'More weapons and one heartbeat' Football: North Carroll is 3-1, a tribute not only to star running back Steve Suter but also to a team with strong line play. Now rugged Urbana will test the Panthers.

October 01, 1998|By John W. Stewart | John W. Stewart,SUN STAFF BTC

A role reversal seems to have made little difference in the

football career of Steve Suter as he works on a second successive banner season as a running back at North Carroll. He has gone from decoy to the real thing.

Last year, while senior Adam Crowl was becoming the first player in school history to rush for more than 1,000 yards twice in a career -- and drawing a lot of attention from opposing teams -- Suter, a 5-foot-7, 145-pound sophomore was "the other running back."

He took the heat off Crowl enough to amass 740 yards and five touchdowns as a runner and 431 yards and three touchdowns as a receiver (21 catches).

Now he is his team's go-to player, the one in the spotlight. Sharing his old backfield role and spreading the yardage around are Greg Bair, Jemel Hogan, and Chad Lettau.

"Other teams are keying on me, but I believe we are a different team from a year ago," Suter said. "We have more weapons than last year, and we are working as one unit, one heartbeat. There are no egos here."

This strong mental attitude and Suter's physical play are at least two of factors that have helped the Panthers get off to a 3-1 start, avenging two of last year's losses in the process (Southern-AA and Frederick).

North Carroll built a 30-0 halftime lead against winless and

out-manned Frederick last week, and then coach Bill Rumbaugh turned the rest of the game over to his reserves. The score was 36-0 before Frederick got three fourth-quarter touchdowns to account for the 36-21 final.

Tomorrow night, the Panthers will get their toughest test of the season when they play at unbeaten Urbana (4-0).

With solid blocking from a line anchored by seniors Eric Wilhelm and Jason Howdyshell, North Carroll ran for 373 yards against Frederick. Suter got 262 of those yards and two touchdowns. For the year, he has 735 yards rushing, 144 receiving, and 10 touchdowns.

Suter and Lettau have been together for six years, counting recreation play. Lettau, a senior fullback and linebacker, had never scored a point in 12 years of football before plunging 1 yard for North Carroll's first score against Frederick.

"We're not as experienced at quarterback, but the fact Justin [Raynor] knows what each of us is doing makes up for that,"

Suter added.

The junior hit the gym during the summer, "because I knew people would be after me. I gained 20 pounds, which may have cost me some speed. But I'm much stronger and still can get away."

Against Frederick, he ran 96 yards for a touchdown and had another break-away for 57 yards.

Lettau, the county's fourth-leading tackler last fall, is challenging Liberty's Chris Peters for the county lead.

"Both our lines have been playing really well, and it has made a difference," Lettau said. "They're opening the holes on offense and creating problems for the other teams on defense."

The defining moment for this team may have come in the fourth quarter against Southern, after the Anne Arundel team had made up a 26-point deficit to get a tie.

Suter got the touchdown and two-point conversion to rebuild a 34-26 lead. But the Panthers needed to stop a two-point conversion in the final minute to save their 34-32 victory.

"The worst feeling was not being able to stop their comeback," Suter said. "We needed to get fired up, to get the momentum back. You need all 11 on the field to do that. Mentally, we were thinking we had to win in regulation, and they wound up a good yard or two shy.

"There was a flag on the play, but we still went right through and made the tackle. Howdyshell showed a great awareness in leading the way."

Looking ahead, Lettau added, "We have the potential to take anybody, but we'll need to play four quarters the way we did against Key [a 42-20 win]. We only played three quarters against Southern and were lucky to win. We won't get away with that against a team like Urbana."

Pub Date: 10/01/98

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