`Nasty' Croner seeks nice ending to career

Feisty lineman hopes to lead Oakland Mills to Class 1A final tonight

Football notebook

High schools

November 23, 2001|By FROM STAFF REPORTS

By all accounts, Oakland Mills senior offensive lineman Andrew Croner is a polite, likable, humble young man with a 4.0 grade-point average and a dream of playing football at Princeton.

It just so happens that he also blocks like a bulldozer and has a nasty streak that's more back-alley brawler than Rhodes Scholar.

From snap to whistle, Croner, a four-year starter, has built a reputation for punishing linebackers, nose tackles, defensive backs or anyone else that happens to get in his way. Admittedly, even the whistle can't stop him sometimes.

"I got a personal foul against Centennial [during Oakland Mills' regular-season finale] and Coach [Ken] Hovet wasn't too happy," Croner says with a half grin. "I think he said I was the dumbest smart kid he's ever met."

Still, there's no one Hovet would rather have leading his team tonight when the No. 15 Scorpions (7-4) travel to Washington County's Boonsboro (9-2) for a Class 1A state semifinal.

"On the field, Andrew is a pretty nasty kid, but he's very respectful and humble the minute he steps off it," Hovet says. "He represents the link to our last state championship [in 1998] when he played as a freshman. I think maybe he appreciates this year more having gone through some disappointments in the playoffs the past few seasons. He's not a yeller or a screamer, but he makes his teammates want to play hard because they know he's playing hard."

Croner, 6 feet 2 and 245 pounds, is a major reason why Oakland Mills is back in the title hunt this year despite starting the season 0-3. After tearing an anterior cruciate ligament during lacrosse season last spring, Croner wasn't quite ready for the start of football despite vigorous rehab during the summer. He sat on the sideline and watched as the Scorpions got beat by Mount St. Joseph, Glenelg and River Hill.

As soon as he and fellow lineman James Violand (who was out with a broken bone in his leg) got healthy, things clicked. Oakland Mills got its swagger back, started to open up huge holes for running back Justin Barnes, and has gone 7-1 since Croner's return.

"It was really frustrating at the time," Croner says of standing on the sideline. "But it makes it feel that much better knowing where we're at right now. Winning a state championship when I was a freshman was a great feeling, but I didn't really feel like it was mine. This is more my team, and I want to make sure we go out on top."

Class 2A

City's two-way lineman Nathaniel Clayton has been keeping an eye on Hereford in the hopes of "getting our hands on them."

Hereford's defensive end Ed Darney said he is simply "hoping to silence some critics" of his rural Baltimore County program.

Both players will get their opportunity at 7 tonight when 10th-ranked City (11-0) meets top-ranked Hereford (11-0) in a 2A state semifinal, one that should attract a large, perhaps record-breaking, crowd to Hereford Stadium.

"The No. 1-ranked team in the area against City College, our band, our fans. It's a huge game," said City coach George Petrides, now in his 27th season. "We're going to fill that place."

Hereford coach Steve Turnbaugh expects a standing-room only crowd at the 1,200 capacity stadium, one that could swell beyond the Baltimore County-record 4,000 that watched a 1999 game against Randallstown.

"The proximity of the teams is going to create an exciting atmosphere from a spectator's standpoint," said Turnbaugh, whose team is making its sixth straight semifinal appearance in his seventh season as coach.

Joppatowne quarterback Dalys Talley has thrown for 22 touchdowns, mostly to 6-3, 195-pound George Smith, and has been intercepted only three times.

But when the eighth-ranked Mariners (11-0) play host to Frederick County's Middletown (11-0) tonight in the other 2A semifinal, they will be facing a stingy defense that has allowed only 63 points.

"They don't allow a lot of points, and we average 34, so something's got to give," said Joppatowne coach Greg Komondor. "They control the ball so well on offense, and that's what we try to do. We've only had nine turnovers all year, but I don't think we've faced a defense quite as good as theirs."

Joppatowne's defense also is strong, as reflected by its 19 interceptions. D'Angelo Goffigan and Doug Green have five picks apiece.

Class 4A

"We're the first Meade team to host a playoff game [last week] and we would like to become the first to make it to a state final and be the first to win it," said Meade coach Kenny Gray, whose second-ranked Mustangs (10-1) play host to Bowie (10-1) tonight in a 4A semifinal.

Gray has a special group of seniors that has been with him since their sophomore year when the Mustangs were 2-8.

Seniors like quarterback Antwan Smith, running back/defensive ends Travon Jolley and Ricky Eden, linebacker/running back Terry Adams and end/defensive back Rodney Jackson. They formed the nucleus of a team that improved to 5-5 last season and set a school record for wins this season.

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