Clancy gets grip on Owls offense



Westminster quarterback Kevin Clancy already had the athletic ability and strong arm. Now, a firmer grasp of the Owls' complex offense - a variation of the run-and-shoot - has turned the senior into the most potent weapon in Carroll County football.

Through three games, Clancy has thrown for 740 yards and nine touchdowns, completing 60 percent of his passes in leading Westminster to a trio of lopsided wins.

"It's tremendous what he's done in a year's time," said Owls coach Brad Wilson, speaking of his quarterback who last year threw for nearly 2,000 yards but was hampered by interceptions.

"Early [last] season, if we got behind he'd go deep too often and he had some interceptions. But the last three or four games of the season, he really started to know the offense and know where certain holes were in the defenses."

Wilson said Clancy can make all the passes, exhibiting the touch to throw accurately on the run and the arm strength to find his speedy receivers on the fly. So far, however, he has been lightly recruited, most likely because of his relatively small size (6 feet 1, 180 pounds) for a quarterback.

Wilson expects the interest to pick up as Clancy's numbers become too impressive to ignore. "I'm starting to read defenses a lot better than last year," said Clancy, who has been sacked just once in three games despite throwing an average of 22 times a game. "Our offensive line has just been outstanding."

Forward returns

Liberty's soccer team got a major boost Thursday when first-team All-County forward Taylor VanBrackle returned to the field more than five months after having surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

The injury occurred while VanBrackle was playing for his club soccer team last winter. He had surgery April 1, and after months of rehab, the senior couldn't wait to get back.

"I feel stronger than ever," VanBrackle said. "I'm just excited to be back with the team. I play a little more relaxed now, just because I know that going in hard or going in a little physical at any time could tear it again. I'm a little more hesitant to go in, but I'm still playing aggressive."

Lions coach Ed DeVincent expected to limit VanBrackle's playing time for the first few games, at least until he was back in shape. VanBrackle, however, didn't take long to contribute, assisting on Liberty's lone goal in a 1-1 tie with host Middletown.

"I think he's still got to get his legs under him and everything, but him being 75 percent or 80 percent is going to help us out," DeVincent said.

Falcons surging

Second-year volleyball coach Shelly Katzef is quickly turning Winters Mill into a team to be reckoned with in Carroll County.

By starting 5-0, the Falcons already have surpassed their win total from last season, when they were competitive - losing seven matches in five games - but could never seem to turn the corner, finishing 4-10.

Now, despite losing three starters from a year ago and elevating five from the junior varsity, Winters Mill has transformed itself into a contender, particularly after defeating perennial county power Francis Scott Key in four games Thursday.

"The biggest difference is commitment to my philosophy," Katzef said. "Last year was my first year there, so it was kind of about changing everything ... and it took them a little while to buy into it."

Senior Caitlin Byrne led the way against Key with 14 kills, six aces, two blocks and four digs, while fellow hitters Megan Reed and Katie Bollinger and setters Jessica Wilmer and Jen Schaeffer also led the attack. .

Young gun

Though just a freshman, North Carroll golfer Michael Coppa is already turning plenty of heads.

In his first seven high school matches, the 14-year-old had a nine-hole average of 38.71, good enough to put him among the leaders in the county.

"It's very rare that a freshman even starts, much less almost leading the county," said North Carroll coach Bill McDonald, whose team got off to a 6-3 start.

Despite his small stature, about 5- -3, 110 pounds, Coppa can drive the ball about 275 yards, thanks largely to his nearly flawless form and flexibility.

He is just one part of what McDonald calls an "unbelievable" freshman class. In Thursday's match against Winters Mill and Walkersville, the Panthers started four freshmen.

"That's just very, very rare in varsity golf," McDonald said.

A happy return

After not running since the first week of September, when he re-aggravated a sprained right ankle during a meet, Liberty's Eric Liberatore returned to action at Saturday's South Carroll Invitational, finishing 22nd.

"I'm happy with my performance, but it was rough," said sophomore Liberatore, who was fourth at last year's county championships. "Your first week back is always tough."

Liberatore rolled the ankle in August while playing in a summer basketball league. He then re-injured it by stepping on a rock during a meet.

Since then, Liberatore said he has been watching where he steps.

"In practice, I'll be careful. In meets, I'm a little less cautious," he said. "But I definitely notice it more."

Sun staff writer Edward Lee contributed to this article.

Numbers game

1 -- Shutout by Winters Mill. The Falcons, who began varsity play in 2003, routed North Carroll, 39-0, Friday.

46 -- Consecutive points scored by Westminster's football team Friday after the Owls trailed Francis Scott Key 14-0. Host Westminster won, 46-20.

92 -- Points South Carroll's volleyball team scored against two-time defending state champion Liberty on Thursday in nearly handing the Lions their first loss since 2002.

7 -- Consecutive games without a loss for the Carroll Christian boys soccer team after Friday's 5-1 win over New Life.

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