Hereford stands up to cheer its teams Spirit: Baltimore County community is at fever pitch as fans turn out to cheer Hereford High's winning six of a possible seven regional championships.

November 14, 1997|By Katherine Dunn and Lem Satterfield | Katherine Dunn and Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

The Hereford community is caught up in sports mania.

The across-the-board success at Hereford High School this fall has brought out the fans and whipped up a frenzy of support for every team.

"Everybody's involved," said Sarah Warner, who led the field hockey team into last week's state tournament. "Parents come out even if their kids don't play football. Everyone's supportive -- teachers, parents, friends, the community, other students, other athletes."

The athletes have given everyone plenty to cheer about.

The Bulls won six of seven fall regional championships. Football, field hockey, boys and girls cross country and boys and girls soccer all won titles. The volleyball team made it to the regional championships too but fell in the final match.

Ron Belinko, coordinator of Baltimore County's office of athletics, cannot remember anything like it in county sports history. As far as he knows, no county athletic program has ever come so close to sweeping an entire season of regional titles.

"This is one of our best success stories," said Belinko, who has worked in county athletics for 32 years. "It started with a principal [Ray Gross] who believed that participation in athletics is a strong and critical part of the education process, and it's become the perfect marriage between the school and the community."

Tomorrow is the biggest day of all. The Bulls hilltop stadium should be packed for the unbeaten football team's state quarterfinal game at 1 p.m. Then, the fans will hit the road for Dundalk Community College to watch the unbeaten girls soccer team play for the state championship at 5.

Around school the past few weeks, the atmosphere has been festive.

"Everyone who's involved in the school, teachers who don't coach, they're like big kids who enjoy coming to school everyday," said athletic director Mike Kalisz. "Everybody's always walking around, singing school songs. I'm always caught up in the excitement. I love it."

Even the athletes have been swept away.

Each team's support for the others has been unique. Players made posters for other teams, took breaks from practice to cheer on other teams and made it a priority to attend as many games as they could.

"The whole team athletic unity thing really started this year and I think (girls) soccer was really who started it," said Warner.

Girls soccer coach Steve Power said the hockey players were the ringleaders, but regardless of who started it, the spirit has permeated every team.

"It's like magic," said Power, whose 14th-ranked team is 13-0-3 going into tomorrow's game against Glenelg. "The girls always come to football games, but now even the football players are coming to the girls games. It's astounding. At first, I thought they had an ulterior motive, but they don't. Every team is just feeding off the others."

Brian Bandurchin, a senior offensive lineman, said, "We try to get most of our players to go to as many games as we can -- whether it's soccer, field hockey, volleyball. On Monday, we had a group at the guys (soccer) game and another group at the girls game. There's just a lot of camaraderie between all of the teams."

The widespread support of the community and the rest of the school has developed right along with the Bulls winning tradition.

Kalisz points to the beginning of the football team's turnaround four years ago as the catalyst for the entire program.

Before last year's 11-1, county-championship season, the Bulls' football team was a combined 29-63 over nine seasons. They won their first regional crown and became the first Baltimore County team to play host to a first-round regional football game.

The program has swelled to a school-record 90 players under third-year coach Steve Turnbaugh, whose No. 3 team has a 10-0 record going into tomorrow's game against Snow Hill. Belinko, who coached football at Overlea for five years, said he can recall when the Bulls "had 11 players on the field and one on the bench."

Not that Hereford hasn't had athletic success in the past. The Bulls have won 17 state titles including several in cross country, three in boys soccer (1987-89), two in volleyball (1975, 1979) and one in field hockey (1979).

Although Hereford remains one of the smallest schools in Baltimore County, the percentage of students participating in sports is one of the highest in the county.

The Bulls field varsity and junior varsity teams in every sport. Of a total enrollment of 930 students, 300 tried out for fall sports including golf, badminton and cheerleading. Kalisz said the coaches tried to retain them all.

"Over the past four years, we've really made an aggressive push toward upgrading our athletic program, the uniforms and equipment," said Kalisz. "Our boosters' support has been outstanding."

The athletic department's fund-raising effort, headed by Linda Price, has led to the addition of a spacious weight room, a 1,200 capacity stadium with a public address system and press box and a concession stand with indoor bathrooms.

The high school athletes are not the only ones who benefit. The neighborhood little league football program has adopted the Bulls' name and shares storage space and equipment with Hereford's program.

Now, those youngsters can't wait to play in front of 1,000 fans on a Friday night at the Bulls' stadium.

On the other hand, no one at the high school wants to see this season end.

"I came to school Monday, the first day after the state championships, and since most everything was almost over except football, no one was around. It was like the air had been sucked out of the building," said boys cross country coach John Rohmer. "I have to believe that the enthusiasm for sports brings up the whole activity level of the school."

Not to worry. The athletes plan to carry it on through the rest of the school year.

Pub Date: 11/14/97

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