Playing your first season at the varsity level is a tough enough proposition for many high school football players. For Bel Air sophomore Steve Hemmig, the learning curve is even steeper.
Hemmig, 15, and his teammates will spend all this season and next season on the road while their school and home field are being rebuilt. The Bobcats (2-2 entering this weekend), in fact, recently played their own homecoming game at North Harford.
Despite the lack of a home-field advantage, the 6-foot, 185-pound linebacker has flourished, leading his team in tackles.
How difficult has it been for your team to play all of its games on the road?
It's difficult because we can't do stuff we would normally do at home like go to the stands and get our crowd pumped up. But our fans are really good about following us and going to other stadiums. And you kind of get this motivation to just beat that team because we don't have a home field - kind of take it to them.
You played on the junior varsity last year. How surprised were you to be elevated to the varsity as a sophomore?
Well, the coaches and some of the other varsity players were talking about it, so I kind of knew it was coming, but I wasn't sure. When they moved me up, it was a lot of pressure, but it was a good experience, too.
You've been averaging nearly 10 tackles a game. How do you account for stats like that with such little varsity experience?
It's just the athleticism and the job that the coaches are doing. They've taught me a lot. They taught me how to read the guards, how to get to the play faster and the right techniques for tackling. Also, it's just the fact that I've gotten a lot bigger than last year.
You mentioned the coaches. Bel Air has a new head coach this season, Marc Alegi. How do you think the players have adjusted to a new staff?
We've adjusted pretty well. Everyone likes all the coaches, and they're doing a really good job. No one has any complaints.
From your standpoint, how does the team's new defensive scheme differ from last year's?
This year it's a lot more aggressive than last year. We're doing a lot of blitzing and sending a lot of guys. We're just really trying to crush people and win the game. Defense wins championships.
You're also a second-string tight end. Do you prefer playing defense?
Yeah, I like defense a lot better. I like to hit people.
Your team has had some ups and downs this season. What do you think you need to do from here on out to get to where you want to be?
We've just got to play as a team and get pumped and excited for the games. Once our offense gets going, it usually lasts through the game. And we also have to maintain a strong defense throughout the game. The defense has to just stay strong.