Key adjusts to top back's dismissal

Saunders out of football for year after misbehavior

High Schools

October 11, 2002|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Francis Scott Key's football team is getting used to life without running back Eric Saunders.

The No. 9-ranked Eagles will try to improve to 6-0 tonight at South Hagerstown, but they'll be without Saunders for the Monocacy Valley Athletic League game and the rest of the season. He was dismissed from the team this week for what school officials termed "conduct rules violations."

Key coach John Baugher said the players have been trying to focus on getting the sixth win rather than losing Saunders, who ranked second in the county with 525 yards on just 50 carries (10.5 yards a carry) and a total of 10 touchdowns.

"Part of being a team is having kids who can replace [others]," Baugher said. "Obviously, he cannot completely be replaced because of his athletic ability. We all make life choices and, for all intents and purposes, he made a bad choice. The team responded well to it [and] in a very positive nature."

Baugher confirmed that county rules say that Saunders, a junior who transferred into Key about a week into summer football practice, must be out for 45 school days or until season's end, whichever comes first. School principal Randy Clark said that Saunders would regain his eligibility on Dec. 18 if he wanted to play in the winter.

Clark also said that Saunders is still enrolled in school and that the player called Baugher earlier this week to apologize.

"He was disappointed in what had occurred," Baugher said. "He did a great job for us on and off the field."

Saunders was one of several offensive threats for Key. The Eagles use a multiple-wing T system that lets many different players get the ball. Junior Josh Rutter, the team's second-leading rusher, will probably pick up more work with sophomores Layton Hersh and Bryan DeCarlo helping out.

"We've been running with the other backs all year long," Baugher said. "Everyone's been getting carries. It's pretty evenly distributed. ... Josh actually has carried the ball more than Eric."

Baugher said that keeping the players focused was very important this week and that he liked how hard the team worked in practice.

The players know what the situation is, feeling sorry for Saunders but ready to move on.

"Obviously, we're losing a great talent and we're losing a friend," tight end/linebacker Chris Bassler said. "We've got to get our backs up - we've got something to prove now."

Saunders came to Key this year after a checkered stint at Westminster, where he was a first-team All-County running back last season. Despite his yardage this fall, he sat out the North Hagerstown game for violating team rules.

Baugher said he hopes the junior gets everything straightened out.

"I think he's a fine young man and has some really nice qualities," Baugher said. "I'd certainly welcome him back ... next year."

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