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varsity football

Despite all the attention, quarterback Cotton fits in while leading resurgent Meade

October 02, 2008|By Glenn Graham | Glenn Graham,glenn.graham@baltsun.com

It was Raymond Cotton's first day at Meade, and the senior transfer from Mobile, Ala., had gotten lost on his way to his first class.

Eventually, fellow students helped him find his way to Room D423. His teacher was understanding, making a point of introducing the new student who had arrived 10 minutes after the bell.

On the football field, however, no introduction was necessary. Word had spread quickly around Fort Meade during the summer that an Auburn University-bound star quarterback was transferring to Meade.

First-year coach Lance Clelland, who was hired in late May and received word of Cotton's arrival shortly afterward, told the school's new athletic director, Dave Lanham: "We've been blessed."

Seeing has led to believing.

There aren't many high school teams in Maryland with a quarterback who can easily shrug off a charging defensive lineman, roll out and throw a 60-yard touchdown strike with a flick of the wrist as Cotton did in the Mustangs' win over county foe Chesapeake earlier this season. He is 6 feet 4 and 220 pounds and runs the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds.

Cotton moved to Maryland after his father, an officer in the Coast Guard, was reassigned to Fort Meade. The senior has played a leading role in the Mustangs' 2-2 start this year after the team finished 1-9 last season. He has thrown for 959 yards and 11 touchdowns with one interception. He has also run for two scores.

One of 12 high school standouts invited to the prestigious Elite 11 quarterback camp in California over the summer, Cotton received four out of five stars by Rivals.com and Scout.com.

"Athletically, he's very gifted. He's got the intangibles you're looking for as far as arm strength, the good feet and good size," said Mike Farrell of Rivals. com. At the high school level, "he just changes the way a defense has to play. You have to account for him at all times, and even when you do and a play breaks down, he's able to make something out of nothing."

Cotton's arrival has sparked a surge of interest in a Meade program that had won just 11 games in the previous seven years.

An hour before game time on a recent Friday night, the parking lots at Meade were full and cars were lined up and down Clark Street. In years past, the homecoming football game would attract about 600 fans. When perennial Anne Arundel County power Old Mill came two weeks ago, the stadium was packed, with 2,200 paid and more turned away at the gate.

With his chiseled, athletic frame, Cotton stands out in a crowd, easily peering over teammates in huddles and on the sideline. Clelland, a former All-Big Ten offensive lineman at Northwestern, even has to look up slightly when the two talk.

"He's quite the specimen to see live - I'll tell you that. The overall spectacle of him was kind of, 'Wow,' " said Old Mill coach Damian Ferragamo, whose No. 4 Patriots came away with a 26-12 win that night. "He's just a great athlete, and you know [Southeastern Conference] schools don't make too many mistakes."

Despite all the attention, Cotton, who lived in California and Texas before spending the past seven years in Alabama, has quickly managed to become just one of the guys on his new team in a new state.

"I don't feel like I'm the star quarterback. I just feel like a regular player on this team trying to help us win and help everyone get better," said Cotton, who led Faith Academy in Mobile to the state championship game last season.

"Football is football anywhere you go, and people up here have been pretty nice to me."

Clelland has been as impressed with Cotton's demeanor as his skills.

"His biggest effect has been as a leader," Clelland said. "Here's a kid who already has committed to Auburn, and he's out there trying to win every sprint we run and work his butt off every day in practice. So he's a kid who shows everybody how to be, how it's supposed to be done, and that's one thing the program was lacking."

Wide receiver Darius Brown, who has been on the receiving end of most of Cotton's touchdown throws, said his quarterback has brought hope to his senior season.

"It's been inspiring for everybody on the team," Brown said. "We have a great guy playing quarterback for us, and it just makes the whole program a whole lot better with the leadership he has brought.

"Even if I don't go to college, I know he's going and I can watch him on Saturdays and say, 'I played ball with him, caught passes from him.' "

raymond cotton game by game

Date Opponent Result Com.-Att. Yards TDs Int.

9/5 Franklin W 42-7 16-22 245 3 0

9/12 Chesapeake-AA W 47-0 15-18 250 3 0

9/19 Old Mill L 26-12 17-29 196 2 0

9/26 North County L 28-20 18-33 268 3 1

Totals 2-2 66-102 959 11 1

Note: Cotton also had one rushing touchdown against Franklin and one against Chesapeake-AA.

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