Pompey, Wrenn: Two of a kind head for 200

High schools: On the verge of a milestone, the Edmondson and Patterson coaches are still as excited as kids by the new season even after a combined 55 of them.

High Schools

August 27, 2002|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

At about 5:30 a.m. on Aug. 15, the first day of high school practices, Edmondson High football coach Pete Pompey leapt from the bed in his Randallstown home. The former Morgan State quarterback felt like he could throw a mile-long pass.

"An hour later, I'm on the Edmondson football field. It's like 100 degrees or something, and practice don't start until 8," said Pompey, 62, beginning his 29th year as a football head coach. "I don't know how long I'm going to keep doing it, but right now, I'm having too much fun. It's another football season, man, and I'm ready to roll."

In Perry Hall, an eager Roger Wrenn of Patterson emerged from a sleepless night like a child on Christmas.

"Another fitful, sleepless night, but it's been that way ever since I can remember," said Wrenn, 57, a head coach for one fewer season than Pompey. "I still get excited just like a little kid. The day I don't is the day I quit."

That day may be close for each of them, but not before they hit milestone victories next month. Wrenn goes for his 200th win in Patterson's opener against Northwestern, and if Pompey's Red Storm wins its first game, he could achieve No. 200 a week later, against neighborhood rival Walbrook.

Wrenn and Pompey have won a lot more along the way: the respect of colleagues, administrators, players - and each other.

"With all that it takes to coach in the city, they still have the energy and the desire to motivate kids," said Laura D'Anna, a city administrator who knows both coaches. "They have high standards. No excuses. No tolerating things that aren't compliant with the success of the team."

A Patterson principal for five years, D'Anna worked with Pompey for 11 years as an assistant principal at Edmondson.

"You don't see their sidelines out of order. Helmets are on, kids are focused on what's going on in the game," D'Anna said. "Coaching in the city, you have to be tough on kids but show them you care. Pete does it with a dynamic personality; Roger's low-keyed, but gets his point across quietly."

"I consider them high school masterminds," Forest Park coach Obie Barnes said. "They will finesse, technique you and then come right at you. They mix it up offensively and then deliver the knockout blow."

"When you play a Roger Wrenn-coached team, you know you have to out-motivate him. You know he's getting the best out of his kids," Pompey said.

"There are some teams when they're coming up, you're not going to lose a whole lot of sleep over it. But with Pompey as a coach, it's never just another game," Wrenn said.

Mutual respect

Adversaries on the sideline, they were face-to-face across a table during a recent brunch at a local sports bar. They clearly look forward to the next time their teams meet on the field - Oct. 11 at Utz Twardowicz Field in Patterson Park.

In head-to-head meetings, Wrenn has a 7-6-1 edge on Pompey, who coached six years at Dunbar through 1992.

"To be perfectly honest with you, I work harder against Roger than [I do against] most other guys," Pompey said. "But I respect his understanding and his ability to get his kids to do the things they need to do in a football game. You have to work your tail off to beat his teams."

Wrenn said: "In my preseason meeting with my assistant coaches, I told them we'd get out of Sunday coaches meetings at 8 p.m. - except the one before we play Edmondson. There's a star next to that one on the schedule."

If retirement is on the horizon, it's because each has given much to his players, though Pompey and Wrenn probably would argue they've gotten much in return.

"I spend a lot of long hours after practice with kids - grabbing this one, finding out what that one's problem is. Through it all, my wife, Barbara, she's been the best thing that's ever happened to me," said Pompey, who coached Dunbar to the mythical national basketball championship in 1992. "While I've been raising other people's children, she was raising my daughter. I really have to think about that. Now, I have two grandsons. They're 7 and 5. They're already playing Pop Warner football. The clock is ticking, and they're part of the calendar."

Pompey was nearly in tears recalling a tribute in February, when NFL players Tommy Polley and Warren Powers, respective Dunbar and Edmondson graduates, thanked him for being there when their fathers weren't.

Wrenn was choked up while sharing the story of a Patterson alumnus - a player so emotionally troubled by the drug-induced death of his brother that he barely made the grades to graduate from high school. However, he went on to get his college degree and became a high school coach and principal.

"Coaching mostly African- American players, it may take a while for a young man to trust you, realize you're really what you say you are," said Wrenn, who is white. "I have no hidden agenda other than their well-being and their future."

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