Francis Scott Key.

A year ago, the team went 6-4 under the guidance of head coach Bill Rumbaugh -- easily its most successful campaign in several years.

"We anticipate moving forward," Rumbaugh, starting his fifth year, said this week. "Our two running backs [Adam Crowl and Rick Brown] were such a big part of our success last year, I don't think we'll be a one-year wonder. It won't be easy, though, because we won't be able to sneak up on anybody."

The winning record provided a positive building block for the program and made this year's pre-season camp a much more pleasant place. Gone were many of the players who had helped turn things around, and Rumbaugh said as much in a recent meeting.

"I simply told our team those seniors can't help us any more.

That's in the past. That was then, and this is now. We were 6-4 last year, but we are 0-0 right now."

But at the end of last season, Rumbaugh had said: "A winning attitude is an important thing, and it's changing in our program. Our players expect to be able to compete and expect to win. They also understand that they have to put in the work to get there."

Although the focus is on looking ahead, it is hard not to be impressed by the job Rumbaugh, now the school's athletic director as well, and those graduated seniors did.

When he arrived from an 11-year coaching tenure in Loudoun County, Va., the Panthers had lost 19 in a row and lost 18 more before a stunning 21-20 overtime victory at Bethesda-Chevy Chase.

A second 1-9 season followed before Rumbaugh's patience and belief in what he was doing began to bring dividends last year.

"We centered on the type of young man we wanted to work with," the coach explained. "We were -- and are -- discipline-oriented, and we made the players realize this was more important than anything. Then, the fact we stressed conditioning -- and made it a big part of our practices -- fit right in.

"Through those years, we did not change anything in our system or in our coaching. It was a case of the players getting used to our system. The ones who weren't willing to do it our way weeded themselves out.

"During those losses, we tried to get the parents involved through meetings, community functions, that sort of thing. When they become involved, it makes the job easier. They understand what we are trying to do.

"In lean times, the cream rises to the top, and when the going got tough, we had some really good young people come forward and become leaders. And the parents showed strong support for the program."

Now, with the possibility of a winning season a reality rather than a dream, it should be easier to generate enthusiasm for all concerned.

Pub Date: 9/05/97

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