It has been nearly two decades since Ron Belinko saw Randallstown win Baltimore County's first football state title and nearly a decade since the Rams won the county's third one.
But with a county-record six schools having qualified over three classifications for this weekend's state playoffs, Belinko, the county's coordinator of athletics, hopes the wait is over.
County 3A-4A tri-champions Eastern Tech, Woodlawn and Milford Mill, ranked No. 5, No. 8 and No. 9 respectively in The Sun, all have 9-1 records heading into the eight-team Class 3A field.
Both third-year coach Reggie Brooks' Milford, and fourth-year coach Brian Scriven's Woodlawn are appearing in their ninth postseason tournaments. Eastern Tech, of third-year coach Nick Armenio, is in the playoffs for the first time.
"At our county coaches meeting the other night, everyone was real excited and pulling for each other -- not for individual teams, but the whole county," Brooks said.
First-year coach Bruce Strunk's unranked Randallstown (8-2), will making its county-leading 11th playoff appearance, competes the Class 2A, as will Owings Mills (8-2), which is in its fourth playoff and is under first-year coach Randy Pentz.
Two-time county Class 1A-2A league champion Hereford (10-0), ranked No. 3 in The Sun, is making its second straight Class 1A appearance.
Belinko, who has coached and worked in the county for 32 years, won Overlea's first region title in 1983 -- his fifth and final year coaching football.
"I've seen three and four teams go to the playoffs," Belinko said, "but never six teams."
In fact, the county qualified five teams during each of the 1987, 1988, 1989 and 1990 seasons. But this year's total is the most by any county in Maryland this season. Montgomery County is next with four teams, followed by Prince George's County with three.
Hereford's third-year coach Steve Turnbaugh, referring to criticism from observers of the county's quality of opposition, said: "Other areas can say what they want, but Baltimore County's doing something right, to get six teams in the playoffs."
"We've accomplished a lot of firsts with the program this year," Armenio said. "It's the first time we ever beat Milford Mill, first time we ever beat Perry Hall, first time being ranked in the metro area, first piece of the county championship. We just hope the ride doesn't end too soon."
In the state tournament's 24 years, only 11 county programs have reached title games. Randallstown, under coach Ken Johnson, beat Annapolis for the county's first title (the Class 4A version) in 1984. John Buccheister coached Milford Mill to the Class 1A title over Havre de Grace in 1987, and did the same at the Class 3A level as Randallstown beat Wootton in 1990.
All six programs have scholar-athletes among their marquee players.
For example, not only does Randallstown's T.J. Stallings rank third among area rushers with 1,374 yards and 18 touchdowns, but he carries a 3.0 grade-point average, as well.
Milford Mill defensive back-wide receiver David Boyd, who maintains a 3.2 grade average, runs a 4.5-second 40-yard dash and has a penchant for bailing out his team. In a victory at Woodlawn, Boyd returned one of two fumble recoveries for a score and caught a pass for another.
Hereford's All-Metro defensive back-running back Jason Wingeart is a 3.4 student, scored 1,130 on his SAT and is being recruited by Dartmouth, Penn, Johns Hopkins, Brown and West Point among others. He has 24 career interceptions, having returned three of this year's nine pickoffs for touchdowns. He also has rushed for 843 yards and 11 touchdowns (1,653 yards, 25 touchdowns in two seasons).
Eastern Tech wide receiver-safety Anthony Lawston, a 3.25 student who hopes for a career in architecture if not pro football, is junior class president and a member of the National Honor Society. Lawston (6-foot-4, 215 pounds) has 34 receptions for 621 yards and eight touchdowns (109, 2,195, 18 touchdowns in three seasons).
Woodlawn defensive backs Tavon Mason (6-1, 175) and Reggie Danage (5-10, 165), each of whom runs a 4.4-second 40-yard dash, have a 3.65 and 2.87 grade averages respectively. Danage, who has scored a 970 on his SAT, has 1,212 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns, while Mason has 1,324 and 23 scores.
Owings Mills' defensive back Alex Gitomer, whose top college pick is Princeton, has a team-high seven interceptions, ranks No. 3 in his class with a 3.9 GPA and scored 1,400 on his SAT.
"This is only my second year as a starter," said Gitomer, "and it's been pretty exciting."
Pub Date: 11/14/97