Calvert Hall players know the score, thanks to Albert

High Schools

October 17, 2002|By MIKE PRESTON

Calvert Hall coach Jay Robinson wanted someone who could jazz up his offense and teach life skills, so he hired his former college football coach at Towson University, Phil Albert. In return, Albert has pieced together an offense that is averaging more than 40 points and 400 yards per game, and given the No. 3 Cardinals a shot at the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship.

It's been a nice trade-off.

If you're in the area of Calvert Hall's Paul Angelo Russo Stadium Saturday at 1 p.m., stop in to see one of the area's top high school games when the Cardinals (6-0) play host to No. 1 Gilman (7-0), ranked No. 16 nationally by USA Today.

If nothing else, it will be the most well-coached game around. Gilman coach Biff Poggi played at the University of Pittsburgh and has two former Colts on his staff in Joe Ehrmann and Stan White, along with former Greyhounds head coach Sherm Bristow.

Robinson played and coached at Towson University, and has four former Tigers on his staff, including former small college All-America linebacker Jeff Boller and ex-Calvert Hall coach Augie Miceli.

And of course, there is Albert.

"Actually, we're nothing more than just a bunch of local football guys coaching their teams, but it should be a lot of fun because we all know each other," Poggi said.

"What Phil and Jay have done with that offense is scary. Last year, Phil's first, he had to find out what he could do in high school. They have now recognized what their abilities are. Phil doesn't ask them to go out and do what he can do best, but do what they can do best. It's nothing fancy; he just says. `Here it is, stop it.' "

Albert's forte has always been passing. In 20 years at Towson, he compiled a 117-91-3 record and a list of outstanding quarterbacks such as Dan Dullea, Ron Meehan, Bret Rogers and Kurt Beathard. But Robinson wanted more than just a football coach.

Albert, 58, is a devout Christian and one of the area's busiest public sports speakers. He is charismatic and fiery, but also has strong morals and ethics. He has been the sounding board for a lot of players and high school coaches.

"I've known him for 20-some years," Poggi said. "Phil is a salt-of-the-earth human being. When I first started in this business and was seeking advice, he would meet with me during his season. He has been that way with a lot of coaches."

Robinson said: "All I did was offer him the opportunity to do something he loves and enjoys, which is to work with kids and be competitive, and to teach them life skills. He's a great role model who'll push these kids because he challenges them."

Robinson was an assistant under Albert for 12 years at Towson. But a year after he became Calvert Hall's head coach, he pursued Albert, who had lost his seven-year job as a San Diego Chargers scout when the NFL team changed general managers in April 2001.

The courting took some time.

"When Jay became the head coach, we would meet once a week to go over X's and O's, but also the different responsibilities of a head coach," said Albert, who turned down several other college jobs to remain in this area with friends and family. "Then when the winter and spring started, I told him I would come over just to get him started. Then we got into two-a-days, and the next thing I know, I'm standing on the sideline for a [Thanksgiving] ballgame.

"You get to the point where the kids start counting on you, Jay starts counting on you and you become committed," said Albert, who still teaches at Towson. "I missed the interaction with kids and the coaches. I missed being a coach."

There were adjustments. Attention spans are shorter in high school than in college. Albert had to trade roles with a head coach whom he taught. Albert also had to modify his trademark passing game. It can be only so sophisticated on the high school level.

"You can have a quarterback who can throw, but you can't always pass protect because high school coaches are always crowding the box," Albert said. "It's also hard to teach receivers because by the time they learn how to read defenses, they are usually seniors, and then they're gone. I don't think you can hang your hat on the passing game at the high school level year in and year out, but if you can pass, you can be real effective."

The Cardinals are real effective. Quarterback Andrew Goldbeck throws about 17 times a game and has more than 1,100 passing yards. Ask Calvert Hall receivers Dan Spriggs and Lamar Williams about pass coverages, and they know the difference between four-under and three-deep coverage as opposed to five-under and three-deep coverage.

They know where to find the soft spots in zones.

Albert's passing game is the perfect complement to the running styles of alternating tailbacks Marques Thompson and Nick Williams and fullback Matt Buschman.

"Last year was Andrew's first year as the starting quarterback and it was Coach A's first year as the offensive coordinator," Robinson said. "It didn't work out as well as it should have. But he has helped him to become an excellent quarterback."

Albert is having just as much fun, too. As an assistant, he puts in only about four hours a day, which allows him to spend time with his wife, Kay, and his grandchildren and to devote more time to his religion.

He'll stay at Calvert Hall unless some area college, like Morgan State (hint, hint, please hire the man), comes calling.

"He has no ego," Robinson said. "It's not like I've had to look over my shoulder. He has been perfect for our situation."

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