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Brunswick takes on last swing at Class 1A title

November 26, 1999|By MARK KELLER / Sports Editor

BRUNSWICK, Md. -- For a football coach, Mark Mitchell uses a lot of baseball analogies.

And even though the Brunswick coach says he hates to do so, it helps to make his point crystal clear.

cont. from sports page

So when Mitchell began discussing the sudden change in the Railroaders' season goal - from reaching today's Class 1A final at University of Maryland's Byrd Stadium against Forestville to winning the 1A title - he again pulled out some words of wisdom from the diamond, not the gridiron.

"I know as a football coach it's terrible to use a baseball analogy, but every time you go to the plate you've got to swing the bat," Mitchell said. "We're looking at this as a valuable opportunity, and now we have to go and take advantage of it."

The Railroaders (10-2) achieved their season-long goal of reaching the state final and getting the chance to play in Byrd Stadium. A fine goal for the beginning of the season, but now that it has been conquered, Brunswick has set its sights higher.

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Forestville (10-2), the South region champion, has gotten to this point by scoring lots of points - 95 in the first two rounds of the playoffs - and allowing only seven.

"I think they're truly a three-dimensional team offensively. They can run the ball inside, they can run it outside and they can throw the ball," Mitchell said. "Defensively, it's easy to take away one thing, but then they kill you with the other two. And it's very difficult to take away two, let alone three."

Brunswick has followed the same sort of pattern as Forestville in the postseason. The Railroaders have outscored their two opponents 64-12, with all of the points against them coming on two big plays.

"I've always thought our defense was a little bit underrated. It's a lot tougher than we get credit for," Mitchell said. "The two scores we've given up have been blown assignments which led to long runs."

The key for the defense, Mitchell said, is to make the Forestville offense earn its points and avoid giving up the big plays that have propelled them into the final.

"If we can make them drive for their points, with that theory they won't get too many of them," Mitchell said. "Our defense has been stingy so far. Take those two big plays away ... well, that and 50 cents will get you a cup of coffee."

The Brunswick offense, which struggled at times early in the season, finally clicked in the ninth week of the season. Following a 3-0 win over Francis Scott Key, the Railroaders closed out the regular season with big wins over Smithsburg and Catoctin before beating C.H. Hickey and Elkton in the playoffs.

"The things that needed to come together did around the Smithsburg and Catoctin games. That's when the offensive line became a unit, and that's when we peaked as a unit," Mitchell said.

The player reaping most of the benefits of the new-found offensive unity is tailback Chris Hill. The senior has gained 443 yards in the last three games and scored seven touchdowns.

And the strong running of Hill has helped open up the passing game for quarterback Alan Webber, who overcame some midseason interception problems and threw for 102 yards in last week's semifinal win.

But given his choices today, Mitchell would prefer to keep the ball on the ground.

"An old coach once said, "There are three things that can happen when you throw the ball, and two of them are bad," Mitchell said. "It's not that we can't throw, because Webber has thrown some touchdown passes. But we're going to try to run the ball."

Should the fifth-seeded Railroaders come out of Byrd Stadium with a state championship over the third seed, it wouldn't be the biggest upset to ever come along. But for Mitchell, it would bring a season of exceeded goals to a sort of storybook end.

"We've got kind of a Cinderella situation," Mitchell said. "We know we're picked as the underdogs. So we have everything to gain and nothing to lose."

Then, one more time, he harkens back to the baseball field.

"But we're certainly going to go to the plate and take our swings."

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