Passing the mantle

The Severna Park Falcons have 28 seniors on the team this year, but their coach doesn't expect the roster of leaders to end there


September 13, 2006|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,Sun reporter

It's not that Severna Park football coach J.P. Hines doesn't believe in senior leadership or isn't grateful that he has the experience of 28 seniors on his 47-player roster.

It's just that he doesn't think leadership is limited to seniors - nor the best talent, for that matter.

"Senior leadership is not really important to me," said Hines, whose 28 seniors are the most he has had on a Falcons team in his nine years as coach.

"I have captains who are juniors. I expect leadership from my seniors. It's who the kid is, and just because a kid is a senior doesn't mean he will play."

Instead of being offended by Hines' words, the seniors are more determined to show their value. And at least one underclassman appreciates their presence.

Junior Pat Morrison, who is one of seven team captains, has big shoes to fill as Falcons quarterback, but he expects to get the help he needs from senior leaders and his coaches.

"There is no way I can replace Greg Zingler and be just as good," Morrison said of the All-County quarterback who ran the county champions' triple-option offense last year as a senior.

Morrison might not feel as if he can replace Zingler, but Hines is excited about the way Morrison is playing and says he has improved "100 percent since his first scrimmage and is throwing the ball well and reading well."

Morrison credits Hines and Zingler with his progress.

"Greg taught me a lot, and with our offensive line and our seniors, we can get the job done. I'm confident we can be just as good as last year's team because we have great seniors. Every single one of them can step up and be a leader."

Two of the seniors Morrison was talking about are captains Chris Hunt and Brent Sanders. Hunt, an All-County wide receiver-defensive back last season, and Sanders, a running back-defensive back, welcome the challenge.

Hunt and Sanders were starters on a team that lost its nonleague opener to Calvert Hall before recording 10 consecutive victories, including nine in the Anne Arundel league last season.

The Falcons opened Friday at home with a 10-9 win over Calvert Hall and Severna Park opens its county public school league season Friday at South River.

Hunt said senior leadership is important. "I remember when I was an underclassman watching the seniors lead us onto the field and set the example. I always wanted to be like them, and now I can be.

"We have a lot of experience, and it's up to us [seniors] to set the tone for the younger kids," said Hunt, who had 27 receptions for 560 yards and eight interceptions while making 35 tackles and intercepting three passes on defense last season.

Sanders, whose father, Jeff Sanders, was an All-County running back at Severna Park in 1980 before going on to star at William and Mary, is hoping the seniors can ease the burden on Morrison.

"Me and Chris and some of the other guys ... hopefully, we will take a lot of pressure off of him and he won't have to do too much and go out of his demeanor. He's a very laid-back kind of guy. He leads a lot by example and we, the more vocal people who lead the team, will be able to step up."

Last season, the Falcons went 10-2, losing 34-28 to River Hill (11-2) in the Class 3A East regional final. It was a school-record third straight playoff appearance under Hines, who is 50-36 in eight seasons.

"The triple-option was new to me when I came to Severna Park," said Morrison, who played at St. Mary's in his freshman year before transferring last year and starting at safety. "It's a great offense because if you're not the biggest team size-wise, it makes the other team respect everything."

Sanders thinks the offense will be strong again.

"It will be close [to last year's] or it might be better," Sanders said. "It all depends. I think our line is better than it was last year. We have a lot of seniors and leadership on the line and the rest of the offense is looking pretty good."

Sanders thinks the defense will be strong for the same reasons.

"On our team, everybody is a captain because we've got a bunch of leaders," Sanders said.

That works for Hines, who doesn't pick his leaders or his starters based on their year.

"We play the best players, no matter what class," he said.

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