The Bel Air football team didn't get a lot of breaks in 2006.
The Bobcats lost several close games under new coach Tony Belcastro, and he saw a lot of good things from his team despite its 3-7 finish.
That's why he's not too surprised that Bel Air turned in strong performances in a 2-0 start this season. The Bobcats shut down John Carroll in a 20-7 victory in the opener and came back the following week to outlast Riverdale Baptist, 12-6, in overtime.
"There's more confidence this year," Belcastro said. "The athletes are more confident, and the coaches are more confident. It's the second year of doing what we're doing. Everyone was in different roles last year for the first time, and everyone is more confident in those roles this year."
Experience also is helping. The Bobcats are starting nine seniors on defense and eight on offense.
Seniors Mitch Poole and Mike McGee played big roles in the first two wins. Quarterback Poole got the winning touchdown against Riverdale Baptist on an 8-yard run. He scored on a 3-yard run on the first drive of the second half to help Bel Air rally from a 6-0 halftime deficit.
Poole ran for 115 yards and four touchdowns in the two games and completed 18 of 30 passes for 223 yards and one score. This is his first year starting at quarterback after playing at wide receiver the first two seasons.
"He's played very, very well," Belcastro said. "He's done a nice job of taking plays that are there and not trying to make a play when it's not there."
McGee, a running back and linebacker, has helped out on both sides of the ball. He has rushed for 145 yards and posted 16 tackles in two games. He had nine tackles in the Riverdale Baptist win - two of which came on fourth-down stops.
"He's been a warrior so far," Belcastro said. "We wouldn't have won the [Riverdale Baptist] game without him."
Others who have contributed are seniors Ben Snyder and Vernon Joines. Snyder, a wide receiver-defensive back-kick returner, had six catches for 100 yards and one touchdown, along with 14 tackles.
Joines, a wide receiver-linebacker, had seven catches for 75 yards and made 13 tackles, three for losses.
The John Carroll boys basketball team will have a new look in its backcourt this winter.
Josh Selby, an All-County player as a freshman last season, has transferred and will play at DeMatha, the basketball powerhouse in Hyattsville. Selby averaged 15.8 points, 3.4 assists and 3.3 rebounds last year.
The Patriots will clearly miss his talents, but they might have filled the hole with newcomer Dejan Gaspic. The 6-foot junior comes to John Carroll from Zagreb, Croatia, and should see plenty of time as a point guard.
School officials said Gaspic is considered a mid- to high-level Division I prospect. He was a starting point guard for a Croatian club team (Kaptol) for the past five years.
"Dejan is a pure point guard and will help our program achieve our goals," John Carroll coach Tony Martin said in a statement. "He projects as a surefire mid- to high-major player and comes in with a solid reputation as a basketball player and a young man. There is no doubt in my mind he is one of the top guards in the Mid-Atlantic region in the Class of 2009."
Havre de Grace football coach Johnny Brooks stood in the rain on the night of Sept. 14, minutes after his Warriors dropped a tough 16-6 decision at Joppatowne. He sighed and then smiled.
"Hey, we're young this year," he said.
The Warriors lost a number of key players from last year's surprising 8-5 team, which beat New Town in the first round of the Class 1A playoffs. Gone are quarterback Josh Appold, the county's Offensive Player of the Year who threw for 2,012 yards and 20 touchdowns, and wide receivers Travis Brown and Arthur Ibewuike.
Running back Hakeem Hines rushed for 110 yards and the team's lone touchdown against Joppatowne, an 11-yard run in the third quarter. The problem was the rest of the team had minus-2 yards of total offense and only six first downs.
The steady rain probably slowed the Havre de Grace passing attack, and Brooks put Lloyd Williams at quarterback in the second quarter. Williams ran well throughout the game, but the Warriors couldn't put a long drive together.
"We'll grow ... and we'll get there," Brooks said.
A good combination
Erika Stasakova and Nicole Clarke played a big role in John Carroll winning the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference title last year. The bad news for the Patriots' opponents is they've gotten better this year.
Stasakova won the Barnhart Invitational at Dulaney this month, and Clarke took second place. The Patriots finished second behind the host Lions.
"They're just a great 1-2 combination," John Carroll coach Rob Torres said.