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Defenders beware, Knights have handle on run-and-shoot


In the two years since North County High opened its doors, the football team has won 16 games and been to the playoffs once.

And, says Coach Chuck Markiewicz, that was without his players having a complete grasp on the offense.

"They're starting to get a handle on it," he said of the vaunted run-and-shoot attack, which can send a defensive coordinator into early retirement. "The kids are growing into it, they understand it and they like it. I guess it's a process you have to go through when you start something new."

With 11 starters lost to graduation, the Knights again seem to be starting anew. But in Markiewicz's system, where everyone gets a taste of the action, the situation is far from desperate.

"We try to play a lot of people, 22 on offense, 22 on defense," Markiewicz said. "I've never had more than three players go both ways, ever. So, even though some of these guys didn't start last year, most of them got some experience."

This could explain why he isn't panicking over the loss of three starting receivers from last season.

Of course, the one returnee is senior Damon Martin, who has 95 catches in two years, including 54 last fall. This alone assures that the Knights' offense -- and the football -- will be in good hands.

The other projected starters are senior Mike Quarles and juniors Teon Carter and Kevin Mitchell. Only Mitchell is new to the varsity.

The starter at quarterback is senior Eric Howard, who accounted for 1,254 yards and nine touchdowns, and threw a county-high 26 interceptions. He replaced Reggie Moore midway through the third game last season, and a summer motorcycle accident has slowed Moore's attempt to reclaim the job.

"We're bringing him along slowly," Markiewicz said of Moore, a junior. "We anticipate him being ready for the start of the season."

One player Markiewicz won't have is two-way standout Anthony Walker, the Anne Arundel County Sun's 1991 Player of the Year who received a scholarship to Syracuse University.

A player of Walker's caliber -- a ferocious tackler with 4.3 speed in the 40-yard -- -- doesn't come along very often. But fortunately for the Knights, Markiewicz is accustomed to losing, and finding new, superstars from his stint as Meade's football coach.

"We've had to replace Derrick Love, Brian Pratt, Lonnie Pierce, Tavio Henson. And now Anthony," he said. "But someone else always comes around. That's the great thing about high school football."

And that's where Vinnie Elliott enters the picture. A 5-foot-10, 170-pound senior, Elliott served as Walker's understudy at linebacker the past two seasons.

Now, it's his turn to shine. And to hit.

"Vinnie could probably coach this team," Markiewicz said. "He might be the best unknown football player in the county.

"I'll tell you this, if I had 22 Vinnie Elliotts on my team, we'd be there at the end."

Taking Walker's place in the offensive backfield -- a position known at North County as the "ace back" -- is senior Frank Brown, a transfer from Southwestern High whom Markiewicz compares to former Andover/North County tailback Vernon Dawson.

All in all, not a bad group of players to send out for any game. And with everyone understanding the offense, there's no telling how far the Knights will go.

"It takes a while, and that was true of the whole team, including the coaches," Markiewicz said. "Now, everyone knows the offense. The kids who are returning know it, and the kids up from the JV know it."

And opposing defenses still hate it.

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