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TJ has work cut out for it to make Class 3A playoffs

September 05, 2000

TJ has work cut out for it to make Class 3A playoffs



By CURT HORNBECKER / Staff Correspondent


FREDERICK, Md. - For Ben Wright and his Thomas Johnson football team, it's just another season; another season in which the Patriots will have to work extremely hard if they harbor any hopes of getting into the Maryland Class 3A football playoffs.

Like other years, it's not from a lack of talent. Instead, it's a result of playing in the very tough Central Maryland Conference and being in "the hardest region in the state" according to Wright.

"You have to win eight or nine games to come close to making the playoffs," Wright said, "so we'll just take them one game at a time and try not to look ahead."

Last season's TJ squad finished 6-4. To improve on that mark, the Pats will be relying heavily on its defense, spearheaded by Demar Atwood, a 5-foot-10, 215-pound linebacker, who will also figure prominently on the offensive side behind returning senior quarterback Robert Staley.

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But Wright is working toward creating a balance on both sides of the ball.

"We try to be balanced," said Wright, entering his 17th season at TJ. "We'd like to have a good defense and an explosive offense. We have a good mix of backs, and we'll just try to take what (the opponents) give us."

Wright at least has a number of upperclassmen to carry the defensive load, with seniors Adam Wright and Phil Bailey at the ends, and Mark Boyles (senior) and Nick Reese (junior) playing in the trenches. Mike Day, a 215-pound junior will assist Atwood at another linebacker post.

With Atwood, Day and Joe Harrell in the backfield, Staley will have several options in the running attack, but Wright said that with Staley's strong arm, he won't be afraid to put the ball in the air, either, especially with speedy junior Nick Patterson being a primary target from the split end position.

"It's always easier to play defense," sad Wright. "Offensively, we have to score points, take care of the ball better, and take advantage of opportunities. You need to score three or four touchdowns to win, so a lot will depend on how Staley plays. We didn't have a very good offense last year. We have to do better there this year."

The Pats will have their work cut out for them right from the start, facing an always-tough Middletown team in the season opener before embarking on a rigorous CMC schedule.

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