Oakland Mills quarterback David Pindell headlines Howard County all-county offense after guiding Scorpions to turnaround season.
There was a moment after his sophomore season when David Pindell considered giving up the sport that he loved.
After quarterbacking the Scorpions JV team to two wins then being moved up to varsity for the last four games of an 0-10 season, the gifted but inexperienced Pindell thought about trying his quick feet and powerful throwing arm on the baseball diamond.
"I didn't feel like I knew what I was doing (on the football field) and I felt like I didn't want to deal with it anymore because it didn't feel right," said Pindell, a senior. "My sophomore year I played baseball for the first two weeks...Pitching the ball in the cold hurt my hand so I just stopped. Coach (Thomas) Browne came up to me and said 'Yeah, Dave, I think you have real good potential to be our future quarterback. You just need some work.' He said I have a quick release, I have a good arm, and I'm fast … Coach Browne has worked with me ever since, and I just stuck to football."
That spring training cold stretch may have been the best thing to happen to Oakland Mills football in a long time.
After blossoming into the Scorpions' quarterback as a junior, Pindell made a major leap this fall, rushing for 924 yards, passing for 2,447 yards, and scoring a combined 44 TDs. He led the Scorpions to a 9-1 league record and their first playoff berth in more than a decade, and because of that Pindell has been named the Howard County Times/Columbia Flier Offensive Player of the Year.
"Every coach in the building was recruiting him," Browne said. "When he came to high school he was pretty unpolished, but he had a ton of raw talent."
The key for Pindell was that he was willing to put in the work to turn that raw talent into something more.
"He's always had a big arm, even when he was a freshman. But he was extremely quiet and he worked his butt off," Browne said. "He's the equivalent of a gym rat for basketball, in football … he was an animal in the weight room and that had a trickle down effect on the rest of our team."
Growing up, Pindell — whose family moved to Columbia from Philadelphia in 2008 — didn't spend a lot of time playing sports. His mother, a babysitter, wanted to keep an eye on David and his two brothers and four sisters, so he spent a lot of time at home. His father drives a charter bus for Towson University athletics.
Even without organized sports, though, it was plainly evident that Pindell had a bright future as an athlete.
"Ever since elementary school I was always racing people ... I just knew that I was always the fastest kid," Pindell said. "I got into football because I just liked throwing the ball. I'd be in the parking lot with my brother all day throwing the ball back and forth … I didn't know how to play at all, I didn't have any mechanics. I just played because I wanted to play."
Last year, Pindell completed 144 passes in 245 attempts (58.8 percent) for 1,566 yards and 13 touchdowns, but also was intercepted 12 times. This year, after another offseason of development, he completed 163 passes in 244 attempts (68.8 percent) for 2,447 yards and 23 touchdowns, while only throwing five interceptions.
"Last year I wasn't really good with the read option yet, so I just worked and worked on that," Pindell said. "We knew that if we practiced good over the summer with the up-tempo offense, we could beat a lot of teams because defenses weren't going to be able to get set in time and they wouldn't be able to keep up with us."
The Scorpions scored an average of 42.5 points per game, or almost two touchdowns more than any other county team. All-county receivers Tre Hopkins and Shawn Harris made the offense even more dynamic.
"We have probably the best receivers in the county, and they're all juniors with good height," said Pindell.
Pindell threw four touchdown passes in a 41-32 win over Reservoir, and rushed for all four touchdowns in a 28-21 win over River Hill. Those wins played a large part in changing the way Oakland Mills football — which hadn't played a winning season in more than a decade — was perceived around the school.
"The way people think about our program ... you could tell that the culture around the school had turned around," Pindell said. "It meant a lot to me to be the starting quarterback of the team."
Although the Scorpions lost in the playoffs to Patuxent, 60-41, Pindell will still always be remembered as the quarterback who started the program's return to greatness.
"He played a bigger part than anybody in putting Oakland Mills back on the map," Browne said. "He is a huge reason why we were able to turn this place around."
Pindell, who threw two touchdown passes and rushed for three more in the playoff loss, finishes with 4,630 career passing yards for 39 touchdowns to go along with 1,585 rushing yards for 30 more touchdowns.
Kevin Sheahin, Howard senior. The field general for the Lions ably guided his team to a 12-1 record, completing 122 passes for 1,599 yards and 18 touchdowns, with only four interceptions. He completed 61.3 percent of his 199 passes, spreading the ball to Malik Anderson, Christian Dargan and Dylan Perez.
"He did a great job. He's 5-foot-9 and not super mobile, but on the field he did everything you want from a quarterback," coach Bruce Strunk said. "He was my coach out on the field."
Craig Jones, Reservoir senior. One of the top athletes in the county, Jones put together his best season this fall, rushing for 1,338 yards and 14 touchdowns on 153 carries (8.7 yards per carry). He also caught 14 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown and intercepted a pass on defense.
Jones had three games this season with 200+ yards and multiple touchdowns.
"CJ had a tremendous year, proving that he was one of the best running backs in the county and quite possibly the fastest," coach Bryan Cole said. "Craig made big plays for us all year and is getting a lot of interest from colleges."
Jon Kanda, River Hill senior. Dangerous as a running back and a receiver, Kanda — who is 6-foot-4 and weighs 215 pounds — has a bright future in football, even after just a few years of experience.
"He's a playmaker. He runs the ball well and made several big catches for us this year," coach Brian Van Deusen said. "Still new to the game, his best football is ahead of him. He has several offers to FCS/FBS schools."
Kanda, who rushed for 838 yards (8.0 per carry) and 13 TDs this fall, also caught 25 passes for 339 yards and four TDs. On defense, he made 35 tackles, 10 for loss.
Najee Savage, Howard senior. The workhorse who grinded out the tough yards for the Lions offense, Savage was the player his team turned to when they needed a first down. This fall, he carried the ball 283 times for 1,555 yards (5.5 per carry) and 25 TDs. He also caught six passes for 67 yards and two more scores.
"He's a great combination of the last two running backs we've had, Michael Anderson and Terrell Charles," coach Bruce Strunk said. "He's got great vision, he's strong, and he's a good kid."
Malik Anderson, Howard junior. After going down with a leg injury last season, Anderson was determined to come back even stronger this fall. He came through with 57 catches for 566 yards and seven touchdowns, and added 417 rushing yards and six more scores.
"He's probably the toughest kid I've ever coached. He might be small in stature, but he's strong and he's dynamic," coach Bruce Strunk said.
Anderson was also a top punt returner, returning nine punts for 305 yards, including a 96-yard score.
Shawn Harris, Oakland Mills junior. A tall receiver with great hands, Harris was the player that Pindell looked for on third and long when he absolutely needed a first down. He finished the season with 61 catches for 698 yards and six TDs.
"I knew he was going to have a great offensive year. He's Mr. Consistency. He's a solid football player who is good at what he does," said coach Thomas Browne. "And he was probably our best corner."
Harris led the pass defense with 36 tackles, two interceptions and a fumble recovery.
Tre Hopkins, Oakland Mills junior. Pindell's best competition for Offensive Player of the Year came from his own teammate. Hopkins, who is also a standout on the basketball team and a state-champion high jumper, may be one of the best athletes to ever come through Oakland Mills.
"Tre is something special. I've never seen a player like him. He's absolutely fun to watch. He does things in practice that you can't believe," Browne said. "He's the best football player that I've seen in 12 years of coaching."
Pindell got the ball into Hopkins' hands any way he could, and the playmaker racked up 1,106 yards on 65 catches (17 yards per catch), 422 rushing yards, and 17 TDs. On special teams, he added 300 return yards and three TDs. He also made three interceptions.
Ron'dell Carter, Long Reach senior. A Rutgers recruit, Carter often stood head and shoulders above the competition.
"He was always where he was supposed to be, always being physical, making sure that his teammates were lined up in the right place. The consummate leader," coach Jamie Willis said. "There's no doubt in my mind that he's going to make a huge impact when he gets to Rutgers."
At 6-foot-2 and 235 pounds, Carter was dominant as defensive end or linebacker, and a skilled pass catcher with soft hands who could make moves after the catch. He represented Long Reach in the Maryland Crab Bowl.
Larry Aaron, Oakland Mills junior. A 6-foot-4, 235-pound powerhouse, Aaron was an obvious first-team selection on either side of the ball.
"He was our best lineman on both sides of the ball. He's a guy that sticks out on tape. On some plays he'd be in the backfield and the opposing linemen would still have their hands on the ground," Browne said. "He has some of the best feet on our team. The sky's the limit for him. He could be something special."
Aaron paved the way for an offense that rushed for almost 200 yards per game, including a touchdown run of his own, and collected 68 tackles and 11 sacks on defense.
Steve McNair, Howard junior. Since he was a sophomore, McNair has been the rock of the Lions' excellent offensive line.
"He's a very athletic center with great feet and a high football IQ," Strunk said. "He's a pretty good defensive football player, too."
McNair, who makes the most of his 5-foot-11, 210-pound body, led the way for an offense that rushed for more than 2,200 yards and 33 TDs. He had two tackles — both sacks — on defense.
David Robbins, Glenelg senior. Robbins had high expectations after committing to play for Florida State, and he lived up to all of them. As a third-year starter, he led the Gladiators to a regional title.
"He paved the way for the team rushing for over 3,900 yards," coach Butch Schaffer said. "He's one of best high school lineman I have seen in a long time."
At 6-foot-4 and 295 pounds, Robbins already has college size and the head to match. He also had four tackles for loss and a fumble recovery, and rushed for a TD. He will play in the Offense - Defense All-American Bowl in early January.
Nick Rosen, Marriotts Ridge junior. For a team that needed to beef up its size, Rosen provided some heft on the line, standing 6-foot-3 and weighing in at 280 pounds.
He led the way for 2,200 rushing yards on an offense that scored the most points (243) by a Mustangs team since 2008, leading them to their first playoff berth in school history.
"He was a big, physical blocker who we ran behind in crucial situations," coach Marcus Lewis said. "He has a nasty disposition on the field and is an outstanding young man off the field. He has (Division I) potential."
Tyler Smith, River Hill senior. A county-champion wrestler, Smith (6-foot-3, 290 pounds) often neutralized the other team's best lineman.
"He was a big, strong and athletic lineman. He moves well and is an excellent run blocker," coach Brian Van Deusen said.
Smith helped the Hawks rush for 2,700 yards and 28 TDs. On defense, he had 36 tackles — six for loss — with an interception, a fumble recovery and a blocked kick. He will play for the University of Maryland next year.
Brent Richardson, Glenelg senior. Lining up at multiple positions in different formations, Richardson was a menace to opposing defenses with his hard-charging, quick-cutting running style.
"He was an extremely versatile player who did a little of everything," Schaffer said. "He rarely ever came off the field in the last two seasons. Great combination of speed and size."
Richardson, who has drawn interest from several FCS programs, rushed for 1,251 yards on 145 carries (8.6 per carry) and 21 TDs, and had eight catches for 103 yards. On defense, he made 41 tackles with three interceptions and recovered a fumble.
Nick Borsh, Hammond senior. Borsh had been a captain on the Hammond soccer team, but switched to football this fall and became one of the best place kickers in the state. The Baltimore Sun All-Metro kicker connected on 10-of-11 field goal attempts, including three from 40 yards, and was 28-for-29 on extra points. Borsh is drawing interest from the Ivy League conference.
"He has good character and has a lot of upside. Team-first mentality," coach Justin Carey said. "He was our best weapon this year. With Nick's kicking ability, we were able to trust him to score in the red zone."