Bel Air coach Riley resigns



Bruce Riley confirmed that he recently stepped down as Bel Air's varsity football coach after 13 years on the job and 18 seasons with the program.

Riley compiled a 75-59 record as the Bobcats' head coach, including a 5-5 mark this season. Bel Air lost several key players from last year's team that made the Class 3A state semifinals, including brothers Adam and Andrew Berry, who sparked the Bobcats' offense. But quarterback Jon Donnelly stepped in this year and helped Bel Air offense score 281 points this season, second-best in the county.

Last year's trip to the state semifinals was the farthest a Riley team had gone in the playoffs. He said he'll miss the game but felt the time was right to step aside.

"I just wanted to spend more time with my family," Riley said. "I'm missing [family] things, and your children only grow up one time."

Riley, who has been a guidance counselor at Bel Air for 18 years, said he settled on resigning during the season and told the other coaches and players shortly afterward.

"A lot of things contributed to it," Riley said. "I feel it's the best decision. I've got other things I've got to do and responsibilities. It's the right time for me."

Serving as a football coach and a guidance counselor sometimes meant there were days when Riley he'd get to school at 5 a.m. and not return home until around 6 p.m..

"My wife has done an amazing job with the kids," Riley said. "I thought I needed to be there and doing some of that."

Riley played football for Edgewood and was the junior varsity head coach at Bel Air for four years and an assistant for one season. He then moved to the varsity and was head coach for 13 years.

Joppatowne coach Bill Waibel is a friend of Riley's and said he'll be missed on and off the field.

"I've known Bruce for 20 years,," Waibel said. "He's an exemplary football coach, and his teams are always well-prepared. He cares about his players, and he's an overall class act and a good person."

Bel Air school officials haven't yet decided who'll replace Riley.

New day at Fallston

Things have changed in several ways for the Fallston girls basketball team this season.

First, Alice Puckett stepped down as co-coach with Vern Brown after five years - including a 22-4 season last winter. Puckett is taking more time to focus on field hockey, the sport she coaches each fall.

In addition, the Cougars have lost three starters and have many young players. But they've played well in splitting their first two games.

Brown said forwards Jen Harlee and Kristen Steiner are the only two returning starters and should carry the offensive load at times this season. But about half of the team is new.

"We're still finding ourselves at the guard position and still trying to build team chemistry," Brown said. "But I like the way we're progressing, [and] it's going to be a developmental thing."

Brown said Fallston will rotate three players in the backcourt, much like it did last year. Juniors Brandi Sims and Kim McDaniels are going to split time with freshman Jesse Steiner (Kristen's sister), who's impressed Brown.

Depth could be an issue. The Cougars have gotten into early foul trouble in each of the first two games, forcing some younger players into action ahead of schedule.

The Cougars will be tested with several tough games. They'll meet Linganore from Frederick County and St. Mark's (Del.), as Brown believes in playing good teams makes a team better.

"It's just going to take some time to build," Brown said. "There's going to be some learning curves."

Brown isn't too worried about his own learning. Jesse Cromley is his new assistant, and she'll be working with him.

"Alice and I worked well together," Brown said. "It's different because it's all new people around me. It's been somewhat of an adjustment. ... but it's not like I'm fresh off the block."

UCBAC update

The Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference will be using a new format for standings this winter after requests from coaches for changes.

The conference's Board of Control decided that a team's overall record will be determined in the same manner as the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association does for its postseason tournament seedings.

In-season tournament results move to a separate category and become another conference tie-breaker.

The UCBAC has two divisions, and tie-breakers for divisional ties will be as follows: 1. head-to-head competition; 2. record against common non-divisional opponents; 3. overall record; 4. overall record with those tournament results included; 5. coin flip.

Quick hits

The Joppatowne boys basketball team, looking for a return trip to the state final four, got off to a 2-0 start with wins over Harford Tech and Elkton. The Mariners are the only Harford County team that remains undefeated. ... The Harford Christian girls found some early success in the public school ranks with a 43-40 win over Perryville.

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