Broadneck's Ethon Williams wants to leave legacy of hard work behind

Katherine Fominykh
Contact Reporterkfominykh@capgaznews.com

Ethon Williams is an artist.

His brushstrokes are everywhere in the routes he ran this season — his routes. When the 6-foot wide receiver ducks out from the line of scrimmage and teleports several yards downfield to make the catch, he’s likely running a game plan he put together with his coach, Rob Harris.

“It's been pretty deep,” Harris said. “We've done some stuff with him we've never done with other kids, partly because some of it we came across because we might see him and say, 'Hey, we think you could pull this off.' Some of this we came across on accident and actually became really great plays for us. So that's the kind of stuff I'm going to miss a lot.”

The number of Williams’ routes Broadneck used is a trade secret. They were effective enough that even though Williams is swapping out the Bruins maroon for Boston College maroon, his ideas will continue to be used in Harris’ schematics for years to come — like art, hung up in a gallery for all to see.

“It's just been a collaboration, someone who liked doing what he did so much, always trying to get better,” Harris said. “Us always trying to find ways to create opportunities for him.”

Only Williams, unlike traditional artists, doesn’t have his signature sketched into the corner of each play. Only his coaches and the Bruins who played alongside him will know.

“We knew who was going to be the open man and who was going to be a dummy,” Williams said. “We knew that these plays were going to work. It really affected us and helped us strive throughout all these games.”

Like any memorable artist, Williams stamped his name into history this season. The Capital Gazette Communications Player of the Year broke the county receiving yards record of 2,700 and closed his career with 3,222. In October, he eclipsed the state mark for touchdown receptions, finishing the fall with 53 total, and also set the county receptions record by six, totaling 196.

But breaking those marks wasn’t Williams’ ultimate goal heading into September. He had his eye on the 4A state championship, and the crown. South River quelled those dreams, defeating Broadneck in the first round.

But even that isn’t Williams’ number one, all-purpose goal.

“For me, every time, I think to myself, 'Did you work your hardest through football? If football ends today, have you worked your hardest?' My goal is to be able to say yes to that question,” he said.

There are thousands of high school football players every year who, truthfully, will fade from memory soon after graduation. But Williams isn’t one of those players.

It’s not just because his name’s frequently noted in articles, or because his name will linger in Anne Arundel County and Maryland record books until some player down the road will unseat him with one receiving yard more, one more touchdown in hand.

It’s the impact he made on the players he’s leaving behind.

For freshman quarterback Josh Ehrlich, Williams was a mentor who guided him to victory 10 times. It was the receiver, in fact, that excited eighth grader Ehrlich about playing for Broadneck last fall.

“Ethon, put the ball anywhere, and he'll have a shot to get it,” Ehrlich said. “… Ethon, [Jason] Carcamo, all them brought me in and we've worked together all season.”

If Williams stepped in front of the mirror, he’d see Ehrlich blinking back at him — two freshman hopefuls thrust in to a starting role, and thriving.

“I saw that he was confident and he knew that he could get the job done,” Williams said. “I had a feeling that he was going to be a great player, so I feel like I could teach him a little something.”

Like Ehrlich, Williams was more of a running back before his coaches turned him into something else — for Williams, it was the receiver’s life. The change for Williams, though, didn’t happen until he started at Broadneck.

That’s why, in the summer before his freshman year, Williams targeted Jason Carcamo — another freshman bound for the varsity running back role and Williams’ future close friend.

“At first, when he was on varsity first and I wasn't, I was like, 'What am I going to do to get on varsity like he is?' I just kept working and working,” Williams said.

Though Williams would be shuffled to junior varsity for summer play, he didn’t stop working at it. As to when exactly Harris realized his rising freshman was ready for the show, the coach and player’s memories diverge.

Williams thinks his moment came in a tournament.

“I caught a deep pass and scored,” he said. “[Harris] saw something out of me.”

Harris remembers Williams, already more physically developed than his counterparts, standing out during a JV seven-on-seven drill in July.

“And I said, 'Yeah, that kid needs to be with us,’” Harris said. “That was the last he ever stayed with JV.”

In Week Three against Northeast, Willliams was humming with first-start nerves. Up 17-0 already, the Bruins were perched on the Eagles’ 9-yard line on second down. Quarterback Emmett Davis found Williams in the end zone for the touchdown.

That wasn’t his real beginning, though. That came in the final game of the year, against Howard, which would be a loss. That was when Williams found his foothold with the Bruins.

“I scored two touchdowns, and in the end zone, all I heard was the chant, 'He's a freshman,’” Williams said. “That was pretty cool.”

The stats kept piling up. Williams increased his touchdowns per season from four as freshman to 10 as a sophomore, to 19 as a junior, to 23 as a senior. His single-season receiving yards skyrocketed from 230 his freshman year to 1,123 two seasons later.

He was a player who would never miss workouts and increasingly relished time in the weight room, his coach said. At the same time, Williams tinkered with ways to improve his routes, stemming them, creating more space. By his junior year, Harris found he could turn to Williams for advice on mapping out routes on the field.

“He takes a lot of pride in his route running and it's been really fun, him and I, the back and forth, the talking about routes and how to set them up and seeing some of the ways he's gotten about to do those things has been pretty cool,” Harris said. “When he looks at me and smiles and says 'How do you like that one?' That's awesome, let's do that.”

And Williams wouldn’t bottle the information in his head — he’d make sure every other player on the field knew them too.

More and more as a senior, Williams would approach younger players and say things like “Hey, look, this will help you do it a little bit better.” “Hey, that's not how we do this here. This is the signal for that.” “This is what coach is talking about.”

But the receiver’s leadership wouldn’t make for good television. He didn’t gather the troops and shout inspiration like Friday Night Lights. His style was “subtle,” per Harris. “Quiet, and off-to-the-side.”

“I always wanted everyone to get better,” Williams said. “Correcting people, always saying ‘Do this, do that, this is going to help you.’ It was my goal for everyone to be better.”

Now that Williams’ Broadneck career has shuttered, he’s not turning off hard work. For him, hard work is just beginning, and he’ll keep spreading that mantra up in Chestnut Hill, Mass.

“There's always room to get better,” he said. “Leadership. I feel like my leadership and my work ethic can help you strive to do more.”

COACH OF THE YEAR: Rob Elliott, Chesapeake

Elliott was on the team that recorded the school’s first winning season in 1985, then coached the team to its first playoff berth. This year, he led the Cougars to their first region title and has been either a player or coach on five of the team’s six winning seasons. He came into the season with a lot of unknowns, including how a completely new offensive line would perform and where the offensive production would come from.

“I am very proud of what we were able to do on offense this year,” Elliott said. “Our strength was our quarterback and a very good receiver group. We were able to ride our passing game all the way to a region championship.”

The team had two winning seasons from 1977-2010, but since Elliott took over, he’s led the Cougars to four winning seasons and a pair of .500 campaigns.

“A head coach is only as good as the men around him. I am getting this award, but my entire staff consisting of Charlie Parsons, Mike Ford, Zach Tolle, Bucky Wheeler and Jake Kingston all deserve recognition for their contributions to the success of Chesapeake football.”

SECOND TEAM

OFFENSE

Josh Ehrlich, Broadneck, Fr., QB

Dylan Young, Chesapeake, Sr., QB

Ryan Idleman, AACS, Jr., QB

Henry Rentz, Severn, Sr., RB/WR

Alex Wicks, St. Mary’s, Jr., RB

Jacob Tribul, St. Mary’s, Sr., FB

Jon Jarosz, Severn, Sr., WR

Petey Tucker, Arundel, Soph., WR

Sean Leonard, South River, Jr., WR

Chris Clark, Spalding, Sr., WR

Thaddeus Standfield, AACS, Sr., WR

Jeremiah Taylor, AACS, Jr., WR

Nate Carbaugh, South River, Sr., RB/TE

Malik Jackson, Meade, Sr., TE

Connor Bowes, Severna Park, Sr., OL

Preston Duffield, Meade, Sr., OL

Stephen Nisewaner, Old Mill, Jr., OL

Collin Holmes, Arundel, Sr., OL

Aiden Barnhardt, Northeast, Sr., OL

SECOND TEAM

DEFENSE

Courtney Davis, Meade, Sr., DL

Luke Del Rosario, Broadneck, Sr., DL

Gregory Burno, Old Mill, Soph., DL

Grant Hines, St. Mary’s, Sr., DL

Derek Flornoy, Meade, Sr., DL

Viliami Po'uha, Broadneck, Soph., DL

Jan Michael Finch, Northeast, Sr., DL

Tra Thomas, Old Mill, Jr., LB

Owen Cauley, Severn, Sr., LB

Joe Dixon, AACS, Sr., LB

Nasir Franklin-Branch, South River, Jr., LB

Averum White, Southern, Sr., LB

Jacob Cooley, Severna Park, Sr., LB

Callum Hadley, St. Mary’s, Sr., DB

Demari Turner, Annapolis, Jr., DB

Dominick Bramante, Arundel, Sr., DB

Phillip Ristaino, Broadneck, Sr., DB

Christian Thomas, Arundel, Sr., DB

Jaden Boykin, Annapolis, Jr., DB

Dhane Blair, St. Mary’s, Jr., athlete

Dominic Donohue, St. Mary’s, Sr., K/P

Marcus Thompson, Old Mill, Sr., P

Travis Victorio, Severna Park, Sr., K

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