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Hereford and Milford Mill football coaches count sons among players

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After football practice some days, Hereford's Brock Turnbaugh feels like heading straight to his room and slamming the door. That football coach can be awfully demanding.

Reggie White Jr. feels the same way sometimes after Milford Mill football practice, especially on days like Monday when his coach was on him all afternoon.

After a tough day at practice, neither boy lets his frustration fester for long. He can't. Once he opens his bedroom door, there's coach – better known as "dad."

Seniors Brock and Reggie Jr. have played varsity football for their fathers, Steve Turnbaugh and Reggie White Sr., for three years, so, by now, both sets of fathers and sons have figured out how to make the relationships work on both levels.

"He tries not to be tougher on me," Brock said, "but it definitely comes off some days as he wants to yell and scream at me, but I know deep down that he means it in a good way and just wants me to get better and wants the team as a whole to get better."

While Steve Turnbaugh tries not to single out Brock, a 5-foot-10, 218-pound center and linebacker, on the practice field, Reggie White Sr. will put Reggie Jr., a 6-foot-2, 170-pound wide receiver and free safety, in the spotlight sometimes just to make a point to the team.

"Absolutely I'm tougher on him," Reggie White Sr. said. "He got yelled at [Monday] more than any time he's gotten yelled at, and his mistakes weren't as big as anyone else's. It's almost a mind game that I have to do with my team. When they see me yell at Reg and really go at him, they're like, 'We don't have a chance. He's doing that with Reg.' I do that sometimes and I told him that I would."

To Reggie Jr., it's just part of being a team captain and the coach's son.

"It's good and bad. It has its ups and downs," Reggie Jr. said. "He's extra hard on me because I'm his son, but I understand. I can take criticism. The good things are, I get special privileges sometimes and if I need anything I've got him to go to, so that's always good."

There is a boundary in both families where the coaching ends every day after practice – the front door.

"When everybody leaves and it's just he and I in the truck going home, there have been issues," Steve Turnbaugh said. "But the policy that his mother has set is, 'You enter that door, it is over. I don't care how bad or whatever, it ends.'"

Reggie Jr. gets a break because he drives himself home. When his father gets there Miller football talk continues, but there's no more personal coaching.

"I make a concerted effort," Reggie White Sr. said. "I talk about football but not specifically about him."

There will always be football talk in the house, especially when preparing for a big game like tonight's clash between the Turnbaughs' Bulls and the Whites' No. 12 Millers at 7 p.m. at Hereford. Like many fathers and sons, they have always bonded over sports.

But neither father coached his son until high school. A varsity team's schedule made it impossible to see rec games and middle school games. When both boys transferred from private schools – Brock from Boys' Latin and Reggie from St. Paul's – it created a tricky situation for their fathers.

"When the decision was made (for Brock to transfer after ninth grade),the first thing I said to him was, 'You better be one of two things,'" Steve Turnbaugh said. "'You better be very, very, very good or very, very, very bad, because anything in the middle there's always going to be somebody commenting, he's only getting his time because it's his dad.'"

Reggie White Sr., who called coaching his son one of the hardest things he's ever had to do, had the same talk with his son. When Reggie Jr. played junior varsity in the ninth grade there were rumblings of favoritism, so the coach let his assistants determine when his son was ready for varsity. He moved up as a sophomore.

With the understanding they would be heavily scrutinized, both boys worked hard to earn their spots. They took advantage of the extra time with fathers who have coached successfull high school teams and also played football themselves – Turnbaugh at James Madison and White at North Carolina A&T and for four years in the NFL.

The fathers have no complaints about their sons' efforts on the field or off. Brock, a talented lacrosse goalie who has committed to Johns Hopkins, is also a wrestler and has a 4.5 weighted GPA. Reggie Jr., who has a football scholarship offer from Monmouth and interest from a few other schools, also plays basketball and has a 3.95 weighted GPA in Milford Mill's International Baccalaureate program.

Last fall, the Whites shared a trip to the Class 3A semifinals. Hereford has reached the state semifinals 11 times and won three championships during Turnbaugh's 19-year tenure.

This, however, will be Steve Turnbaugh's final season as football coach and as an assistant on the lacrosse team, which has won six-straight state titles. With his only son, Turnbaugh doesn't want the same regrets he experienced when he couldn't watch two of his three daughters play college field hockey.

"I missed a lot and they understood," he said, "and maybe it's the father-son thing, but I really didn't want to miss out, especially the way sports are now. At Hopkins, lacrosse started already and even the fall season has become big business with all the tournaments, and I want to be able to experience that."

Reggie White Sr., in his 11th season with the Millers, will hang around Milford Mill a while longer and may coach his 13-year-old son Nicholas, now in the eighth grade, although the youngster will also consider several private schools.

For Brock and Reggie Jr., both 17, playing football for their fathers has either gotten easier over the years, or they see it from a different perspective now that only months remain in an experience few teenagers get to share with their fathers.

"It's a great experience," Brock said. "I couldn't ask for a better coach, not just because he's my dad. He's a great coach. He's been doing it for so many years. I couldn't see anyone else being my high school football coach."

Reggie Jr. agreed: "I think it's very special. I enjoyed playing every game with him on the sideline. As far as we went last year, the regional championship, to win it with him on the sideline, it's a blessing."

katherine.dunn@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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