S. Carroll's Burns does it his way

QB/defensive back one-ups success of brother with team's first trip to state title game

High Schools


For Jason Burns, then a South Carroll sophomore, the taunts from his older brother Ryan were often brutal and relentless.

"My brother lived and breathed football, and he would always rub it in that they were doing so well," Jason said of Ryan Burns, who earned All-Metro honors as a 6-foot-5 defensive end whose 13 sacks led the Cavaliers to the Class 2A state semifinals, a school-record mark of 11-2 and a No. 5 area ranking in The Sun in 2003.

"I was playing on the junior varsity at the time, and he was always telling me, `when you're a senior, you guys will never be this good,'" Jason Burns recalled. "But now, we're doing just as good if not better than they did. And I'm the one who is bragging and rubbing it in."

Ryan Burns, now playing at Frostburg, will be watching from the stands tomorrow at M&T Bank Stadium, when his kid brother leads the eighth-ranked Cavaliers (10-3) into their first state title game against defending Class 2A champ Potomac (11-2) of Prince George's County.

South Carroll (10-3) has won eight of its past nine games and four straight, including a 21-3 victory over Middletown on Nov. 4 for the 2A West Region crown that avenged an earlier 35-14 blowout loss.

And it is Jason Burns (6-2, 185 pounds) who is leading the way, having passed for 1,302 yards and 12 touchdowns as a quarterback, and grabbed eight interceptions in his first year as a starting defensive back.

Running back Ryan Hash has cleared nearly 1,500 yards for 27 touchdowns behind an offensive line of Kyle McDonald, Steve Thomas, Jeff Cumberland, Nick Berg, Kevin Greenville and blocking fullback Roger Yohn.

Chris Hersche leads the defense, having registered his 17th sack of the year in last weekend's 27-18 semifinal win over Milford Mill of Baltimore County.

The Cavaliers, who went 3-7 last year, are under second-year coach Butch Schaffer, who left McDaniel College in 2003, ending an eight-year association with a program that had won its conference title "every year but my first" as an assistant coach, Schaffer said.

"I had been taught to coach a certain way at McDaniel, by [head coach] Tim Keating and [assistants] Al Thomas, John Buccheister, John Freeman, Ed Ashwell," Schaffer said, listing men who established high school programs into state powers.

"They were guys who had a great influence on me. I was confident I was going to get good kids at South Carroll - kids I knew had the potential to improve and who would play hard," said Schaffer, who replaced retired coach Gene Brown. "I knew the community would be supportive - the kind of atmosphere I wanted to be in."

But Schaffer and Burns stepped into big shoes last season, inheriting a team that graduated All-Metro Offensive Player of The Year T.J. Swanson, a quarterback, and returned only one starter. The early results were predictable: an 0-3 record that included blowout losses by a combined 95-14 to Westminster and Linganore sandwiched around a debilitating 26-20 setback against county rival North Carroll.

"It was pretty miserable, yeah," Burns said. "Especially knowing what the team had done last year."

The Cavaliers routed Winters Mill, 36-14, in their fourth game of the year, but their joy was shortlived: South Carroll would lose four of its last five games, including a 38-6 rout by Middletown.

"There were games we had chances to win - close games against Liberty, Francis Scott Key and North Carroll," Schaffer said. "We lost our starting quarterback during the middle of the season, which didn't help. Needless to say, I wasn't very happy. I was used to winning, so it was a tough, learning season."

But an offseason of brutal workouts and camaraderie raised the Cavaliers' morale. The players, collectively, reported to the initial practice Aug. 15 in extraordinary shape and as a more cohesive unit. Practices, Burns said, often were followed by bonding sessions and or get-togethers, most notably poolside at McDonald's home.

"Last year, we were a team of half seniors, half underclassmen, and we didn't have the unity that we have this year," Burns said. "Everyone is on the same page. Everyone wants to win."

But the Cavaliers got off to an inauspicious start at 2-2. It was one thing to get routed by Westminster, 44-8 - "I knew we didn't match up well with them," Schaffer said.

But the 30-21 loss to Winters Mill - a team the Cavaliers trounced a year earlier - left the coaches and players questioning themselves.

"Trying to evaluate what had gone wrong, that was a long night," Schaffer recalled. "We switched some things around, tried to put our best personnel on the field."

But after a four-game winning streak, the Cavaliers, top-to-bottom, suffered what Schaffer called, "a complete meltdown" in losing, 35-14, to Middletown. South Carroll was penalized eight times for unsportsmanlike conduct and lost Schaffer and two players to ejections.

"It was a complete meltdown, and I led us to it. I went home in the mirror and said, `this is never going to happen again,'" Schaffer said. "We were deeply embarassed by that. Fortunately, football can teach you life lessons. We all went through it, and we all learned from it."


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