When Wrenn coaches, other sideline often holds friends, not foes

ON HIGH SCHOOLS

November 16, 2007|By MILTON KENT

One of football's most compelling selling points is the emotional paradox it provides, the ultimate blood and guts, flatten your opponent and step over him on the way to the end zone juxtaposed against talk of brotherhood and trust and family.

Those extremes might not be better displayed locally than in tonight's Class 2A North regional semifinals, where the kids from Eastern Tech and Poly will spend 48 minutes going at each other while their coaches, Marc Mesaros and Roger Wrenn, renew familial ties afterward.

Mesaros spent five years on Wrenn's staff at Patterson as offensive-defensive line coach from 1995 to 1999, and tonight marks the first time the two have met in a game, much less one with postseason advancement on the line.

"The game is the tough thing, because no matter what happens, he's still very important to me," Mesaros said. "So whether we win or lose, the most important thing is that our friendship continues. And I know that it will."

For Wrenn, in his second season at Poly after 32 years at Patterson, meetings like these have become old hat. Five area varsity head coaches - Mesaros, Kenwood's Terry Ruocco, Keith Robinson at Overlea, Mark Junker at Chesapeake of Baltimore County and Aberdeen coach John Seimsen - all played for or coached under Wrenn, while he was at Patterson. A sixth coach, Josh Mason, led Patterson Mill, the new high school in Harford County, which played a junior varsity schedule this season.

In addition, a host of assistant coaches and a couple of athletic directors throughout the Baltimore region were either on Wrenn's previous rosters or on his coaching staff. Wrenn might not yet have the second or third generation coaching tree sequoia that belonged to Paul Brown, the late former Cleveland Browns coach, but he has a pretty impressive white oak working.

And, just as a good father would, Wrenn always checks up on members of his coaching family. When the phone rings to his desk, he always takes the call.

"They were all under my wing when they were brand new, freshly minted teachers," said Wrenn, who has 251 wins. "I was hard on them, but I hope I taught them the value of doing some things and coaching the right way and treating kids the right way and the benefits that accrue when you just work hard at it and do it the right way and don't take any shortcuts."

Said Mesaros: "He held you accountable, but he's pretty much taught me everything I know about coaching football. He's definitely the smartest football coach I've ever had the pleasure to work with. And it was a pleasure to work for him, trust me."

The eighth-ranked Mavericks (10-0) and No. 13 Poly (8-2) will bring fairly similar attacks to tonight's game at CCBC-Essex. Oh, Mesaros has passed up the four-man defensive front that Wrenn ran at Patterson and still runs at Poly, for a "50" defense, but offensively, the teams look a lot alike.

The Engineers will run the ball through quarterbacks Antoine Goodson and Tyrae Reid and running back Lee Reynolds, while Eastern Tech will hit the ground running through quarterback Travis Crane and a trio of running backs - Derryck Davis, Andre Hall and Darian Conners. One of the keys to the game may be how well Eastern Tech has prepared for the game, since Mesaros knows from history that Poly will be ready for anything the Mavericks throw at it.

"When he goes into a game, his kids are going to be very, very well prepared," Mesaros said. "That's part of being a coach, but I don't think everybody does it as well as Roger does. He's pretty much an authority on the subject."

Mesaros, who has two other former Patterson players or coaches on his staff, says that Wrenn is "not a huggy, feely guy," so he's not expecting a maudlin display of emotion when the game is over and the teams line up for the post-game handshake.

"If anything comes out of it, win, lose or draw, I just kind of hope he's proud of me," Mesaros said.

According to Wrenn, that's an outcome that is already decided.

"It will be a handshake that I'll enjoy," Wrenn said. "I'm so proud of what they've accomplished that, win or lose, I'm going to shake hands and tell them how proud I am of them."

milton.kent@baltsun.com

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