Young players feel connection with Ravens through numbers

Though many years of experience separating players in the Catonsville Stars youth football program from their professional counterparts, the youngsters still feel a connection to their idols on the Ravens through the number on their uniform.

Andrew Southwell, an eighth-grader at Catonsville Middle School who wears 21, said he picked that number because Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb wears it.

"It makes me feel really good," Andrew said of sharing the number with Webb. "I look up to him and hope that I'm as good as him one day."

When the Ravens ousted the Houston Texans from the playoffs on Jan. 15 to advanced to Sunday's AFC Championship game against the New England Patriots, the defense, with Webb making two interceptions, played a huge role in the victory.

"He plays very smart most of the time and he's very fast," Andrew said about why he likes Webb. "And he plays the same position as me."

Safety Ed Reed may have had the play of the game for the Ravens when he intercepted the ball near the goal line with less than two minutes left in the game.

Ean Moss, 8, a Pikesville resident who plays on the Stars, said that his favorite part of wearing the number 20 is that Reed has the same one.

"It makes me feel famous," Ean said, adding that he has never been mistaken for the 200-pound Pro Bowler.

Ean noted that he likes Reed because "he intercepts the ball and he's a good defensive player."

Ean confessed he didn't pick off any passes this season. But he came close once, he said.

Not every Stars player is a Ravens fan.

Zaire Crosby, an eighth-grader at Catonsville Middle School, said he roots for the Minnesota Vikings and Pittsburgh Steelers.

Despite his allegiance to Baltimore's hated rivals from western Pennsylvania, Zaire, who wears number 20 for the Stars, still admires the way Reed plays the game.

"He has good play recognition," Zaire said.

Zaire, who described himself as tough critic, noted that Reed could have played better and given the Ravens some breathing room.

"Ed Reed played good on Sunday. It's just that he dropped too many interceptions," Zaire said. "He could have been a game changer."

While both Andrew and Ean predicted that the Ravens' strong defense would lead them to a Super Bowl appearance, Zaire had other ideas. He foresaw Ravens Coach Jim Harbaugh's brother, Jim, and the San Francisco 49ers meeting the Patriots in Indianapolis Feb. 5.

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