South Carroll athletic director Fred Baker seldom gets excited.
But he came alive quickly after watching Cavaliers junior running back Greg Mihalko play his first varsity game in the season-opener against three-time defending state 1A champion Wilde Lake last month.
"In high school if you can run laterally, that's all it takes," said Baker after Mihalko helped South Carroll beat Wilde Lake, 15-14, for the first time in the history of the inter-county series.
Mihalko uses his agility to glide to the outside and then turns on his 4.6-second speed in the 40 to blow past people in the defensive secondary.
Seldom has a back in Carroll County had the kind of lateral movement that Mihalko has given South Carroll this season.
"I did every agility drill I could find out about last summer," said Mihalko. "It has helped me a lot."
Wilde Lake was ranked No. 3 in the metro area and had won 47 of 50 games before falling to South Carroll.
In an outstanding show against the Wildecats, Mihalko scored a touchdown on a 29-yard run, set up another touchdown when he combined with quarterback Tom Luster and running back Chris Lyerly for a 43-yard gain on a hook-and-lateral play, and caught the winning two-point conversion pass from Luster with 10 seconds left.
"Beating Wilde Lake was almost like going out and beating a college team," said Mihalko. "We'd heard so much about them. They'd won so many games in the past five years and everybody was talking about it in school the next week."
By knocking off the Wildecats in the first game, the Cavaliers gained instant respectability and have gone on to post a 4-3 record, even though they were overwhelmed by powerful Thomas Johnson, 55-17, Friday.
Mihalko was superb in the first five games, before a 14-10 loss to Linganore on Oct. 8. The Lancers shut him and Lyerly down.
"Linganore used an eight-man front against us, giving us some problems," said Mihalko. "They played a loose zone in the secondary, allowing us to pass."
In the disappointing loss to the Lancers, Luster threw the ball mostly to junior receiver Tom Lapato. But Mihalko also is an exceptional receiver and he figures to see more action in the passing game.
On the ground or in the air, the Cavs are well-served getting the ball into Mihalko's hands.
He has carried 47 times for 363 yards and four touchdowns in addition to a 79-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and a 66-yard interception return.
L It seems that Mihalko is always in the middle of the action.
"I like to think I beat up people when I run," said Mihalko, who is 5 feet 10, 160 pounds. "I always try to feel that way instead of saying that other teams deal out a lot of punishment on me."
Mihalko said he never expected this much success this soon on the varsity even though he scored 12 touchdowns on the freshman team and 10 on the junior varsity.
But he should have had an inkling of what was going to happen.
Mihalko was an instant success on the varsity basketball team as a sophomore, hitting the winning shot in the final seconds against Liberty, and he was the starting catcher for the varsity baseball team last spring.
Mihalko is a natural athlete, obviously drawing some of his ability from his uncle, Jack Dzurenko, who played football at Villanova and later developed a weight-training program for the school.
South Carroll coach Gene Brown said the major thing that sets Mihalko apart from some other running backs is his speed.
"That's No. 1, and he has good work habits," Brown said.
When his high school career is over, Mihalko said he would like to attend Western Maryland College and play any of the three sports. "I would hope I could play football at Western Maryland but I'll go anywhere I get an offer from," he said.