They play football for the fun, competitiveness of the game

AT PLAY

A touch league with its own rules offers players enjoyment of the sport and camaraderie

October 05, 2005|By JEFF SEIDEL | JEFF SEIDEL,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The Howard County Run & Shoot Football League's games are touch football contests played Sunday mornings for men who are trying to be competitive and play a sport they love. But the contests bear a striking resemblance to football games fans watch on television.

There's the quarterback who is often scrambling to get away from a rush or moving around to buy time and find an open receiver. Four receivers are trying run pass patterns to get open while the defenders are working hard to cover them.

Even though the rules are a little different, this is football, and the game suits the men who play it just fine.

"It's better than other leagues we've played in," said Jeff Plank, a wide receiver and defensive back for the Glentennials. "It's a good mix of offense and defense, and it allows us to have a good time and to be competitive."

The game is a bit of an abbreviated version of tackle football. The offense gets five players, and the defense gets six. Every play is a pass. The defense has a player who can rush the passer after the referee counts off four seconds. The rushing of the passer and the ban on runs by the quarterback keeps the game lively.

Nicola Morgal, sports supervisor for Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks, said the league operates every spring and fall. Twelve teams are in the league, and the games run into November, she said.

The spring league runs from April to July, and Morgal said that league has been playing for about 10 years.

"It's always been solid," Morgal said. "You always get a good number of teams. A lot of the teams that are playing in it have been playing for a long time. They just keep coming back ... because they really enjoy it."

The games, two 25-minute halves, are played at Rockburn Branch Park, where a synthetic turf was installed this year on one field, which has become very popular, especially because a field next to it looks like a dust bowl.

The Barbarians, one of the league's better teams, have been fighting for first place throughout the early part of the season. Teammates Greg Prestel, Mike Stoner and Al Feldblum began playing on an intramural basketball team while at Laurel High School. The team they formed 25 years ago was named the Barbarians, and they have kept that name through other sports.

Prestel said the three have been in the league about nine years and they enjoy it. All have coached football - Feldblum and Prestel co-coach the Laurel junior varsity - and they say the adult league serves several purposes, the most important of which is that they get to play football.

"We've stayed together and been playing in one form or another," Prestel said.

Prestel is a linebacker, Stoner plays quarterback, and Feldblum is a wide receiver.

Real football strategy comes into play at the games. Feldblum said the Barbarians have about 30 plays on offense, kept on index cards to show to the team.

On defense, they keep things simpler, working out of a few formations. The teams don't practice, but Feldblum said they get together before the season starts to go the playbook.

"The fraternal part is the big deal," Feldblum said. "The competitiveness is great, but us being able to get together once a week is the best part."

The players work hard and play with passion.

"After years of doing this, a lot of the teams have been here for a long time," Stoner said. "We know a lot of guys, and it gets very competitive in a friendly manner."

Chad Poist plays with Plank on the Glentennials, a mix of 21- to 25-year-olds who went to Glen Burnie and Centennial high schools. He likes being able to play football on the same day each week.

"It's something to do on Sunday mornings before you watch football," Poist said.

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