Panthers become downright offensive Forward pass suddenly figures as huge weapon in conservative offense

October 12, 1997|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,SUN STAFF

For years, Annapolis deplored the foward pass so much it seemed as if it were illegal. Now, opponents wish throwing was outlawed in the capital city.

Annapolis is downright offensive.

The unbeaten Panthers (6-0) still favor the run, but boast as much balance -- passing and running -- as any in school history.

This turn of offense comes at a time when the Panthers have one of their best offensive lines in tackles Joe Plattner and John Paul Williams, guards Derek Johnson and Henry Downs, center Mike Donlin, and tight end Keith Buckingham.

The Panthers still don't throw that often, but unlike in the past when they threw out of necessity, the Panthers now pass to score.

Bidding to become only the 11th Anne Arundel County team to go unbeaten in regular season, and the fifth at Annapolis to do so, the No. 3-ranked Panthers are potentially awesome.

Comparisons to the Annapolis 1978 state championship offense of late coach Al Laramore and the 10-2 team current coach Roy Brown had in 1992 are warranted.

Converted quarterback Peter Ludlam guides an offense that features the speedy, strong Albert Creek as the main running back, coupled with Donnell Foote and S. J. Womack, a pair of receivers who possess skills that make them college prospects.

Each of the four is very athletic, focused and skilled. Creek and Womack cover the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds, Foote does 4.5, and at 4.8, Ludlam is the slowest.

Add a front line that averages 250 pounds a man and has been playing together for three varsity seasons, and it's easy to see why the Panthers are averaging 30.3 points a game.

North County caught the Annapolis act in Ferndale Thursday, when the Panther seniors paid back years of losses to the Knights with a lopsided 49-6 victory.

Brown freely substituted after his powerful team built a 42-6 halftime lead.

Ludlam, who will play his fourth year of varsity lacrosse this spring, was a Panthers running back until assistant coach Larry Brogden noticed his strong, accurate arm.

"Every day after practice last year, I messed around throwing the football," said Ludlam, a 5-foot-10, 160-pounder. "Mr. Brogden noticed and suggested to Mr. Brown that I be given a look at quarterback."

The multi-talented Foote, a four-year varsity performer at several positions, played quarterback on and off the last couple seasons but is more valuable running and catching the ball.

Ludlam didn't figure to be a top running back with Creek, Foote and Curtis Jones around.

"We had to pick somebody, and Peter has good hands and leadership qualities," said Brown. "He's a natural fit."

Ludlam wanted to try.

"I wish we threw it more, but you've got to love this backfield," says Ludlam, who has completed 26 of 57 passes for 392 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Creek's running, which has produced 722 yards and seven touchdowns, three against North County, sets opponents up for failure. If a team keys on the 5-7, 185-pound Creek, it might get burned by the pass.

"Our offensive line is great -- all three-year starters," said Creek. "I can't afford to buy them dinner, but I would if I could."

Mix in the running of Foote (244 rushing yards, three touchdowns) and Belt Jones (258 yards rushing, two touchdowns) , and there's a lot to worry about with that big line pushing people around.

What's not fair is when the Panthers load one side of the field with both Foote (6-3, 205) and Womack (6-4, 190) and put the ball in air.

Foote has caught 11 passes for 176 yards and five touchdowns while Womack has seven receptions for 148 yards and five touchdowns in just four games.

"Foote and Womack are like men among boys," said Arundel coach Bill Zucco, whose Wildcats (3-3, 2-1) were manhandled, 28-8, by Annapolis two weeks ago. "If Roy [Brown] ever starts to throw flares to those guys, nobody will stop them.

"Sherwood [defending Class 4A state champion] and Annapolis would be an interesting game."

Arundel dropped an 18-0 decision to the Montgomery County power earlier this season. Zucco, who led Arundel to a perfect regular season (10-0) in 1995, doesn't think any county team will beat Annapolis this season because of its offense -- and a not-to-be-overlooked defense.

The Annapolis defense is yielding only eight points a game and is anchored in the trenches by the same offensive front, and features Foote and Womack in the secondary.

"I used to like offense better, but I love defense now, because I love hitting people," says Foote.

In contrast, Womack prefers offense, but like Foote, he is good at laying back, getting a good read and timing an opposing quarterback's pass.

A member of last year's top-ranked St. Mary's team, Womack, who is also an outstanding basketball player, sees his current team as being "just as focused and with a lot of heart."

And a lot of offense.

Pub Date: 10/12/97

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