When Reservoir senior linebacker James Simms isn't playing football, he likes to play in the kitchen, preparing summer Sunday dinners for his parents and three siblings.
And true to his style on the football field, Simms' recipe for success when cooking is simplicity.
"Meat. Steak and potatoes, hamburgers, meat loaf," said Simms, whose preferred game-day meal is spaghetti with bread and butter.
While connoisseurs of fine food may scoff at Simms' culinary tastes, his football coaches and teammates savor his lunch pail approach to the game.
"He was definitely raw, but in the four years that I've known him, he's just been lifting weights, playing sports. His body has just blown up," Reservoir coach Bryan Cole said.
This season, the 6-foot-2, 195-pound Simms recorded 98 tackles, two sacks and two interceptions, earning defensive Player of the Year honors, and more importantly, leading the Gators to their best season in school history (6-4), including their first playoff berth.
"We started our season in the spring, working together, lifting, doing 7-on-7 tournaments," said Simms, who has committed to play collegiately for Division I-AA Towson next year. "This is the closest team I've been a part of. Normally we work out (together before the season), but this year just felt different."
The season started off inauspiciously, with the Gators losing back-to-back games out of the gate, to eventual playoff teams Mt. Hebron and Atholton.
"We were a little angry about it, a little frustrated, but we didn't feel like that type of team," Simms said.
Indeed, Reservoir turned things around by winning four of its next five.
Although Simms prefers playing defense ("I like hitting people," he says) he was also a major part of his team's offensive success this year, catching a team-best 32 passes for 524 yards and seven touchdowns from junior quarterback Max Schuster.
"He's big. Tall and thick. He's got big hands," Cole said. "Wide-out, tight end, fullback. We tried to use him to our advantage."
Simms, who has also played basketball and lacrosse for Reservoir, made his varsity breakthrough last year at defensive end.
"It took us awhile to find out that teams were just running away from him," Cole said. "So we had to move him inside."
This year, after growing even bigger and stronger, Cole slotted his most dangerous defensive weapon in at linebacker, and Simms made an immediate impact.
"Rarely can you tell a kid what to do and he does it perfectly the first time," Cole said. "In the span of 10 yards, he reads and reacts."
In the overtime playoff loss to Atholton, Simms caught eight passes for 77 yards and a touchdown, and made 15 tackles.
And in the Baltimore Touchdown Club All-Star Game, Cole said that he watched Simms record a strip-tackle and fumble recovery on the first play from scrimmage.
Simms, who also got serious interest from Delaware and Stony Brook, says that he will likely study hotel or business management at Towson, but also has interest in coaching, having talked football with the young parishioners at his church.
"I'd love to give back to little kids," he said.
Named to the first team defense:
Ben Carta, Glenelg. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound defensive end finished the season with 70 tackles, including a league-best 11 sacks, and used his long arms to break up five pass attempts. He also forced two fumbles, recovering one himself. Carta also has good hands, earning a spot in the Baltimore Touchdown Club All-Star game as a tight end.
Logan Kirby, River Hill. Still only a junior, Kirby was a big reason that the Hawks finished with 100 tackles for loss and almost 50 sacks this season. Kirby himself finished with 96 tackles (21 for loss) and 5.5 sacks. A state finalist wrestler last year as a sophomore, he also forced two fumbles and blocked a kick.
Moise Larose, Wilde Lake. Larose transferred into Wilde Lake from Meade before this season, and did not disappoint. A Defensive Player of the Year candidate, he finished with 81 tackles in only ten games, and 15 of those were behind the line of scrimmage. He also had a sack and four pass deflections, and earned a scholarship offer to Maryland by the end of the season.
Tola Morakinyo, Wilde Lake. Not the biggest player on the field by a long shot (5-foot-11, 180 pounds), Morakinyo used his speed and strength from the defensive end position to get to the ball. He finished with 54 tackles and seven sacks, an interception and a forced fumble. He plans to serve as a U.S. Marine after graduation.
Brandon Anthony, Atholton. A captain and emotional leader for the Raiders, Anthony could chase ball carriers from sideline to sideline. Listed at 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, he finished with 80 tackles and 2.5 sacks, and also caught nine passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns on offense. He has been looked at by Monmouth, a Patriot League school.
Humphrey Anuh, Hammond. A repeat all-county selection, Anuh was one of the most feared athletes in the league. The four-year starter and Maryland Crab Bowl selection could play pretty much any position on the field, but excelled at linebacker, where he recorded 86 tackles, made six sacks, broke up four passes and forced two fumbles. He has been looked at by a handful of Division I-AA schools.
Nick Crabill, Glenelg. A four-year starter for Glenelg, Crabill bulked up a little bit and moved from defensive back to linebacker this season after earning second team all-county honors last year. This season he made 70 tackles, broke up five passes and made an interception. He was also the Gladiators' leading rusher with 671 yards and seven touchdowns.
Lyle Fugate, Marriotts Ridge. As the safety net on an inexperienced Mustangs' defense, Fugate moved all over the field, from the line, to linebacker, to defensive back as the situation dictated. A four-year starter and two-year captain, Fugate ended up with 100 tackles, and was also the foundation of the offensive line.
Eric Handy, Wilde Lake. Handy, who was a two-way lineman as a sophomore on Wilde Lake's 2010 state championship team, was the team's best linebacker this year. He finished with 83 total tackles, including 12 for loss, and forced three fumbles. The 6-foot-1, 225-pound bulldozer also rushed for more than 430 yards and four touchdowns on offense.
Stephan Osong, River Hill. A return all-county selection, Osong was the best linebacker on a team loaded at that position. The defensive Player of the Year candidate made 85 tackles (9 for loss, 3 sacks), blocked two kicks and had an uncanny ability to find the ball on the turf, collecting five fumbles, including three for touchdowns. The three-year starter also had more than 900 yards of offense (697 rushing, 212 receiving) and 13 touchdowns. He has been looked at by several Patriot League schools.
Robert Armstrong, Reservoir. In addition to being Reservoir's best cover corner, Armstrong also became the Gators' first 1,000-yard rusher in school history, gaining 1,046 yards and 11 touchdowns on 150 carries. Additionally, the 6-foot, 185-pounder caught 14 passes for 415 yards and a score.
Noah Carter, River Hill. With stars all over the field, Carter took care of business for the Hawks in the defensive backfield. River Hill's best at pass defense, he finished with three interceptions, making opponents pay when they did try to throw at him. He also rushed for more than 140 yards and three scores, and had more than 100 receiving yards.
Rob Carter, Long Reach. Carter was the best all-around player for the Lightning, racking up more than 350 rushing yards, 40 tackles and three interceptions. Opponents tested him, but were often rebuffed, as he finished the year with 12 passes broken up. He also served as Long Reach's top kick returner (339 total yards).
Zach Nicholas, Mt. Hebron. One of the county's best athletes at any position, Nicholas was capable of scoring a touchdown at any time. As defensive back he made 75 tackles, intercepted a pass for a TD, broke up four more passes, and had three sacks. Offensively, he caught 21 passes for 344 yards and four touchdowns, and rushed for more than 400 yards and seven more scores. Only a junior, he is already getting looks from D-I schools.
Dillan Solo, Mt. Hebron. Nicholas' bookend in the secondary, Solo was always tasked with lining up against the opponent's best receiver. When the ball was thrown to his side of the field, he went to work, intercepting three passes. On offense, Solo was a crisp route runner and legitimate deep threat, catching a team-best 32 passes for 456 points and five touchdowns.
Malik Gilmore, Mt. Hebron. Though Gilmore was the league's best punter, averaging more than 40 yards per attempt, he was much more to the Vikings than just a special teamer. The 6-foot-4 athlete also led Mt. Hebron's offense as quarterback, passing for more than 1,100 yards and 13 touchdowns against only four interceptions, and rushing for 235 yards and three touchdowns.