Owings Mills eyes end of an era

Eagles coach, players stay hungry despite having lost 49 consecutive games

November 07, 2008|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,Special to The Baltimore Sun

Moments after suffering a loss at Pikesville last Friday, Owings Mills football coach Brian Bandurchin gathered his weary team in the end zone and reiterated that he wants it to focus on its next opponent and not look back. The players and coaches then put their hands together and enthusiastically chanted, "Family!"

As they passed the scoreboard on their way to the bus, no one looked back.

The scoreboard read: Pikesville 31, Owings Mills 0.

It was the Eagles' 49th consecutive defeat.

The players on Owings Mills' roster have not experienced a victory at the varsity level, and the program has not won a game since Nov. 8, 2003, against Franklin.

As the losses mount, however, the team hasn't lost hope. Under Bandurchin's guidance, the players have remained positive and resolute in their pursuit of that elusive victory.

"We do put in a lot of hard work," said senior running back Ross Gothelf, a three-year starter. "We're putting in the blood, sweat and tears week after week. Yeah, the losses hurt still, but we try not to let it drive us crazy. We have a game" to prepare for.

The final chance for the Eagles (0-9) this season comes at 7 tonight against Western Tech at CCBC-Catonsville.

The losing streak is the first of at least 40 games in Baltimore County since Lansdowne ended a 42-game skid in 1995. No official state records are kept.

Nationally, Glascock County High of Gibson, Ga., has the longest streak, 82 in a row, from 1990 to 1999 (although Glascock was credited with a forfeit victory in 1997), according to ESPN.com. Davis High of Houston lost 80 in a row from 1985 to 1991.

At Owings Mills, there is a strong belief that the program is headed in the right direction. The team has taken small steps forward this season.

The Eagles - who have been to the state playoffs four times, most recently in 1997 - scored only 19 points last season but have 74 this season and nearly beat Lansdowne in September. A second-half touchdown was called back because of a penalty, and Owings Mills lost, 12-8.

"I definitely think the program's on the rise," Gothelf said. "We're starting to develop a good system with the coach, which we haven't had in the past ... and if we win [tonight], it would make these three years worth it. All of the losses wouldn't mean a thing."

Several factors have contributed to the program's struggles. The opening of nearby New Town in 2004 took away athletes who had been in Owings Mills' school district, and the losing record has likely kept some from going out for the team.

Bandurchin, the third coach in three years, is committed to turning things around.

Bandurchin understands what it takes a to win games - and championships. He played on Hereford's 1997 state title team and was an assistant coach when the Bulls won again in 2002.

He was head coach at Owings Mills in 2004 and 2005 before he became an assistant at Towson High. He returned to Owings Mills as head coach this year.

"I've been teaching here for six years and have seen the disappointment on the kids' faces and wanted to come back and try to lead them in the right direction," said Bandurchin, who is 0-29 with the Eagles. "That's where my heart is.

"We're just building here, and it's going to take some time. I told them it doesn't matter what happens in years past, but we've got some real good players. Like any good team, success is built upon a foundation."

Bandurchin said the support and encouragement from the school and community have helped keep the players upbeat. The team is averaging about 200 people at home games this season, and the crowds have been more enthusiastic than in years past.

Marcie Wendell, president of the school's sports boosters club, has been at the forefront of drumming up support for the team.

"They're out there practicing, and the least we can do is to show up and scream and cross our fingers for them," she said. "I feel strongly that they're working just as hard as the state champions, and that's what we have to honor."

Lisa Meyer, physical education department chair at Owings Mills, understands the plight of the football team better than most. She came to the school in the late 1980s and took over a softball team in the midst of a 48-game losing streak.

She remembers the celebration when her team ended its streak. She led the program to a state final four years later.

"I just cannot even wait until we get that first win," Meyer said. "Those kids have been through hell and back. It's to their credit that they go out every single day practicing and every game with that on their shoulders."

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