Dave Cesky was always reluctant to keep a freshman on Fallston's varsity football team.
More out of a fear of physical injury than a fear of a mental breakdown, Cesky, no matter how impressed he was with a freshman, would send the player to the JV with the hopes that he would mature, gain some confidence and one day help his program.
Then Mike Levy and Matt Sutphin arrived in Fallston's camp in August 1993 and Cesky's philosophy changed.
And the Cougars' luck has, too.
Eight games into the season, Fallston is guaranteed a winning season at 6-2 and its county championship hopes, while seriously jeopardized by Thursday night's 22-7 loss to Havre de Grace, are still alive.
"I've been coaching for 20 years and it wasn't until the last five years or so that I really looked at freshmen and sophomores as potential contributors right away," said Cesky. "That's how Mike and Matt were as freshmen. They were like a package.
"I could tell that they were physically mature enough to handle the varsity and they fit right in."
Now juniors, Levy, a two-way lineman, and Sutphin, a running back/linebacker, both have a firm grasp of Cesky's system, as well as the physical and mental demands required of those who are successful on the varsity level.
It wasn't always like that.
"When I was a freshman, a lot of times I was confused when I got to the line of scrimmage," said Levy, who hopes to play football and study architecture in college. "I'd get to the line and start wondering, 'should I do this' or 'should I block him,' and now it's second nature. I go to the line, read the front and know who to block right away."
Levy's size (6 feet 2, 253 pounds), strength (he bench presses 325 pounds) and speed (4.8 in the 40-yard --) are qualities that undoubtedly will lure Division I scouts to Fallston next fall, but what makes him an even hotter commodity is his strong commitment to academics and heavy involvement in student activities.
Levy, who carries a 3.0 grade-point average, is sports editor of the school newspaper, The Print, and a student government association member recently nominated to serve as a student member of the Harford County school board.
"We like to refer to Mike as a gentle giant because of his quiet demeanor," said Jim O'Toole, Levy's journalism adviser. "It's not often that a kid comes through here that has it all, but Mike is that exception."
Sutphin, who was named All-County last season after leading the county in rushing with 1,066 yards, has been exceptional this season, rushing for over 100 yards in his last seven games.
The 5-11, 190-pounder rushed for 213 yards in an early-season win over Bel Air and ran for 171 yards and three touchdowns in a victory over Joppatowne.
Just the kind of performances Cesky envisioned three years ago.
"The second game of his freshman year, our starting tailback got injured and Matt carried the ball like 25 times that game for 150 yards and that reinforced my feeling of what kind of runner he would be," said Cesky, who has watched Sutphin rush for 905 yards and seven touchdowns in the Cougars' first eight games.
"Matt is quick, but he's not really an outside runner, he's a power runner. If he gets free, he has the speed to score from anywhere, but he prefers running straight ahead and pounding away at a defense until he breaks one."