Leader of the pack

Coaching runs in the family, so Century High senior Ryan Pentz knows how to call the shots from the scrimmage line to sideline

September 24, 2006|By Rich Scherr | Rich Scherr,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

If there was any doubt that Ryan Pentz was destined to coach, it was put to rest on a mild November day three years ago at Franklin High School.

On the sideline for his father's final game as head football coach at Owings Mills, Pentz, then a 14-year-old freshman, noticed something late in the fourth quarter that he just knew could help send his dad out a winner.

"Franklin was stacking nine defensive players in the box with no free safety," Pentz recalled. "I told him, `Take your tight end, run right up the middle of the field and lob a pass right over the linebackers.'"

His father listened, and the uncovered receiver caught the pass, rumbling about 50 yards to set up the game-winning touchdown. It's a memory that they both still relish.

These days, Pentz is still playing the role of coach. Only now, he's doing it as an athletically gifted senior on the Century football team. As the son of Randy Pentz, Century's first-year athletic director, and Rose Pentz, the school's four-time county Coach of the Year in girls' lacrosse, the 17-year-old brings to the playing field a knowledge of athletics that is beyond his years.

"Growing up in that household and in that atmosphere, Ryan understands the game in and out," Century football coach Tony Shermeyer said. "On the field, he sees things as they happen, and he can direct kids where they need to go. It's just an added luxury to the coaching staff."

His play isn't bad, either.

Pentz has earned first-team All-County honors as a defensive back the past two years, using his speed and instincts to make life miserable for opposing quarterbacks. Last week, he returned an interception 73 yards in the fourth quarter to help seal Century's 42-28 win over Class 2A state finalist South Carroll. As a running back, he rushed for a career-high 197 yards and four touchdowns Thursday against Liberty. And as an occasional slot receiver, he rarely drops a pass. He knows how to settle into soft spots in the defense and let the quarterback find him.

"He really brings a dimension to them with his speed," said South Carroll coach Greg Mihalko.

While his physical credentials are evident, it's the intangibles that separate Pentz from the pack. Academically, he ranks No. 15 in his class of 322, carrying a weighted 4.5 grade point average in all honors and advanced placement courses.

What's more, he hasn't missed a day of school since first grade. His success both in the classroom and on the field has attracted the attention of college football programs from Division I-AA, II and III, including several Ivy League schools.

At 5 feet, 10 inches, 165 pounds, however, Pentz knows that his best chance to stay around the sport after college will come in a support role. He's interning at a sports rehabilitation clinic and is considering a future in sports medicine.

"I just want to stay around athletes," Pentz said. "My ultimate goal is to get to an NFL team as a trainer, an orthopedist, a therapist ... something like that. I still want to be around football." If not on the medical side, then most likely as a coach.

He has spent the majority of his more than 400 student service hours volunteering as a coach at area football and basketball camps. Those coaching instincts carry over to the varsity field, as well.

"When we're in the huddle, he knows everybody's position and where they're supposed to go," Knights quarterback T.J. Willoughby said. "He never makes mistakes. When [younger players] need to know something, he's always there to tell them the right thing to do."

At times, Pentz has even been known to lend a hand to his mother, watching game tapes of girls' lacrosse and making suggestions.

"He'll tell me what he thinks, and he has good points," said Rose Pentz, who has led her team to the state finals each of the past four years, winning two championships. "He'll see things that even I don't. He just has developed a skill for seeing things much better than the average person would."

And with good reason. Randy and Rose Pentz met at Frostburg State, where each was a standout athlete - Randy on the football field and Rose as a lacrosse player. Starting at about age 4, Ryan began accompanying his father on the sideline at Owings Mills, doing odd jobs like running out to pick up the tee after kickoffs.

"That was a big deal for young kids - being on a high school football field and being on the sideline," said Randy, who often would let his son bring a friend. "They really loved it."

These days, the family remains as close as ever. With Randy in his first year at Century, Ryan now has both parents working at his school, and younger sister Kaitlin is a freshman on the Knights' junior varsity volleyball team.

"It is a little weird, but I've adjusted," Ryan said. "I actually really like it. I know my parents will always be there watching my games."

And he'll be watching theirs.

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