Sack-happy Henry leads Eastern Tech's push for state crown Mavs, Friendly meet in duel of 12-0 teams

November 28, 1998|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

Ralph Henry has been a member of Dundalk's Salem Baptist Church for all of his 17 years. And as the vice president of its usher board, the Eastern Tech senior can be found there every Sunday.

But on most Fridays and Saturdays this fall, the returning second-team All-Metro football player has been hammering quarterbacks as the Mavericks' minister of defense.

"Sacking the quarterback -- that really feels good," said Henry, who has 24 sacks this season, eight more than a year ago. "You don't go out to hurt anyone, just to take care of business."

The offensive/defensive lineman leads the No. 2 Mavericks (12-0) against Friendly (12-0) in tonight's Class 3A state title game at the University of Maryland's Byrd Stadium, with hopes of demonstrating why programs such as North Carolina A&T, Richmond, James Madison, Connecticut, Mississippi and Towson are interested in his abilities.

"Friendly's got a big team -- biggest we've faced," said Henry, whose program is making its first state championship appearance. "They have a great quarterback, great receivers and a great running back. It's going to be a challenge."

The Patriots outscored their opposition by an average of 35.1 points to 8. Friendly has routed No. 6 Bel Air and No. 4 Broadneck by a combined 90-20 in its quarterfinal and semifinal wins.

But it's not as though the Mavericks aren't used to tough situations.

Eastern Tech required overtime to win its first couple of regular-season games. The Mavericks overcame identical deficits of 20-6, to defeat both Milford Mill and last year's 3A champ Wilde Lake. And in last week's 34-25 win over C. Milton Wright, the Mavericks trailed, 12-0, late in the second quarter, and, 18-6, early in the third.

"Down 18-6 against C. Milton Wright, I told our kids we could either tuck tail and go home or keep fighting," Mavericks coach Nick Arminio said. "The next play, we break one and start a 21-point quarter. These kids have character, and I'm not just talking about on the football field."

Character such as that of Anthony Lawston, an All-American with more than 10 full scholarship offers. Lawston, who has shattered four face masks because of his ferocious tackling abilities, visited a sick child in the hospital -- literally giving him the jersey off his back -- before scoring two touchdowns against C. Milton Wright later that night.

There is junior quarterback Scott Pearce (17 passing touchdowns), a first-year starter who struggled with his early-season passing game but engineered the win over Wilde Lake with two rushing scores and two more on passes to Steve Lawston.

There is senior running back/linebacker Ray Jones (28 TC touchdowns), a muscular 6-foot-3, 225-pounder. His size, strength (355-pound bench press) and speed (4.7 in the 40) -- and full scholarship offer to the University of Buffalo -- belie the facts that he had never played organized football or lifted weights when he reported to Eastern Tech's practice as a 13-year-old freshman.

Arminio credits a solid coaching staff and willing players for the success, particularly in the classroom where players such as Henry (3.71 grade-point average), Jones (3.4), Anthony Lawston (3.1), 230-pound running back Troy Mason (3.0) and 6-2, 240-pound lineman Frank Shannan (3.0) have excelled.

Defensive coach Jeff Boller and quarterbacks-wide receiver coach Scott McElfish are police officers. Linemen coach Pat Crain is a guidance counselor, helping players to understand NCAA guidelines and the clearinghouse that determines freshman eligibility standards.

"This is my first full class coming through, and they experienced a 1-9 season that first year when I was their third coach in three years," Arminio said. "This group is very special to me."

State football

Championships

Yesterday

Class 1A

Oakland Mills 15, Forestville 12

Class 4A

Seneca Valley 7, Suitland 6

Today

(at Byrd Stadium, College Park)

Class 2A

Fort Hill vs. Urbana, 3

Class 3A

Friendly vs. Eastern Tech, 7

Pub Date: 11/28/98

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