After a two-year, 21-game skid, Pikesville High's football team tastes victory
By Jeff Seidel
Nov 16, 2016 at 9:26 AM
Jeff Fuller knew the Pikesville High School football program needed wholesale changes when he became the head coach last summer.
The Panthers had last won a game in 2014, fielded a team that was small in numbers, and Fuller thought the players needed to work much harder. Fuller lacked the time to make any major changes before the 2016 season, but they recently took the first big step.
That came when Pikesville ended a two-year, 21-game losing streak with a 13-12 victory over Loch Raven on Oct. 1. The Panthers had not won a game since defeating the same team (27-13) on Sept. 12, 2014, and Fuller now wants to score more victories.
The coach knows that it will some time to make all of the necessary changes. Pikesville's had a winning program before, making the state playoffs four times in school history (1999, 2005, 2008, 2009), but Fuller said the seven years since the last playoff appearance has brought a culture too accustomed to losing.
He served as an assistant coach on the Franklin state championship teams of 2013 and 2014 and understands the intricacies of building a winning program. Now, Fuller wants to install those at Pikesville.
"I wanted to change the culture of losing," Fuller said. "I want to lay a foundation. I wanted to teach the guys about working hard." The coach said it's "very crucial" to change that culture where players have gotten used to losing.
And it all starts with this one victory.
Fuller said this was more than just one game. The success that Pikesville found in that one contest rewards the team for its hard work.
"I kind of felt like it brought the program together even more," Fuller said. "A win can always help the morale of the school, and it can help the morale of the players."
The Panthers never trailed in the game. Linebacker Chase Green scored on defense, recovering a fumble and running for a touchdown. Quarterback Trey Wiggins added a score on a short run, and those two touchdowns gave Pikesville the long-awaited victory.
Green said the players, like Fuller, want to transform Pikesville's program into a successful one. They feel the one victory can be a major step in that direction.
"This win not only boosted morale and strengthened bonds for this year's current players, but it was able to set a path ablaze for future generations to come," Green said. "This win was a wake-up call for everyone [to say] that we're not the same Pikesville."
Fuller also said the school gave the players lots of support in the days after the victory. Teams don't often receive compliments following losses — especially when it takes two years to win a game.
"When they got the victory a few weeks ago, it was really remarkable how positive the reaction was amongst athletes and non-athletes within the school," said Adam Hittner, a physical education teacher at Pikesville. "Everyone was supportive and proud of what the team had achieved."
Gerard Filosa, chairman of the science department who has coached track and cross country over the years at Pikesville, agreed with Fuller's belief that the program is slowly starting to turn around.
"I think this is a step in the right direction," Filosa said. "The win, coupled with a few wins at the JV level, has students excited for the future of the program. The players [are] excited [that] they will be competitive in the near future."
Fuller now will focus on that goal. The coach wants the players to do more lifting, conditioning and skill work in the off-season, which he'll be in charge of this time around.
They also need to enlarge the team's numbers. This year's Pikesville squad features about 19 players, and good football teams need bigger rosters than that, as depth is crucial for success at this level.
However, that's one of the things that takes time to build. Fuller needs to change the way the players work, draw more interest in the team, make it bigger, and the victories should follow.
But now, there's no more talk about a two-year losing streak, and that's the first big change.