Ex­pe­ri­enced War­riors set sights on rare task

Cecil Whig - - SPORTS - By MATT HICKS

Spe­cial to the Whig

— A year af­ter reach­ing the state cham­pi­onship game, where it fell to Fort Hill, 44-14, at M&T Bank Stadium, sec­ond-seeded Havre de Grace has a chance to punch a rare sec­ond con­sec­u­tive ticket to the 1A ti­tle game when it hosts third-seeded Ed­mond­son-West­side tonight at James R. Har­ris Stadium.

The War­riors (9-2) en­ter this year’s’ fi­nal four with a dif­fer­ent mind­set.

“I mean, with the ex­cep­tion of Fort Hill, who does it on a yearly ba­sis (three-straight 1A state ti­tles), I think we are all pretty ex­cited” Havre de Grace coach Brian Eber­hardt said of his team hav­ing a chance to play for an­other state cham­pi­onship. “The at­ti­tude of our team and the fact that it was so re­cent, we feel like we have some un­fin­ished busi­ness. Ev­ery­one was happy that we made it [last year]. This year, we don’t want to make it, we want to win it. Our mind­set is a lit­tle more de­ter­mined on fin­ish­ing some­thing that we weren’t able to fin­ish last year.”

Eber­hardt and his coach­ing staff un­der­stand how rare these op­por­tu­ni­ties are. The pro­gram hasn’t won a state ti­tle since 1986, when it raised the tro­phy for the third time in school history.

“Cer­tainly we re­al­ize that it’s rare,” Eber­hardt said. “I tell our se­niors, ‘You guys are in a once-in-a-life­time


sit­u­a­tion. If you can’t get up for this game, [then] I can’t help you. You will never play in this game again, and [for the] sopho­mores and ju­niors, you may never play in this game again.’”

For the War­riors to reach their ul­ti­mate goal, they must first take care of a tough Ed­mond­son-West­side team from the Bal­ti­more City League that up­set South Re­gion cham­pion, top-seeded Regi­nald Lewis by outscor­ing their fel­low Bal­ti­more school, 40-20. Lewis had given up a com­bined 24 points, while shut­ting out eight of their pre­vi­ous 11 op­po­nents, be­fore run­ning into the of­fen­sive fire power of the Red Storm.

Led by ju­nior re­ceiver Deshawn Ruf­fin (63 re­cep­tions for 947 yards and five touch­downs) and quar­ter­back Teon Gard­ner (83 com­ple­tions, 1476 yards and nine touch­downs), the Red Storm give Havre de Grace an­other ath­letic of­fense to pre­pare for.

“I think the last two teams that we played put 11 ath­letes on the field, and we feel like Ed­mond­son is very sim­i­lar to those two teams,” Eber­hardt said. “We feel like we have some ex­pe­ri­ence fac­ing these type of teams. Jerry Lee, who is our de­fen­sive coor-

di­na­tor, has prob­a­bly seen about ev­ery kind of of­fense that is out there, and I’m sure he’s go­ing to come up with a great game plan. We will go back to those [pre­vi­ous play­off games] to see what we did [and what] was ef­fec­tive.”

Eber­hardt pointed to ap­ply­ing pres­sure on Gard­ner as be­ing a key for his de­fense against the pass-happy Ed­mond­son of­fense.

“Pass rush will be pretty im­por­tant,” Eber­hardt said. “This guy [Gard­ner] is a good quar­ter­back, and they have two very good re­ceivers who com­bined for 115 re­cep­tions. [It] will be a tall task for us to ask our sec­ondary to cover guys for an ex­tended pe­riod of time. So, if we get a com­bi­na­tion of a pass rush and get some guys in front of his face, that will help our cov­er­age. Pass rush is big. We played Fall­ston this year and they threw the ball more this year than any foot­ball team I’ve ever seen. They prob­a­bly throw 35 times per game and threw three out of four plays. I had never seen any­thing like it.”

Af­ter turn­ing the ball over three times last week and only be­ing able to score six points of­fen­sively, the War­riors are in a good place know­ing they can turn to their strong de­fense and kick­ing game when needed.

“We have to ex­e­cute of­fen­sively and take care of the foot­ball and can­not have penal­ties that kill our­selves,” Eber­hardt said of his team’s play last week. “We had a cou­ple

turnovers and a cou­ple key penal­ties, one that called a touch­down back. We have to be able to ex­e­cute and take care of the foot­ball.”

If the War­riors are able to take care of the foot­ball, they’ll be able to notch points on most drives with­out touch­ing the red zone. Ju­nior kicker Clay Har­ris could etch his name in the Mary­land state record book for the sec­ond time this year if he is able to add one more field goal to his sea­son to­tal. He needs just one field goal to tie Cam­bridgeSouth Dorch­ester’s Scott Abt, who notched 13 field goals in 2010.

“I would say ‘com­fort­able’ as in ‘we’re def­i­nitely gonna kick this,’ would be any­thing in the 35-yard range,” Eber­hardt said of his kicker’s range. “I def­i­nitely feel com­fort­able. He hits 40-plus con­sis­tently. It’s funny, be­cause we end ev­ery pre-game prac­tice with Clay kick­ing a 47-yarder.”

Eber­hardt showed his con­fi­dence in his place­kicker when asked about an­other Havre de Grace kick­ing record that may not with­stand Har­ris’ se­nior sea­son

“I’ll tell you what, I don’t think [the 59yard record is safe],” Eber­hardt said of Havre de Grace kicker Shane West’s 2003 field goal that is the stand­ing state record. “I think it’s square in his sights. I mean, Clay’s only a ju­nior, so he’s go­ing to have an­other year, an off­sea­son at­tend­ing camps and get­ting stronger. The right night and the wind

blow­ing in the right di­rec­tion, I don’t think that’s safe from Clay. “I re­ally don’t know how we be­came a kick­ing school, it’s just luck, I guess, I have no idea. We’ll take it. I’m not com­plain­ing.”

If the Havre de Grace of­fense can main­tain a bal­anced at­tack and move the ball of­fen­sively, just one week af­ter lead­ing re­ceiver Jor­dan Day (38 re­cep­tions for 708 yards and seven touch­downs) was shut down for just one re­cep­tion for 13 yards, Ed­mond­son will have trou­ble up­set­ting the host War­riors.

A bal­anced at­tack could take Red Storm de­fen­sive back Shamar Barnes out of the game, one week af­ter he in­ter­cepted two passes, in­clud­ing one he re­turned for a 56yard touch­down.

“For­tu­nately, we don’t look to just Jor­dan Day for of­fense,” Eber­hardt said of his of­fense, led by of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Andy Downs. “If we come in with a bal­anced at­tack, Jor­dan will have his op­por­tu­ni­ties, whether it be first downs or touch­downs, and I think that if you come in with a solid of­fen­sive [game plan], you know we aren’t build­ing it around one player.”

If the Red Storm were hop­ing on reach­ing the state ti­tle game at An­napo­lis by shut­ting one player down, they will be met by a host of War­riors looking to take care of un­fin­ished busi­ness next week against Fort Hill or Kent County.


Havre de Grace de­fend­ers make a play dur­ing last sea­son’s 1A state cham­pi­onship at M&T Bank Stadium. The War­riors will look to re­turn to the ti­tle game when they host Bal­ti­more’s Ed­mond­son-West­side tonight in the state semi­fi­nals.

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