Anne Arundel County won't have any of its high school football teamsplaying this weekend in the state championship games at the University of Maryland, but one of its own will coach in the Class 4A title game.
Former Southern three-sport standout Dale Castro returns to his alma mater as head coach of High Point (10-2) of Prince George's County. Castro will lead his Eagles against Quince Orchard (11-1) of Montgomery County.
"It's exciting to come back to Byrd Stadium with a chance to win a state championship," said Castro. "I actually returned in 1988 withDuVal High as an assistant coach, and we won the state title, but this is special because I'm head coach of a school that has never won astate championship."
The Shady Side native has found coaching to be addictive. It's been a trip from stardom at both Southern and Maryland to shots with the Dallas Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks and back to his Harwood roots.
"After I was released by the Cowboys, I dropped by Southern one day (in 1981) to see my old coach Buck Gardner andhelped out that day. I came back the next day and the next day, and I decided coaching high school football was something I really wantedto do," said Castro, who stayed as an assistant to Gardner until 1985 before moving to DuVal as an assistant to Don Phelps.
When John Voight retired after 31 years at High Point, Castro was appointed to the head coaching position last year.
"High school sports is the last of real amateur sports. It's not a business like college sports. I love the spirit of it. I love working with the kids," Castro said.
Castro made his high school coaches such as Gardner and Dick Keck in football and Tom Albright in basketball feel the same. He was as good an athlete as anyone to ever come out of this county.
Before he graduated from Southern in 1977, Castro had earned eight varsity letters, two each in football and basketball and four in baseball. Baseball earned him a scholarship to the University of Maryland, but he made the Terps' football team as a walk-on.
Castro still holds mostof Southern's records in kicking and quarterbacking. In his junior year, he set school passing records of most passes attempted in a game(43); most in a season (264); most completed in a game (24); most completed in a season (144); most total yards passing in a season (1,541); and most total offense passing and rushing (1,693).
His 144-for-264 passing percentage of 54.5 is believed to be the highest ever by a county quarterback with 200 or more passes in a season. The 144 completions have been topped only by North County's Johnny Ray, when the Knights' run-and-shoot quarterback completed 161 of 337 for a county-record 2,020 yards last year.
Southern kicking records held by Castro, who once hit a 66-yard field goal attempt far enough but justwide to the right, include: tie for most field goals in a season (four in 1976); tie for most field goals in a game (two in 1976 against Andover); most career field goals (seven); and tie for longest punt (80 yards against Arundel in 1976).
His punting prowess won him a walk-on scholarship with Coach Jerry Claiborne's Terps in 1978. Castrowas their punter for three years but doubled as place-kicker for thelast two of those years.
"My biggest thrill came in 1979 when my field goal beat North Carolina in the last minute of play," Castro said. "It set an NCAA record for consecutive field goals at 16, but that has since been broken."
His dramatic kick edged the Tar Heels, 17-14, and he went on to lead the Terps (7-4) in scoring that year with 70 points and 17 field goals. The 17 field goals ties him with two others for the Maryland record.
Castro also booted a school-recordfive field goals against Mississippi State on Sept. 22, 1979, in a 35-14 rout. The week before, in a 19-0 win over Clemson, Castro bootedfour straight field goals.
At the end of that sensational season,Castro was named All-American kicker by The Sporting News, the Football Writers Association, United Press International and All Atlantic Coast Conference.
He finished his career with 27 field goals, fourth on the Terps' all-time list.
As a punter, Castro holds the Terps' career records for most punts (224) and most total yards (8,548) and the two highest totals for most punts in a season, 83 (1979) and 75 (1980). His average of 40.9 in 1980 is the third-highest single-season average in school history and his 38.2 career average the ninth best.
Castro played in two bowl games, the 1978 Sun Bowl in El Pasoand the 1980 Tangerine Bowl in Orlando. He punted eight times for a 37-yard average as Texas humbled the Terps, 42-0, in the Sun Bowl.
In a 35-20 Tangerine Bowl loss to Florida in his final season, Castro tied the bowl record of four field goals (35, 27, 27, 43).
Tryouts with the Dallas Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks after graduation followed but Castro didn't make it.
Castro tried to keep his National Football League dream alive in the early 1980s by kicking in the old United States Football League with the Washington Federals and the indoor arena Washington Commandos.
It was in the mid-80s that Castrogot serious about coaching. By 1988, after tasting a state championship as an assistant at DuVal, Castro yearned to be a head coach.
When the opportunity came along at High Point, Castro was ready.
His first team at High Point went 8-3, losing in the first roundof the state playoffs to archrival Oxon Hill, 20-0. Only 60 players came outas Castro carried 30 on the varsity and 25 on the JV, but as he said, "The program sold itself the first year. We showed we were committed to having a first-class program."
This year, 110 candidates showed up, and Castro has 45 on his varsity and 55 on the JV.
'It's a unique situation at High Point, a multicultural school," said Castro,who works nearby at a general rehabilitation center for vocational evaluation.
"There must be a hundred different cultures at High Point. I've got Jamaican kids, Nicaraguans, Spaniards and Mexican kids. It's a diverse environment, and High Point is one of the top academicschools in Prince George's County."
Castro also has many talents.High Point starts a freshman nose guard, Desmond Thomas, who is 6-foot-4 and 265 pounds, and has mammoth tackles who stand 6-foot-7 and 6-5 and who are basketball players out for football for the first time.
Prize running back senior Rhad Miles is being compared to Terps'freshman star Larry Washington, who led Randallstown of Baltimore County to last year's state 4A title. Castro is hoping that Miles will do likewise tonight against Quince Orchard.
Miles had 141 yards and three touchdowns rushing last week in a 35-13 semifinal romp over Largo, the Prince George's club that eliminated Old Mill, 14-3, in thefirst round.
Castro's season began in Anne Arundel County on Sept. 6 with a 22-14 victory over defending 4A Region IV champion SevernaPark. The Eagles had beaten the Falcons the year before in the firstgame by 19-13 at High Point. So there's an obvious question to ask aguy who grew up playing in the county and is now on the other side.
Why don't Anne Arundel County teams do better in the state playoffs?
"That's a good question, and it's something I've given a lot ofthought to," answered Castro. "But like when I was at Southern, we always had just one or two good athletes, and they carried the load.
"Buck (Gardner) worked a lot of years practically by himself, and I've got eight assistants at High Point, including ex-Maryland quarterback Mark Manges. Our kids get individual attention at their positions, and they really appreciate that. The number of assistants we have in PG and Montgomery probably is the biggest difference with Anne Arundel."
Castro said Severna Park was "one of the most physical teams we've played the last two years, but depth hurt them this year. They had a lot of people go both ways, whereas we have an offensive lineand a defensive line."
The argument of why Anne Arundel doesn't win at the state level rages on, but it is somewhat comforting to knowthat one of the county's own might win it all tonight.