Fallston football on rise Cougars win first six, best start since '83


Fallston High's football team hasn't had a record like this in 10 years.

Dave Cesky, in his 17th season as the only head coach the school has had, says he's never had a team like this.

When the Cougars defeated Northeast, 20-14, Friday night they ran their record to 6-0 and won for the 10th time in 11 games.

For that kind of success, one has to go back to the 1983 team that won its first six and finished 7-3.

How bad were the intervening years? Bad enough that last year's 6-4 team ended a string of eight straight non-winning seasons. Bad enough that the 10 wins in 11 games exceeded by one the number of wins the previous four years. Bad enough that there were as many off-the-field distractions as there were on-the-field losses.

All of which makes this year's success so gratifying to those involved, although there are still a lot of downs to be played.

"Two years ago, we knew we'd have a strong team by this time. There were good athletes who wanted to win as a team," said senior tackle Chris Harrison.

A three-year varsity player, and the only returning starter to the offensive line, the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Harrison is the team leader and a solid college prospect.

"It was important for this year's seniors [there are 11 of them, all starters] to set the tone with a winning attitude," he said.

This wasn't something they had to invent, either, for all were products of successful JV teams.

"I think, too, we're playing better as a team because we're family," Harrison added. "The word is overworked, but in this case it's true. We're just a lot stronger. We pull each other up, we're there for each other. It's just a good solid group."

Cesky cited an example of Harrison's leadership.

"Chris leads by example, and during the summer drills, all the seniors were picking up the underclassmen, encouraging them,

helping them get through those workouts," Cesky said.

A year ago, the Cougars were also senior-dominated, but there wasn't the same attitude that the current group displays. And last year, it took the team five games to settle into a new defense, a 4-4 that had to learn to "read and react."

An overtime win over Northeast started Fallston on a four-game winning streak that was stopped by C. Milton Wright in the final game of the regular season.

Despite the 4-1 run in the last five games, that finish did not project into a superior feeling about this season.

"No, I didn't think we'd start [6-0]," said Cesky, "but I felt if our young players came around, we'd be as good as last year."

A change in coaching philosophy, the ability of each senior to play a role and parlay it into team success, and the emergence of a good group of young players have been the major pieces in putting together this winning puzzle.

"Our center, Jimmy Pappas, started last year as a sophomore, and because of his progress, I got away from the philosophy of keeping the young ones down," Cesky said. "Now, Mark Rhoten is a sophomore who plays both ways, and Mike Levy is a freshman playing offensive guard."

Another freshman who filled an immediate need was Matt Sutphin, who starts as a running back.

"From the opening of fall drills, he had good speed, was a quick hitter into the line, and we liked the way he kept his balance," Cesky said.

After five games, Sutphin was among the county leaders with six touchdowns and 80 carries for 392 rushing yards, a 4.9 average.

While Matt, 5-9 and 165, draws attention as a ball carrier, his older brother Mike, another regular running back, blocks for him.

"Mike is our unsung hero, and we're proud of the job he's done," Cesky said. Another example of a role player, Mike Sutphin (6-1, 195) is a senior who came back for this season after being hurt last year.

Other unsung seniors include Adam Hewat and Matt Buckleman. Hewat starts at defensive end and fills in on offense where needed, and Buckleman (5-11, 145) is an end who can block as well as catch the ball, and has taken on the responsibility of picking up the necessary skills in his first season as a place-kicker.

The seniors say that a lot of extra work has gone into the team's success. They wanted to survive in the second half and be stronger than the opposition in the fourth quarter. They have accomplished that, coming from behind to win three of the games.

"I think it's interesting this family feeling developed because we're all friends, not just because we're teammates," Harrison said. "It's being together for four years that made it happen."

Copyright © 2021, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad