Countians prepare for gridiron action Certain teams remain anxious from last year


Even the almost always mighty Westminster Owls faded last season to a 1-9 record.

Westminster did the unthinkable in Carroll County high-school football circles -- losing to North Carroll and South Carroll in the same season.

The demise of the Owls was part of a rather dismal Carroll County football scene that had five schools scratching out just 12 victories between them.

South Carroll, under veteran coach Ken Parker, accounted for half of those wins with a 6-4 record. But Parker has stepped down to an assistant coaching position with the Cavaliers and Gene Brown is running the show after 16 years as an assistant to Parker.

Will South Carroll continue to win under Brown?

Will Westminster bounce back?

Or is Carroll County high school football on the decline?

Westminster head coach Jeff Oeming sees no reason to panic over the state of Carroll County football in general and the Owls in particular.

"It [1991] was just a cycle thing," said Oeming. "Sometimes things just don't click."

In reference to the Owls, Oeming said: "The funny thing is we had what we thought was going to be a very good team. We averaged 20 points a game but our defense allowed 32 points . . . It was a momentum thing."

Westminster won the Central Maryland Conference title in 1989 and 1990 with a 13-7 record for the two seasons, and in 1991 junior quarterback Brad Gibson and junior halfback Gabe Zepp were expected to have big seasons.

Gibson passed for 537 yards and Zepp ran for 778 yards last season, but the Owls couldn't stop the opposition.

Gibson and Zepp are back as seniors and will operate out of a pass-oriented wing-T offense this season, and Oeming hopes to tighten up the defense with senior Paul Orvis and Zepp at defensive ends and Gibson at free safety.

At South Carroll, Brown scoffed at the thought of any pressure on him as he follows the near legendary Parker as head coach.

Brown faces his first season as head coach without record-breaking quarterback Joey Goodwin who was the co-winner of the Baltimore area Scholar-Athlete award last season.

"You can't replace Joey," said Brown. "He was a coach on the field. But we have four quarterbacks in camp and one of them will step forward and do the job."

Senior Ron Garrett, 5-11, 150, will most likely follow Goodwin at quarterback.

At Liberty High, John Magee is the only coach in Carroll County who would allow himself to be optimistic in the pre-season.

Magee said his Lions, 2-8 last year, will go "into every game with a game plan that I hope will enable us to win. We beat ourselves last year and we've taken steps in practice to prevent that this year."

Magee said he has his players running laps in practice every time they miss a snap count "to make their memory better."

"It seems to be working," said Magee. "The kids are paying

attention all the time even when their unit isn't running plays."

At North Carroll, there doesn't seem to be a lot of hope for improving upon last season's 3-7 record that included three big county wins over Westminster, Liberty and Francis Scott Key.

In fact, coach Randy Clark seems to be bracing himself for a fall this season.

"This is not a football school," said Clark. "Soccer is the top sport. We're the smallest school in the conference [Central Maryland]. We have less speed this year than last, we don't have much size and we're inexperienced. Our goal is to beat Francis Scott Key [in non-league season opener] and take it from there."

Francis Scott Key remains the traditional rival for North Carroll even though FSK is a 1-A school and North Carroll is 2-A.

"The county wants us to play them [North Carroll]," said FSK coach Mike Coons who has more than enough to worry about competing in the 10-team Monocacy Valley League.

Coons and the Eagles are winless in the 1990s, and Coons admits "we're running out of excuses."

"I'm tired of it [losing]," said Coons. "We don't have a football mentality at this school. The guys list football as their favorite sport in the yearbook each year but it doesn't seem like a No. 1 priority for them. We lose a lot of players to the soccer team."

Other than Jimmy Hyson, who was good enough to start at the University of Virginia in 1978, the Eagles have not had a big-time college football player in their program.

"I thought I had the answer when I came here," said Coons, who is starting his fourth year as head coach. "I thought I could instill a football mentality. But it hasn't worked. Now we just have to keep doing things right. "

Coons said the Eagles need to be more nasty on the field, need more leaders and have to believe they can win.

"A lot of these kids expect to lose because they've come from midget football programs that have lost," he said. "Some of them are starting to win at the midget level and that should help us."

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