Playing game of catch-up

Basketball season sneaked up on some Westminster and South Carroll football players.

December 21, 2005|By RICH SCHERR | RICH SCHERR,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

For five Carroll County basketball players, there was no time for second-guessing or lamenting missed opportunities.

Just two days removed from playing for state football titles at M&T Bank Stadium, and ending their seasons with emotionally draining losses, the most common question last week as each tried to make up for lost time on the hardwood wasn't "What if?" Rather, it was "What's next?"

"Our team is so far ahead of us," said South Carroll's Evan Dayhoff, a guard for the basketball team and a wide receiver-defensive back in football. "We have quite a few plays to memorize. The team kind of helps us through it, but it's still kind of hard in one day to learn it and then get on the court and try to do it in a game."

After nearly four months of football, about a month more than most other teams, Dayhoff was one of three players from South Carroll, along with two others from Westminster, who barely had enough time to shed their shoulder pads before taking the court for their schools' varsity basketball teams. A third Westminster player, All-Metro quarterback Kevin Clancy, returned to practice on Monday following an extra week off.

All six spent the entire basketball preseason and the early days of the regular season playing football. Since state rules prohibit players from practicing in more than one sport at a time, they were forced to put their winter seasons on hold, then play a quick game of catch-up.

By Tuesday of last week, with just one day of practice, the games were for real.

"I didn't really know the whole offense, but the coaches told me to go out and just run around, hustle and do my best," said South Carroll forward Jason Burns. "So that's what I did."

Burns, the Cavaliers' starting quarterback and an All-Metro defensive back, was fresh off a season in which he led his team to a 10-4 record and a trip to the Class 2A state title game, the first in school history. There, however, South Carroll's dream season came to a harsh end with a 38-3 loss to Potomac.

"You can dwell on it and you can have your regrets that you could have done this or could have done that, but you have to look at it like there's nothing now you really can do about it," said Cavaliers forward Mike Mason, a lineman in football. "When basketball season starts, I just really kind of put the past behind me."

The same can be said for Westminster's Clancy, All-Metro lineman Dan Stone and All-County linebacker Jeremy Hines.

"It should help, just being around the guys again and trying to keep it off my mind with basketball," said Clancy, who had considered taking the season off after the heartbreaking, 20-14 loss in double overtime to Gwynn Park.

All three played major roles as the Owls posted their best season in school history, scoring an average of 40 points a game in rolling to a 12-1 record heading into the Class 3A state final.

"It was hard coming off that tough loss on Saturday and just getting right into practice on Monday, but it kind of helps to take your mind off of it," Stone said.

Just as tough, however, was the process of quickly getting into basketball shape.

"It's actually a very hard transition," Mason said. "Once the [football] season started winding down, our practices came down to just kind of going over our plays and less conditioning. Then once you jump into basketball, it's a huge difference, because you're just constantly running up and down the floor."

"I think the biggest adjustment physically is your legs," said South Carroll basketball coach Greg Mihalko. "Football legs and basketball legs are two different worlds. It takes a while to get your basketball stamina underneath you and try to eliminate that football mentality of four seconds of sprinting, then resting."

There's a different mind-set, as well. Mihalko said the all-out, full-contact mentality of football doesn't work in basketball, as Burns found out last week when he took the court against Westminster.

Despite scoring 10 points, the 6-foot-3 senior found himself in constant foul trouble, and finally fouled out late in a tight game that the Cavaliers lost, 44-42.

"I try to go out there and try to play aggressively, but it's definitely different," Burns said. "I went out in basketball [Tuesday] and fouled out ... because I was used to football. You definitely have to tone it down a little bit, because everything is a foul."

Still, players like Burns are the exceptions, experienced enough to step in and make an immediate impact, without the benefit of a preseason. Westminster coach Brett Kanther took the same approach with Stone and Hines, knowing any contributions they could make would be as valuable to the team as to them personally.

"I think emotionally they are a little bruised up, but I think it's also good for them to be busy," Kanther said. "While they may be a little bit rusty, we're going to throw them right in there and see what happens. We just may keep things a little more simple. We've had to - there's been a lot going on."

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