Playoff football teams go forth

Notebook

November 09, 2005|By RICH SCHERR | RICH SCHERR,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

For the first time in Carroll County history, four county football teams have clinched spots in the upcoming state playoffs. With their final regular-season games scheduled for Friday, Westminster has wrapped up a spot in Class 3A West, while Francis Scott Key, South Carroll and Winters Mill all have secured spots in Class 2A West.

The top four teams in each region - for a total of 16 in each of the state's four size classifications - earn trips to the postseason, based on a points system that takes into account such factors as the classes of the opponents a team defeats and the wins accumulated by those defeated opponents.

Previously, the most county teams to make the playoffs in the same season has been two, and just two county teams, Francis Scott Key in 2000 and South Carroll in 2003, had advanced to the playoffs since 1989.

Francis Scott Key coach John Baugher said that his team, in particular, has benefited from a merger between the Monocacy Valley Athletic League, which his team had been a member of for years, and the Central Maryland Conference, which every other Carroll County team called home prior to 2003.

"I think just being more competitive in the MVAL has helped all of us in that sense," Baugher said. "I would hope that the competition level, the talent of the teams and the coaching ability is also coming into play, as well."

Francis Scott Key was one of a couple of playoff-bound teams to endure difficulties over the weekend. The Eagles got a major scare on Friday when running back Matt Angell, the leading rusher in Carroll County with 1,094 yards, limped off the field after suffering what was later diagnosed as a sprained knee.

"It didn't really pop out of place - it just kind of shifted and twinged either the muscle or the tendon," Baugher said. "He's just going to be a little sore in the beginning of the week this week. It should heal up 100 percent."

South Carroll, as well, endured some frustrations. In a 35-14 loss to Middletown, the Cavaliers were whistled for eight unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, and had two players and coach Butch Schaffer ejected from the game.

Running to states

Several area teams have qualified to take part in Saturday's state cross country meet at Hereford High School after their performances at last week's regionals.

Liberty's boys and girls teams defended their titles in the Class 2A West meet, led by Jim Ridder (second) and Liz Pickett (eighth), respectively. Both advanced out of the region, as did the boys team from Francis Scott Key and the girls teams from Century and Winters Mill.

At the Class 3A West meet, Rob Kelvey and Allison Eaton each took third to lead Westminster's boys and girls to team titles. North Carroll's boys and girls teams also advanced.

A weighty issue

With his undersized team facing an uphill battle in most of its games this season, Century football coach Tony Shermeyer believes there's only one real way to improve.

Get bigger.

The Knights' first-year coach, whose team has been outscored, 227-21 over the past six weeks, has spent countless hours preaching the importance of weight lifting to his players.

"One of the biggest things we've encountered is that, playing the bigger schools that we're playing, we're just getting manhandled up front," Shermeyer said. "The point I've been drilling across to the kids every week is that they've got to get into the weight room. I think the kids are finally starting to understand that they're going to have to in order to be competitive."

Shermeyer said that getting his players to lift has been a chore at times. But with just five seniors on the roster, and as many as 25 juniors returning next season, he knows that good habits now could translate into success down the road.

"They understand that they have a pretty good opportunity to have some success next year if they work at it this offseason," said Shermeyer, whose team's lone win was a 34-14 triumph over Liberty in Week 3. "The biggest positive out of this is that we've gotten some kids some valuable experience."

Chief among them have been junior Ryan Pentz, a talented running back and slot receiver averaging around 5 yards a carry and 14 yards a catch.

He's just one of a core group of players intent on turning around a young program that has yet to win more than three games in a season.

"The kids aren't giving up, and that's just a huge positive for the character of the team," Shermeyer said. "I think what you've really got to drill home is that these kids have to take pride in what they do. They just can't lay down because everybody says they're going to lose."

Century wraps up its season at home against Tuscarora on Friday night.

Getting defensive

Ryan Finch, an offensive standout for Westminster's football team throughout this season, got his first start on defense against Century on Friday night, when he took the field as an outside linebacker.

The move is an effort to help sure up a defense that at times has had problems stopping the run.

"He's going to make our defense step up," Owls coach Brad Wilson said. "It's a tribute to him, because wherever he is, he makes everyone around him better."

Until recently, Finch had spent all of his time on the offensive side of the ball, gaining more than 1,200 yards of total offense as both a rusher and receiver. From now on, however, the senior may seldom come off the field, as he is also expected to see some time at defensive back.

"Before, I wouldn't let my defensive coordinator have certain people, like all of my receivers and [Finch] and [quarterback] Kevin [Clancy]," Wilson said. "But we've been having some problems defensively with the run, and if we want to get to where we want to get, Ryan is going to have to be a part of that."

With just one game left in the regular season, Westminster (8-1) is hoping the move pays off during the upcoming Class 3A state playoffs.

"This is just a process of getting ready for Week 11," said Wilson, referring to the start of the postseason.

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