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Leopards poisonous to defenses

November 08, 2007|By MARK KELLER

SMITHSBURG - Opponents of the Smithsburg football team this season have been forced to take the "pick your poison" approach when trying to stop the Leopards.

Load up the box against the Leopards' traditional bread and butter - the running game - and they'll throw it over top of you.

Drop back in a zone and they can still run it on you.

Think you can beat them in a shootout? They can play defense, too.

That's the thing about picking your poison it's all poison.

None of the nine teams Smithsburg has faced this season have chosen correctly yet. Boonsboro will give it a try Friday night at Smithsburg in the 23rd meeting between the county rivals.

"We have a lot more weapons this season than we've had in the past," Smithsburg coach Buddy Orndorff said. "We have a quarterback who understands the offense, three or four kids who can catch the ball, four backs that can run it well. We try to keep people honest and make them spread out against us.

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"Once they do that, we can really run our offense effectively."

There have been few games this season that the Leopards (9-0) have not been effective offensively. They are averaging 33 points per game and have not scored fewer than 21 in any contest this season.

Orndorff chalks that up to two things: Speed and skill.

That sounds simple, but not many teams are blessed with those two attributes.

"I think we have good team speed, the best we've had in a few years," Orndorff said. "We've had good kids, but they just couldn't run. Team speed is helpful, at least in our schemes it is."

But the Leopards don't only have speed. Their faster players - including Erick Parker, Kevin Kocsis and Josh Conway - all have outstanding football skills and are putting up good numbers this season.

Kocsis and Conway, the Leopards' top two receivers, are about as equal as can be through nine games. Each has 27 catches. Conway holds a slight edge in yardage, 490-436. Kocsis has six touchdowns to Conway's three.

Parker teams with Bobby Smith in the Leopards' backfield for a solid one-two punch. Smith is more of a bruising back and leads the team with 868 yards and 11 touchdowns. Parker has 541 yards on just 72 carries (7.5 yards per carry) and six touchdowns.

Also deserving of credit is quarterback Bryan Faulders, who started the final six games of 2006 and has come into his own as a leader this season. Faulders has completed 65 of 114 passes (57 percent) for 1,137 yards with 13 touchdowns and just three interceptions.

Orndorff said Faulders reminds him of Eric Gerber, who quarterbacked the Leopards in the late 1980s and now is an assistant coach.

"He's got nice touch. When he throws it to you, it's like he's handing it to you," Orndorff said. "He throws a lot of different passes. Some finesse, some with a little zip. He's pretty steady back there."

The Leopards' defense has been tough on opposing offenses as well. The Catoctin team that scored 50 points against Boonsboro last week is the same one that Smithsburg held to five first downs and 104 total yards the week before.

Alex Akers is one of the leading tacklers in the area with 128 and Dan Rishell leads the area in sacks with 16 in only eight games.

Conway and Kocsis have done well catching the ball defensively, too. Conway has five interceptions and Kocsis has three, while Jared Daniels has picked off four passes.

"We run to the ball real well, very quick to the ball up front," Orndorff said. "Our linebackers are real quick and very ball smart. That makes all the difference."

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