A former River Hill High School football player is facing drunken-driving and vehicular-manslaughter charges after a crash early Sunday that killed a current player for the defending state champions and injured the team's captain. The accident came just two days after a loss that knocked the team out of the playoffs.
David Dixon Erdman II, 22, lost control of his truck on Folly Quarter Road near Buckskin Lake Drive, struck three stone ornamental pillars and overturned, police said.
Seventeen-year-old senior Steven Joseph Dankos, of the 13000 block of Brighton Dam Road in Clarksville, was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident.
Erdman, of the 4300 block of Heritage Hill Lane in Ellicott City, was transported to Howard County General Hospital for minor injuries, police said. His brother, 17-year-old Thomas Erdman, was taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center but was discharged, according to the hospital.
Dankos and the younger Erdman were linemen for the River Hill team that had won two straight state championships and extended its winning streak to 40 straight games before losing in Friday night's state semifinal at Huntingtown.
Thomas Erdman, the team captain, has been the team's top defensive lineman, with a knack for forcing fumbles and recovering them. David Erdman, a 2005 River Hill graduate, was an All-Howard County lineman for the Hawks and went on to play at Wesley College in Delaware, where he was named a D3football.com All-American.
Patti Caplan, the Howard County school system spokeswoman, said the principal and a crisis intervention team met Sunday at the school in preparation for the next school day and the grief-stricken staff and students.
As players on the football team, the boys were well known, said Caplan.
"The team just had that game at state playoffs Friday night, and I know they were really a tight-knit team," said Caplan, "This is just so tragic. It's tragic any time we lose a young person, but even more devastating at this time of the year and given the season this team just had."
River Hill coach Brian van Deusen, who coached all three players, could not be reached for comment. Their families also could not be reached for comment.
Mike Harrison, head coach at Wilde Lake, remembered all three young men, especially the Erdman brothers.
"There was a lot of football talent involved in that accident," Harrison said. "The one who sticks the most in my mind is the one who just finished playing [Thomas Erdman]. He was a factor. When you played them you had to scheme to play around him a little bit. ... The whole thing about River Hill being able to run the ball was the upsurge of the play of that line and his brother was a part of that as well."
The Hawks had been bitterly disappointed after losing Friday night in Calvert County, but Dankos' death puts football games in a different light, said Harrison.
"That was a football game. This is life," he said. "It does put things into perspective. I think Brian would say the same thing. There is something bigger than what we're doing with the kids on the field."
"It's one of the hardest things that you deal with when you deal with young kids, to be in that situation where you try to coach them and mentor them and have them grow up and make great decisions and then something happens," said Harrison, who has been coaching in Howard County since 1986. "It's going to be a hard thing for the River Hill program to have to deal with."