Forget the schedule; watch Johnson run; New season: Annapolis back thrills fans, scares opponents and will be worth the ticket, wherever he pops up on a new, much-debated county card.


Rayvon Johnson of Annapolis is so good running a football that county fans may disregard the complaints of some coaches over the elimination of such cherished traditions as county championships and final-game rivalries.

Johnson's exceptional ability to change gears could shift the Anne Arundel football focus from controversy to "having mercy" on the record book.

The All-Metro running back last fall and first county player to run for 2,000 yards in a season (he 2,060 last fall), Johnson is expected to continue his assault on county defenses.

His chase of county records could defuse the coaches' dismay with the newly structured schedule that was made public by The Sun last November.

The new schedule finds nine of the county's 11 Class 3A and 4A schools playing all 10 of their games against county opponents.

A maximum 10 regular season games can be played in football. There is no way to play 11 county opponents to have a true county champion.

Also, three long-time, final-game rivalries, including Annapolis-Severna Park, which had been played for 40 years, have been eliminated.

"Hopefully, the new schedule will generate more interest among the students," said Fred Stauffer, the retired Annapolis athletic director who devised the schedule and gained the majority support of the other ADs in November.

The surprising enrollment reclassification of Annapolis from 4A to 3A for the first time necessitated changes. Annapolis missed keeping its 4A status by 17 students. Broadneck moved from 3A to 4A. The Bruins were 27-33 in football in their last stay in Class 4A, from 1997 through 1992.

South River jumps from 2A to 3A, joining Annapolis and Northeast and leaving Southern as the county's only 2A school.

"I don't like the new schedule, and there is no doubt that Fred [Stauffer] and Roy [Brown, Annapolis coach] are responsible and wanted to make sure all the 4A schools kept playing them," said Arundel coach Bill Zucco.

"They're both friends of mine, and if I had been in the same position, I would have asked Bernie [Walter, Arundel athletic director] to do the same thing."

Most of the county athletic directors agreed with Stauffer that they could boost attendance and save nearly $10,000 in bus expenses countywide.

With Johnson in the spotlight, county fans may flock to the games to see if their team can stop him.

Ranked 16th on the county career rushing list, Johnson (5-10, 175 with 4.4 speed) will play all 10 of his games in the county and will be worth the price of admission. He would set a new record with the kind of stats he had as a junior.

Broadneck's Martel Threadgill completed his fourth season last fall with a county career record of 3,996 yards.

But Johnson broke the regular season rushing record of 1,862 set by Meade's Tanardo Sharps in 1997 in the final game at Severna Park last year and finished with 1,947 in 10 games. He gained a season-low 113 yards in a playoff game to rack up the overall 2,060 yards.

This year, the Panthers meet Severna Park in game six, Oct. 8. It will be the 41st meeting (counting a playoff game in 1987). Severna Park leads the series, 19-18-3.

Broadneck is the new rival for Annapolis, and instead of Annapolis, Severna Park will play Old Mill in this year's regular-season finale. North County, Broadneck's former final game rival, will now play Glen Burnie, the Old Mill rival for the last 23 years.

Severna Park coach J. P. Hines, who managed to schedule non-county games with Wootton and Calvert Hall, the only county 3A or 4A school to do so, doesn't see playing Annapolis last as that vital.

"It's a new era, and things need to change for the better," said Hines, who took the traditional Falcon off the side of the helmets last year and this year changed the gold shells to navy blue for the first time in 40 years.

"I hate the new schedule. It benefits Annapolis, and really, I think our rival should be Broadneck, not Old Mill."

Unfortunately for Hines, Annapolis coach Brown feels the same way.

"I've been at Annapolis 20 years, and things changed after 'Big Al' [Laramore] died," said Brown. Laramore, the county's all-time winningest coach at 156-68-2, died of a heart attack in January 1989. The rivalry, once played on Thanksgiving Day at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium, thrived with Laramore and late Severna Park coach George Roberts with Andy Borland as his assistant.

Borland succeeded Roberts, and the game continued until Laramore's death.

"I didn't feel the excitement, when we weren't playing for anything," said Brown. "We seem to have more interaction with Broadneck and South River. It was pretty intense with Broadneck, before they stopped playing us."

Looking ahead, who wants to miss Broadneck at Severna Park (Sept. 9), Annapolis at South River (Sept. 17), Annapolis at Severna Park (Oct. 8) or Annapolis at Broadneck (Nov. 5), to mention a few?

And who wants to miss Rayvon Johnson, if he's coming to a field near you?

The new schedule might not be so bad after all.

Pub Date: 9/02/99

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