Owls back in running with Finch

On High Schools

December 09, 2005|By MILTON KENT

If you're a Westminster High fan, here's the quick and easy, nice and neat formula to advancing to the state football championship game: Get yourself a Finch to man your backfield.

Twenty-nine years ago, Ray Finch ran for 1,005 yards and 16 touchdowns in leading the Owls to the school's first state title-game appearance, which ended in a 20-7 loss to Largo.

Twenty-nine years later, Ryan Finch, Ray's son, is an important cog in second-ranked Westminster's second visit to the championship match, tomorrow night's Class 3A game against Gwynn Park of Prince George's County.

"It's just cool having a Finch in the backfield every year that Westminster has made the championship. It's just fun," said Ryan Finch.

"I guess that's been consistent, at least over a couple of decades," Ray Finch said with a laugh earlier this week.

Father-and-son stories at the same school aren't necessarily new. In this day and age, however, with transient populations and the toll the divorce rate has taken on the nuclear family concept, they are becoming rarer.

So, the fact that a father and his progeny can be successful on the same field a generation apart is worth noting. Truth be told, Ray and Ryan are the second and third waves of Finches to excel on the football field. Ray's father, Bill, was an All-Metro quarterback at Loyola.

The athletic prowess isn't exclusive to Ray Finch and Ryan, his youngest son. Ray's wife, Terry, was an athlete at South Carroll, which, oddly enough, plays in the 2A final against Potomac tomorrow.

Their daughter, Shannan, plays attack on the women's lacrosse team at Messiah College in Pennsylvania, where she is a senior. Their son, Alexander, played football for a couple of years at Westminster, before turning to lacrosse, in which he also plays attack at Messiah, where he's a sophomore.

"There are a lot of athletic genes in the family," said Ray Finch, in a bit of understatement.

Back in the day, Ray Finch was pretty good, so good that he not only led the Owls to the football championship game, but he also played midfield for the school's lacrosse team.

It was on the wrestling mat, however, where Ray Finch really excelled. In four years on the varsity, he won 97 percent of his matches, capturing a state championship as a 138-pound wrestler in his sophomore year.

He lost a decision in the title match as a junior at 145 pounds, then won the championship at 155 pounds as a senior, earning a wrestling scholarship to Penn State and The Evening Sun 's Prep Athlete of the Year award in 1976-77.

It would be rude to ask which of the Finches, Ryan or Ray, was better, so we won't. But people who have seen them say their styles and approach to the game are identical.

"They said my dad was a tough runner who didn't like to be tackled like me," said Ryan Finch. "He gave it his all. God gave him the ability to play football. I thank God for the chance to have that chance, too."

And Ryan, who also stars in lacrosse, has made the most of his chances, too.

As the feature back in Westminster's pass-happy spread offense, which usually sends four receivers out in patterns, Ryan Finch has had an impressive senior season, running for 1,237 yards and 14 touchdowns, with 206 yards and two touchdowns in last week's 35-6 win over City in the state semifinals.

In all, Ryan Finch has well over 2,000 all-purpose yards, adding more than 800 receiving yards to his total, as well as 250-plus kickoff return yards. His 24 touchdowns are far and away the best on the roster, and he also plays defensive back, as his dad did, alongside a group of boys he has grown up with.

"I had a tough group of kids who came through [together]," said Ray Finch. "There's a tough group of kids out there now. They play hard and they are tenacious. I see a lot of similarities with his team with the mental chemistry as I do with our team."

Few people outside the circle of Westminster coaches and players know the rush of adrenaline that will run through Ryan Finch tomorrow night. One who does is his dad, and they'll share that link just before kickoff.

"When I got to the finals of the state wrestling tournament, my father said, `Shoot, Ray, you've come this far. You might as well win it.' And I did," said Ray Finch. "I think Ryan's team goal was to get to this game and I'll just tell him, `You've made it this far. You might as well win it.'"

milton.kent@baltsun.com

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