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Cunningham's happy days

March 14, 2001

Cunningham's happy days



Ex-North quarterback, assistant takes over team

By MARK KELLER

keller@herald-mail.com

Last November, Danny Cunningham got a little taste of what it's like to be a head football coach at the high school level.

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Well, he at least got a taste of what it's like to have a jug of Gatorade dumped on top of him.

Now Cunningham will get a full plate of the head coach's responsibilities after being selected as the sixth football coach at North Hagerstown High School.

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Cunningham said he interviewed for the position in late January and was told the job was his on Friday.

"I thought the long delay was working against me," Cunningham said. "I talked to my Dad and he just told me, 'Don't give up. You've never given up before.'

"I was surprised when (principal David Reeder and athletic director Marcia Nissel) came down to get me. I thought I was going down there to get in trouble for something."

Cunningham succeeds Glenn Cross, who became the Hubs' head coach in 1982. He played in the North program from 1988-91 and was an assistant coach under Cross for the last seven years.

"I think it's a great decision in the school's part," Cross said. "He'll bring the continuity that has got to be there ... and he cares about the kids. That's probably as big a factor as any. He genuinely cares about the kids."

Following Cross' final game, a 7-6 win over South Hagerstown that clinched North's first winning season since Cunningham's senior year, Cunningham got caught up in the Gatorade shower administered by celebrating Hubs players.

"I was just congratulating him, giving him a farewell hug," Cunningham said. "I didn't see it coming at all."

Cunningham was chosen from a field of six candidates after interviewing with Reeder, Nissel and Washington County Supervisor of Athletics Yogi Martin.

"We all agreed because of his relationship with North High and the fact that he's a teacher in the building ... he was the best candidate," Reeder said. "He's the best candidate to build this program - to build Danny Cunningham's program."

Cunningham was the Hubs' quarterback during the program's most successful season. North went 8-2 and made its only state playoff appearance in 1990, Cunningham's junior year. The Hubs lost to Northern Calvert 43-20 in the Class 2A quarterfinals.

Cunningham attended Waynesburg (Pa.) College after graduating from North. He saw mop-up duty at quarterback in the first two games of his freshman season, then got his first start in his third game against Washington and Jefferson - which was then the No. 1 team in the country.

"They threw me to the dogs right away," Cunningham said. "The numbers weren't pretty. Like 19-for-50 with five interceptions."

A dislocated hip ended Cunningham's football career at Waynesburg before his sophomore season. He transferred to Mount St. Mary's on a baseball scholarship and graduated in 1997 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology.

Cunningham is also the coach of the Hubs' junior varsity basketball and baseball teams, which he hopes will help him to draw more kids into the football program.

"It's huge to have them all three seasons and you can stress conditioning, academics and the importance of the weight room in all sports," Cunningham said. "I come in contact with a lot of kids and I hope that means a lot of kids will turn out for football."

That could mean a lot more Gatorade showers in Cunningham's future.

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