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This year's Hubs are busy starting a new tradition

November 04, 2003|by BOB PARASILITI

Day One was Day One.

If you want to trace the meteoric rise of the North Hagerstown football team this season, there is no better place to start than at the beginning.

And now that the regular season is nearing the end, the Hubs have become proof positive that a strong foundation is the most important component for whatever is built on top. The proof comes in North's first 9-0 record in school history.

"These guys have not quit," North coach Dan Cunningham said Friday after North's 35-6 win over Smithsburg. "They haven't quit from Day One. We told them that this is the new breed here. We are going to start a winning tradition this year. They've done it ... I'm so proud of them."

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Cunningham and his staff should be given an infomercial after the selling job they did with the Hubs. They got North Hagerstown to believe it could win, after years when settling for the alternative seemed to be the norm.

And they have done it with two different formulas.

The first is a coach's dream - an abundance of upperclassmen in the skilled positions. It has given the Hubs versatility and depth with more options than most high school teams can prepare for in a week. Each runner has a different strength, giving North some diversity.

Bryan Slater gives the Hubs that sweeping threat. Rigo Valentin has been tough and speedy around the ends. And Derrick Keith is a slasher up the middle that has turned the tough yards into long gains. They have had their separate instances to shine.

But maybe the biggest attribute for the Hubs is one intangible factor.

They like playing. They like playing the game. They tolerate practice. They can take criticism and can temper praise.

And most of all, the Hubs are mature. They realize they can accomplish great things this year, but don't brag about it. They are confident without talking bails of trash. And they are courteous and as gentlemanly as one can be while wearing helmets and shoulder pads.

That doesn't sound like something that belongs on a football field. Aggressiveness is part of football's macho world, not courtesy, but courtesy's an attribute that seems to keep the Hubs calm in adverse situations.

And there haven't been very many of those this season.

The Hubs are a reflection of Cunningham and his staff. Both the coaches and their team are young and energetic, attacking the great opportunity before them as it comes.

"Our coaches are young and we are trying to make everything positive," Cunningham said on Oct. 24 after the Hubs hung a 26-6 decision on Francis Scott Key in what was supposed to be one of North's tougher tests of the season. "We are able to talk to them more on their own level."

The enthusiasm of the team has spilled over to its following. Fans are rabid and loving every minute of North's success.

"Early in the year, I thought we were a year away," Cunningham said. "But, I also thought we could have a chance to turn some heads. They have done it. The crowd has been there behind us. (The Hubs) feed off the emotion and enthusiasm in the stands."

About the only thing the Hubs have been missing is a legacy to draw from. Instead, they are starting one as records are falling at will.

John Kline owns the school's all-time record for sacks, eclipsing the old mark of 12 set long ago. Robbie Thompson came off the bench Friday and threw four touchdowns in less than a half, the most ever in a game by a North passer. At the same time Friday, North set the school's all-time season scoring record.

They are the starting point that will keep this North Hagerstown team fresh in everyone's memory.

"We don't have a lot records here," one North assistant said.

But you get the feeling that is about to change for North Hagerstown football.




Bob Parasiliti is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. His column appears every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2310, or by e-mail at bobp@herald-mail.com

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