Odocha piles up yardage, TDs for Atholton

November 07, 2007|By Glenn Graham | Glenn Graham,Sun reporter

Notebook After the Atholton football team lost its starting quarterback, leading wide receiver and workhorse running back to graduation, coach Chuck Fales knew he was going to look to running back Kelechi Odocha this season.

But, before the season, Fales wasn't sure how much he would be able to lean on his 5-foot-7, 175-pound senior.

He knows now.

Odocha has rushed for 1,669 yards this season, averaging 8.4 yards on 22 carries a game as Atholton (6-3) has put itself in position for a playoff berth in the Class 3A East region. Closing out the season at Hammond on Friday, the Raiders have a firm hold on the fourth and final playoff spot, and a win could possibly move them up to third. North Harford, Wilde Lake and Howard are in front of them going into the final week of the regular season.

Odocha said he has enjoyed being the Raiders' primary source of offense, running behind a line led by Nathan Bunner, 6-3 and 280 pounds, and Surya Valisetty, 6-3, 270.

"It all starts with great blocking, execution and people wanting to win. Our team goals at the start of the season were to make the playoffs, and that's what we're all trying to do," Odocha said. "It's a tough burden knowing [that] how well a game goes depends on you. But it's an enjoyable burden, especially when we win."

Odocha, who saw some limited but valuable playing time last season behind Troy Gibson, enjoyed things in Friday's 41-7 win over Mount Hebron. He carried the ball 18 times for 280 yards and scored four touchdowns, all in the game's first three quarters. For the season, Odocha has 15 rushing touchdowns and has caught a touchdown pass.

"At first, I was a little concerned with his size and whether he could handle the pounding. But once I found out he was fine with that, I haven't had any problem getting him the ball 25 times a game if that's what we need," Fales said. "He runs a 4.4 40, and not only is he fast, but he's got really good vision to help him get through the holes. For a small guy, he's pretty strong, too."

After graduating, Odocha wants to play football for Army and purse civil or mechanical engineering.

"It's a chance to serve your country and do something bigger than just playing football in college," said Odocha, who is a B student. "... And just knowing that, `Yeah, I'm playing football, but I'm also preparing to help defend our country,' is great."

Leaders in the field

A wealth of coaching experience will be on the sidelines when the Centennial field hockey team takes on Fallston in the Class 3A state semifinal at 7 tonight at Broadneck.

Centennial coach Gail Purcell registered her 300th career victory in her 31st and final season last week with a victory over Long Reach in the regional title game. Fallston's Alice Puckett has won 319 games in 25 years.

The Eagles will be up against a Cougars' program that has captured nine state titles.

Close matchup

Expect plenty of intrigue at the cross country state championships at Hereford on Saturday.

Can River Hill come away with a sweep in Class 2A?

The Hawks boys, led by Craig Morgan, Mike Feroe and Sean Kirby, will get challenges from fellow county teams Mount Hebron and Oakland Mills, along with Loch Raven and Francis Scott Key. As for the girls, Century could give the Hawks the biggest test.

In the 3A boys race, the question is who will have the final say between Atholton's Graham Bazell and Howard's Joey Thompson?

After Thompson beat out Bazell for the county championship, the latter came back to claim last week's East regional crown. Defending champion Wilde Lake, which captured the county and regional, is led by Derek Lange and Jonathan Sham.glenn.graham@baltsun.com

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