For two teams, propensity for inconsistent intensity

ON HIGH SCHOOLS

The Kickoff

November 06, 2007|By MILTON KENT

One of the great mysteries of modern times has little to do with how to set the clock on the DVD recorder or even how Britney Spears still has a career to speak of, but rather how a high school football coach can get his players to do the same thing successfully from game to game or even from practice to practice on a repeated and regular basis.

Poly's Roger Wrenn and Edmondson's Dante Jones are left to ponder that question in the wake of the Engineers' 38-14 rout of the Red Storm on Friday at Edmondson.

For Wrenn, finding a level of consistency has all but assured Poly not only of returning to the state playoffs for the first time in nine years, but also of taking the program back to a place where its demanding alumni expect it to be.

"We're very cognizant of Poly and its long traditions," said Wrenn, in his second season at Poly after 32 years at Patterson. "It has played the game longer than any of us have been alive. We're trying to get them back to playing with great intensity. It's a great school academically, and excellence goes with athletics and academics together. A whole lot of schools prove it. We just want to be excellent also."

The Engineers (8-1) turned a good week of practice into a nearly flawless game Friday, especially on the ground, rushing for 369 yards. Senior running back Lee Reynolds ran for 125 yards and two touchdowns.

Meanwhile, sophomore quarterback Antoine Goodson pounded the seventh-ranked Red Storm for 125 yards, posting the bulk of his yardage on the same basic play, a fake handoff to a crossing halfback, then a jaunt through the hole as Edmondson's defenders followed the running back.

Only Cats has had more repeat showings, and with about the same level of success.

"We've been working on [consistency] for two years," said Wrenn, who is 251-101-2 for his career. "I worry about how we practice. I don't worry about [how] we're going to play in the games. We had a great week of practice, but the coaches and I have worked really hard to build that intensity in practice, that game-type level and to teach them how to practice."

One season removed from leading the Red Storm (7-2) to the city's first state football championship by a school other than Dunbar, Jones would like to have that kind of intensity back.

"It's more of a leadership thing and getting after it," Jones said. "This group just doesn't get after it as much as they could. They show it from time to time. We'd like to see it consistently week in and week out and play in and play out. Once we get to that point, we've got a good group. They just have to show."

The frustrating part for Jones, who is 24-9 in his third season at Edmondson, is that he and the players thought wins in their previous two games over Patterson and Northwestern by a combined score of 83-14 were signs that they were ready to defend their Class 2A state title.

"Last year, you had kids who wanted it more," said Jones, who was a linebacker at Dunbar in 1994 when the Poets won their first state title. "This year, you have kids who want it. They're just not consistent."

"Last year's group was just a consistent group. Week in and week out, they knew what they wanted, and they worked hard to get it. We've just got to get to that point where we just stop letting down and just make plays all the time."

The Red Storm, which finishes the regular season Friday against Lake Clifton, might still have a chance to make those plays late into the month. Its 50-12 season-opening loss to defending 3A champion Friendly apparently will be reversed as the Prince George's County school reportedly used an ineligible player and will have to forfeit.

The win and the points that come with it under the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association's standings should be enough to get Edmondson back into the 2A North playoffs, where it could meet Poly again in the first round.

Perhaps by then, either Jones or Wrenn will be able to predict what their teams will do in practices or in the games.

milton.kent@baltsun.com

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