Ramshackle to Ram tough

Edgewood ends its season on a roll after starting off 0-3.

Cover Story

November 16, 2005|By JEFF SEIDEL | JEFF SEIDEL,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Edgewood defensive back Greg Swift planted his foot to try to make a tackle during a preseason scrimmage against New Town, and in that instant, the Rams' season took an unexpected turn.

Swift's foot got caught in the ground after he planted it, and someone crashed into his shin, snapping his tibia and ending his senior season. The bone was sticking out as Swift lay on the ground in agony.

"I couldn't even look at it," Edgewood offensive coordinator Chris Johnson said. "I didn't want to look. It was pretty gruesome."

After several minutes, a medevac helicopter arrived and transported Swift to the hospital, where he underwent surgery to repair the compound fracture.

"The whole team saw [Swift's injury], and we think it hurt them quite a bit," Edgewood head coach Fred Myers said. "When we look back on it, I think that had a big effect on us for the first three games. ... . The kids were a bit hesitant. It was kind of an eye-opener."

The Rams, who had high expectations coming into the season, stumbled to an 0-3 start. But instead of writing off the season, Myers and his staff made some crucial adjustments. The team settled down and turned its season around, winning seven consecutive games to capture the Chesapeake Division title of the Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference.

Unfortunately for Edgewood (7-3, 6-0), it wasn't enough to get it into the state playoffs.

Edgewood, which also lost wide receiver-safety Hezekiah Barrett for three games due to a sprained neck suffered in the preseason, opened the season with three straight road games - against Elkton, Archbishop Spalding and Rising Sun.

Things came into focus after the loss to Rising Sun for the Rams, who still chant "1-2-3, Swift" whenever the team huddles together.

"Everyone got tired of losing, and after starting off 0-3, we had to turn it around," said senior quarterback Jordan Hancock, who has rushed for 533 yards and passed for 1,102 yards with 12 touchdowns and four interceptions. "We got a little more focused at practice, and I think we were just more determined."

Myers and his coaches then changed the defense from the 4-3 format to a 5-2 and 5-3 style. The move allowed Edgewood to do a better job of controlling the line of scrimmage and to stop giving up so many big plays.

In addition, the Rams finally began getting some breaks. Barrett (six interceptions) returned for Edgewood's fourth game, and running back-defensive end Charlie Brown (473 yards rushing, 286 yards receiving) transferred to the school from Rhode Island in late September and proved to be a crucial addition.

Edgewood gained its first victory when it defeated rival Aberdeen, 18-0. The defense gave the team a rallying point by making a goal-line stand late in the fourth quarter when the Eagles had a first-and-goal inside the Rams' 5-yard line.

The Rams then met Fallston in a rainstorm. Edgewood got a first-half safety and clung to a 2-0 lead for most of the game before the versatile Hancock made some key plays and running back Quinten Bell (777 yards and 10 touchdowns on 108 carries this season) ran for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter to give the Rams their second straight shutout, 10-0.

Despite the bad weather that night, the Edgewood offense showed it was beginning to awaken.

"I think the biggest thing is that there was no finger-pointing going on," Johnson said. "Everybody stuck together, and it was just like, `We're all in this together.' That was really important."

The Rams, who returned a number of talented players from last season's 6-4 squad, were starting to look like the team that some in the preseason had touted as the best in the county.

Edgewood got to .500 with a 47-20 victory over Bel Air, a team that made the Class 3A state semifinals last season. Then came a 49-6 rout of North East-Cecil, followed by a 21-14 overtime win at Joppatowne.

The Rams then rolled to a 42-7 victory over C. Milton Wright and a 46-7 rout of North Harford, making players wonder how they ever lost those first three games.

"Everyone feels that way," Hancock said. "We didn't feel we should have lost any of those games. The players talked with each other and tried to re-focus."

The Rams completed their turnaround with Friday's blowout win over North Harford - which clinched the division title for Edgewood - as Hancock threw for three touchdowns and ran for one.

It was bittersweet, however, as North Harford (8-2, 5-1) plays on in the state playoffs while Edgewood's season is over.

Said senior wingback Ben Cottingham: "We had high expectations for this season. I'm a little disappointed. But we had so much fun. It's it's been so good [bouncing back], and we've played so well in these past seven games that I'm proud of our team."

The team got an unexpected lift from Swift before the North Harford game. Swift had come to all of the games, but this time he dressed in full game uniform - white jersey with No. 84 and black pants - and joined the team captains to walk out to midfield for the coin flip.

His appearance gave the team a spark, a stark contrast from the emotion the players felt the last time they saw him in uniform.

"He's one of the leaders of the team," Myers said. "He's well-liked and well-respected. He's just a really good kid, and they played harder because he couldn't."

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