This story has been updated.
In 2009, Manchester Valley High School fielded its first-ever football team — and went winless in 10 games.
Three years later, the Mavericks posted their first-ever winning season — and their first run for a playoff appearance.
And while football is a team game, no single player has been more important to the growth and success of the program than senior quarterback Dominick "Dom" Frank. A three-year starter at quarterback, Frank's passing and running skills have been the key to Manchester Valley's steady improvement.
When Frank took over as the team's starting quarterback in 2010, the Mavericks were coming off a difficult first year in which they were shut out six times and outscored by a staggering 400-25.
The program began its ascent in Frank's sophomore campaign, winning the season opener at Clear Spring and the finale against North Carroll. Last fall, the county's newest high school jumped to five wins.
In 2012, Manchester Valley has taken another big step. The Mavericks went over the .500 mark for the first time, and entered this Friday's regular-season finale against archrival North Carroll with a 6-3 record — and a potential playoff berth on the line.
In that contest, Manchester Valley's 26-7 win over North Carroll — combined with a 20-12 loss by Northwestern-Baltimore in its final regular-season game against playoff-bound Reginald Lewis — made Manchester Valley the fourth seed in the Class 1A North Region.
"I knew we had a good team," Frank said. "But I didn't know that we would progress as well as we did."
Frank is the definition of a multi-talented football player. A physical runner who efficiently uses his speed, he is adept at rolling out and throwing the deep ball. Frank makes strong, pinpoint throws on medium-length sideline routes, and often fires passes into tight coverage. He also plays strong safety and is on the kickoff return team.
"He stepped in as the starter in his sophomore year, and we could see that he had some special abilities," said Manchester Valley head coach Tony Shermeyer. "With Dom's ability to run and throw the ball, it was very easy to build an offense around him. He's played a very large part in our success."
Frank will leave Manchester Valley as the school's career rushing, passing, and total offense leader. This year, he stands fourth among county rushers with 973 yards, and would be Carroll's top passer if Westminster quarterback Deryk Kern wasn't having the best season in county history.
Going into Friday's game, Frank had completed 56 percent of his passes for 1,112 yards. With 15 passing and 11 rushing touchdowns, Frank has had a hand in two-thirds of all Maverick points.
"His passing game is more efficient," Shermeyer said. "Although he doesn't have as many passing yards as last season, Dom has done a better job of making the right decisions this year.
"He's also a very legitimate running threat, and it's like having a tailback in the backfield who can also throw the football," he said.
Frank's excellence at quarterback belies his football background. When he started playing for the Hampstead Ravens at age 8, Frank was an offensive lineman.
He stayed on the line until his freshman year at Manchester Valley, when he moved to running back.
Frank never took a snap from center before his sophomore season.
"My body started to thin out, so that made the transition easier," he said. "I just love hitting people and don't want to be stopped. I think that tendency comes from playing on the line, where you're used to hitting someone all the time."
While Frank was comfortable at quarterback, he had a lot to learn about playing the most influential position on the field.
"I came in as a running quarterback, and I had to work on my throwing," he said. "It was all about footwork. Once I got the cuts and the vision down, everything came a lot easier."
Frank regarded a loss to Francis Scott Key during his sophomore season as his turning point. The first-year quarterback threw five touchdown passes in a 41-33 defeat.
"After that game, I started to believe that anything was possible," he said.
In an attempt to improve his passing technique, Frank attended off-season workouts at the Quarterback Factory and the Blue Chip Camp in Gettysburg. This year, his individual goals included rushing for 1,000 yards and passing for 1,500.
But his personal goals weren't the driving force behind his production.
"Most of all, I wanted to make it to the playoffs," he said. "It's nice to know that we put all the effort in. We're the first Manchester Valley team to have a winning season and possibly go to the postseason."
As Manchester Valley has climbed the ladder, Frank has had plenty of company. The six-foot, 180-pound quarterback is one of 19 seniors on a squad that was completely made up of underclassmen in its first year.
All five starting offensive linemen, including Hayden Urbanik, Brendan Flaherty, Austin Keeney, Gavin Bussard and Zach Pittinger, are in their final season at Manchester Valley.
Frank also throws to several talented receivers. Tyler Cherigo, Joey Bien, Zach Heron and Chad Kolper all rank among the county's top 15 pass catchers.
"I can trust them, and they can catch the ball," he said of his receiving corps. "Tyler is a good possession receiver, and Joey will find spaces and get open. Zach is 6-5, and I can just throw the ball up to him. Chad makes plays, and is really good in the open field."
While the receivers have helped Frank flourish, he and Shermeyer both recognize that his running and passing skills have been augmented by an experienced offensive line that has shown great improvement since the program's inaugural 2009 season.
"While Dom has been the cornerstone of our building effort, this entire senior class has been important," Shermeyer said. "Without those guys in front of him, Dom would never have been able to achieve the things he did."
Frank also brings a determination into the Manchester Valley huddle, as exemplified by his last-minute effort in an Oct. 12 game at Century.
Trailing 28-25 with less than a minute remaining, Frank and the Manchester Valley offense took over at their own 3-yard line. In just three plays, Frank had moved the Mavericks to the Knights' 11-yard line after completions to Cherigo, Bien and Heron.
The drive stalled, as Heron's sideline catch of a potential game-winning touchdown pass was ruled out of bounds and Frank was sacked on the game's final play.
That comeback attempt at Century came up just short, but Frank's performance in the season opener was the one that really set the tone for the successful campaign.
In a game that featured several ties and lead changes, Frank led a second-half charge as the Mavericks defeated a Brunswick team that has made several recent appearances in the Class 1A playoffs.
Frank said Manchester Valley, "showed right away that we were a team to be reckoned with." Indeed, that three-point victory over Brunswick started the team's run.
Even with the team's first-ever playoff berth, Frank knows his time at Manchester Valley is nearing its end.
He plans to play college football at either Division II Shippensburg University or on the Division III level at Stevenson or McDaniel.
His chosen major will match perfectly with his personality.
"I'll be going into criminal justice," Frank said. "I want to do something that always keeps my adrenaline going."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun