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Hickey not first to field delinquent team Frederick County squad also finds games cathartic


The Hickey School is the second state-owned juvenile facility to tackle football. Last year, the Victor Cullen Academy in woodsy Sabillasville (Frederick County) assembled its own squad of delinquents, named them the Colts and won eight of 10 games against some public and private schools.

Hickey plays at the Cullen Academy on Nov. 11.

Cullen students, some of whom come from the Baltimore area, are surprised to find a level playing field and new electronic scoreboard at a detention center deep in the heart of the Catoctin Mountains.

"I didn't even know they had football up here," says Tyrone Rogers, 16, a running back who proudly clips Cullen's line scores from papers and sends them to his mother in West Baltimore. "Now, I'm thinking football may save me from getting killed, selling drugs."

School officials say games are cathartic, an outlet for the players' pent-up ire.

"If not for sports, a lot of these kids would be disruptive here," says Lewie Thomas, athletic director.

"Football has helped me control my anger," says George Stepney, 16, a 230-pound lineman from Severn. "I still get mad, but instead of assaulting somebody, I tackle people."

Though residential cottages at the Cullen Academy are surrounded by impenetrable fences, the football field is not. Deep woodlands curl down one sideline, and the north end zone empties into sparsely inhabited, mountainous terrain.

"You don't feel like you're locked up when you're playing football," says Michael Smith, 16, a wide receiver from West Baltimore.

No one ever has cut and run. In fact, football takes precedence over freedom.

Due for release in October last year, Cullen's quarterback made an unusual request. Could he remain at the detention center long enough to finish the season?

$ He could -- and did.

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