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Playoff problems are weighty issue


In my Nov. 24 column, I asked the question, "Why don't Anne Arundel County's Class 4A football teams do better in the state playoffs?"

Since then I've gotten quite a bit of response on my 24-Hour Sportsline, (410) 647-2499, and in person.

Anne Arundel County has won only two state football championships -- Arundel (1975) and Annapolis (1978).

This year looked like the year for an Anne Arundel County team to win a title. Montgomery and Prince George's counties didn't seem to be as strong as usual, and North County looked like a bona fide contender.

With a herd of outstanding athletes, size, speed, an offense that could score, a staunch defense and blue-chip college prospects, such as linebacker Troy Fowlkes and lineman Jarryn Avery, the Knights' chances looked good.

But the Knights were eliminated, 30-6, in the first round of the playoffs by eventual state 4A champion Watkins Mill of Montgomery.

"I don't know. If I knew the answer, I would sure do it," Knights coach Chuck Markiewicz said about why Anne Arundel doesn't do better.

Could it be the coaching?

No, but what it might be is the number of coaches, and that is where Anne Arundel is at a severe disadvantage.

You see coaching staffs of 10 to 13 people on Montgomery County teams breaking down their teams by position (linebackers coach, defensive line coach, etc.) and then you look at Anne Arundel teams with three or four.

There is obviously more individual attention for the players on the larger-staffed teams, and the reason for the discrepancy is that while volunteer coaches have been approved statewide, they have not been approved here.

Because of the current climate (child abuse and other controversies involving full-time personnel) in Anne Arundel, county coordinator of physical education Rick Wiles has been advised not to do a thing with the issue.

"Another reason Montgomery County wins all the time is that their coaches work harder, 50-60 hours a week watching film and planning," said Gambrills youth coach Chuck Morse.

But do they really work harder? "Maybe, only a few of our county coaches go to a lot of clinics, and going to clinics is beneficial," said Markiewicz.

And Anne Arundel football teams don't practice on Saturdays while basketball, wrestling, baseball, lacrosse and soccer teams Even the JV football teams, which usually play their games on Thursday, don't work out Saturdays.

Bob Cilento, a Crofton resident who is basketball coach at Springbrook in Montgomery, was a longtime football assistant at that school and his son, Pat, is the Arundel quarterback. Cilento pointed to the "strength factor" as the major difference between the schools.

"The coaches in Montgomery make weightlifting a year-round thing for their players, and the players have to be there out of season," said Cilento.

"When Anne Arundel teams play Montgomery teams, you can see the strength difference."

That's an excellent point, because I've seen it. It was there the night Watkins Mill dominated North County.

I also think we need to add another level to the youth football program so it could feed the high school teams as most other youth sports do.

Anne Arundel's Rec and Parks youth football program is nice to a point, but it doesn't contribute as much to the high schools as other youth programs do. It feeds adult egos more than it does high school programs.

Some of the skilled players benefit, but there are scores of boys who can't make weight divisions and don't get to play a down until high school.

Whether it be organized by Rec and Parks or a sponsoring organization looking to do something for high school football, we need an unlimited weight division for sixth- and eighth-graders. Youths could represent their middle schools and step right into the community high school program with invaluable preparation.

Even the more advanced skilled players, such as quarterbacks, could benefit by the tougher competition and taste of what it's going to be like in high school rather than being a weight-division superstar.

I just wonder what Anne Arundel County teams would do if we had volunteer coaches and youth middle school teams without weight limits.

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