As Marriotts Ridge struggles through its first season of varsity ball, the coach and the players are looking for improvement every week

Finding their stride

Football

November 08, 2006|By Todd Karpovich | Todd Karpovich,Special to the Sun

Competing as a varsity football program for the first time, Marriotts Ridge has struggled this season.

As players have tried to adjust to the speed of the game and learn a new system playing against more-seasoned opponents, the Mustangs have gone 1-7 in a highly competitive league that includes the metro area's top-ranked team, River Hill.

However, one of the bright spots for the team this season has been junior quarterback Kevin Seker, who has maintained a presence in the pocket and emerged as a team leader.

Seker is already looking forward to next year when the Mustangs will have a better grasp of coach Ken Hovet's system.

"It has been fun," Seker said about the season. "Obviously, there have been some ups and downs, and it is a challenge. We just keep our team focused. Our main goal is getting better each week."

Marriotts Ridge's highlight this season is its win Sept. 27 over Oakland Mills, where Hovet had coached for two decades. The Mustangs took advantage of two turnovers in the 16-13 victory, and Seker scored the winning touchdown on a 1-yard run.

The season, however, has not been about wins and losses. Instead, Hovet has asked his team to try to improve each game.

"It was good to get a win." Hovet said. "The focus has been to put things in place and trying to spread it out whenever we see we have good matchups. We wanted the kids to know going into the offseason what they need to work on and what we are trying to do strategy-wise so it wouldn't be so new to them."

In 2005, Marriotts Ridge had only a junior varsity program, composed of ninth- and 10th-graders. This year, the school has its first class of juniors and kept 35 players on its varsity squad and another 35 on junior varsity. Hovet has been pleased with those numbers, but the biggest challenge was that none of those players had varsity experience.

In some games, the team has been competitive, and in others, it has been overmatched.

"As a first-year program, you don't want to have unrealistic expectations," Hovet said. "You want to focus on some goals you think you can achieve by improving the team and improving the individual players on the team. You want to be more team-oriented and less results-oriented, otherwise you are just going to be disappointed.

"Our focus this year is establishing some expectations of what we want from the kids, how we expect them to act and get some things in place, so in the future, when we have a full team and we've had a year of varsity football under our belts and we had the opportunity to be in the weight room and everything else, hopefully we can live up to those expectations."

The toughest thing for Seker has been adjusting to the speed of the game. He said the team's lack of size has also proved to be a big obstacle against opponents who spend a large portion of the offseason in the weight room.

"We are getting beat up a little bit because we are small, but we have been getting better each week. It will pay off next year," Seker said. "It was hard to adjust, moving from JV to varsity, but I just learned to keep my patience. It could have been a lot worse situation, but it is great to be playing each week."

Seker started his high school career at Centennial before transferring to Marriotts Ridge before his sophomore year. He said the decision to transfer stemmed from wanting to be part of a new school that offered new opportunities. He didn't know many of his fellow students when he transferred because most of his friends stayed at Centennial.

Hovet said Seker has played a big role as the leader of the team and helping the players stay positive even with the losses.

"You don't want the kids to go into the game with a certain amount of defeatism," Hovet said. "You want to stay positive and let them understand the objective is to get better every week and not focus so much on the results. Kids are kids, and if we are getting blown out, it gets a little depressing. The kids have not shown any signs of quitting. They knew what they were getting into at the beginning of the year. We didn't sugarcoat it by any means."

With 300 students, Marriotts Ridge is one of the biggest schools in Howard County, so Hovet knows it won't be long before the Class 1A team moves to a higher classification.

Hovet said the students and parents have been overwhelmingly supportive of the team, which has tried to be creative on offense despite its inexperience.

The Mustangs model their offense on West Virginia University, which uses several wide receivers and keeps its quarterback in the shotgun. The keys to Marriotts Ridge's offense have been running back-wide receiver Derek Coleman and Seker, who have been able to grasp the nuances of it.

"Kevin is a very talented athlete and a very bright kid," Hovet said. "It has been nice to work with him.

"We try to spread the field out and throw it a little bit. We'll continue to work on this during the offseason. He continues to get better, and that is all you can ask of a kid in that situation. We are not very big up front, and we obviously don't have a lot of experience on the offensive line, so he is running around a little bit back there."

Along with football, Seker has thrived academically. He expects to earn a 4.0 grade point average for the quarter, but he is undecided about his future plans. For now, he just wants to continue to develop as a quarterback. "I just want to be the best player I can be," Seker said. "Hopefully, next year we can do some things on varsity."

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