A back's eye for the end zone

Football: Francis Scott Key's Brad Stonesifer discovers "vision" and puts up some gaudy running numbers, including six touchdowns in one game. Now, if only a college would notice.

October 26, 2001|By Rich Scherr | Rich Scherr,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Coaches call it "vision." It's the ability of a player, in an instant, to size up a situation on the field and make the correct move.

Few do it better than Francis Scott Key running back Brad Stonesifer. For this senior, however, knowing when to wait for a block or dash through a seem has helped him see another image quite clearly - the end zone.

In his past five games, the speedy back has scored 19 touchdowns, including a Carroll County-record six against South Hagerstown. So far this season, he's averaging 11 yards a carry for the 5-2 Eagles and on average has scored a touchdown every fifth time he's touched the ball.

"I know when to try and juke somebody, when to try and blow by them, or when I need to lower my shoulder and get the extra yard or two," said Stonesifer, who has rushed for 1,033 yards on just 94 carries, with 20 total touchdowns. "If I can see a block, then I can read off that to make another cut. With one or two more blocks downfield, I think from there I can just take it."

Though Stonesifer gained more than 1,200 yards as a junior, helping the Eagles to their first Monocacy Valley Athletic League title, he rarely found the end zone.

"You have a lot of running backs with attributes, but when a back has vision, he uses his blocks well, he sets up his blocks well, and he has the ability to cut back or break out to the outside and turn a short run into a long gain," said Key coach Dave Dolch. "He will wait for his blocks when he has to, but at the same time he'll explode through a hole when he sees a crack. You see his head and eyes moving all the time."

It's an instinct that Stonesifer said comes with the experience of running in the same offensive system for three years.

"I know what to expect from what block, how tough one is going to be, and where the hole is going to be," said the 17-year old, adding that scoring never gets old. "The adrenaline goes through you, whether it's your first one of the season or your last one, or whether it's a 2-yard run or a 90-yard run."

That kind of passion, however, that has yet to register with prospective college coaches.

Despite Stonesifer's obvious talent, numbers and ability to hold on to the ball - he's fumbled only twice in two seasons - he has heard barely a peep from major programs, perhaps frightened by his 5-11, 185-pound frame. Dolch, a former college coach, said that playing in the rural town of Union Bridge, considered off the beaten path by many recruiters, probably hasn't helped.

Stonesifer, though, has scholarship offers - in baseball. As a junior, the speedy shortstop hit .423 with 19 RBIs and 17 stolen bases to earn first team All-Carroll County honors. He's been playing baseball since he was 5 and is considering giving up football if baseball were to earn a college scholarship.

His mother, Tricia Stonesifer, a player on Key's two state championship field hockey teams in the late 1970s, remembers that in Brad's younger days, when he wasn't playing baseball, he would often stand around the house and pretend as if he were fielding grounders and throwing to first.

"What's meant to be is meant to be - that's the way his dad and I feel," said Tricia Stonesifer. "Baseball, football ... whatever comes about."

Dolch, however, feels strongly that colleges passing on Stonesifer for football are mistaken. "I think he could have a major impact on a Division I-AA or mid-major program within two years," said Dolch.

Brad Stonesifer said he's given thought to trying to play both sports in college but feels it would negatively impact his grades.

For now, his main goal is to help the Eagles win their final three games as they try again for the Class 2A state playoffs.

Surprisingly, he said his most memorable performance this season came in a one-sided defeat to Middletown. Though pulled at halftime with a suspected concussion, he had three breakaway runs called back because of penalties, including an apparent 80-yard touchdown. In the first quarter alone, he had 166 yards negated.

"The way those plays developed, it was just perfect," he said.

Perhaps the only thing more perfect would be a visit from a college coach with scholarship in hand. For Stonesifer, that would be the sweetest vision of all.

Stonesifer's stats

Opponent.......Yards...TDs

North Carroll...127...1

Middletown...62...0*

N. Hagerstown... 204...4

Smithsburg...145...5

Boonsboro...75...0

S. Hagerstown...237...6

Walkersville...183...4*

Injured. Played first half only.

Touchdown runs over 20 yards:

vs. Walkersville - 52, 39, 23

vs. S. Hagerstown - 46, 23

vs. N. Hagerstown - 65, 36

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