Rams rolling again, at 3-0 Football: After turmoil dropped Baltimore County's historically best team to 2-8 two falls ago, Randallstown has renewed attitude and many more faces in the weight room.

September 24, 1998|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

In the summer of 1997, Bruce Strunk left his first coaching job at Northern in Baltimore, where his teams were 12-8 over two seasons, to become Randallstown's sixth coach in five seasons.

Though taking over a program that was coming off the school's worst record, at 2-8, Strunk still was inheriting Baltimore County's richest football tradition. Randallstown has made a county-leading 11 playoff appearances and captured two of the county's four state titles.

But Strunk, hired to teach physical education, took over a program in disarray. Interest had fallen off and player turnouts were low. Community backers angrily asked, "What's wrong with Randallstown?" Strunk said.

"I didn't know the answers to why they were losing, but people were more than willing to give me their opinions," said Strunk, whose assistants are Anthony Knox, Mike Williams, Buddy Parker and Doug Reaves. "There was talent, but the attitudes needed changing."

Two years later, the 32-year-old Eastern Pennsylvania native has the Rams back on top again, ranked No. 4 by The Sun and at 3-0. Attendance is up. Player ranks are up, to 80 -- "20-to-25 of whom are in the weight room every night," Strunk said.

Rams running back T.J. Stallings earned second-team All-Metro and first-team All-City/County honors last fall.

Strunk applies experience, discipline and high expectations instilled in him as an assistant to Patterson's Roger Wrenn and Poly's recently retired Augie Waibel.

"Augie's kids, even during the worst years, were overachievers," said Strunk, whose Rams were 8-3 last year. "I'm trying to get the same thing here. And if a kid disappoints, I'm not doing my job."

Strunk's Rams left a lasting impression for this year's opponents after last season's 16-13 Class 2A state semifinal loss at Poly during Waibel's final season.

Randallstown led 13-0 after the first period, during which it out-gained the Engineers 130-9 and, defensively, did not allow a first down. But the Rams' playoff inexperience showed, and Poly tied the score at 13 by halftime and won on a final-period field goal.

"That made the kids believe in what we're doing, because we got walloped in our first scrimmage of the year against Poly," said Strunk.

The Rams were tested in this year's season-opener against Liberty Road rival Milford Mill, staring down two of Baltimore County's swiftest players in Richard Johnson and Tyrone Gholston. The Rams did not blink, avenging a 14-0 loss of a year ago with a 13-8 win over the defending county Class 3A-4A League tri-champs.

Randallstown limited Milford Mill to 104 yards of total offense and allowed no third- or fourth-down conversions in 13 attempts. The Rams sacked Johnson eight times, including on the game's final play, and dropped Gholston behind the line five times.

Second-team All-Metro lineman B.J. Thomas, a 6-foot-3, 315-pound preseason All-Region pick by the National Recruiting Advisor, had two sacks. Mike Goode-Carr had another, setting up one of Marshall Contee's two TD runs. Mike Jones had another sack.

The Millers' only points came off Gholston's 82-yard kickoff return with four minutes left in the game, but unlike last year's Poly game, the Rams didn't blow their 13-0 lead.

"The loss to Poly almost crushed us, but coach told us not to have our heads down, because that's the old Randallstown," said Thomas, who has drawn interest from West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Michigan State, Michigan, Vanderbilt and N.C. State.

"We have a great coach who took us from 2-8 to 8-3, and we're using that as a motivator. We're almost there, but we have to keep playing like a team."

Pub Date: 9/24/98

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