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Hubs to show passing fancy for fancy passes

August 22, 2009|By BOB PARASILITI


Steve Coccodrilli and Anthony Winter took an advance on their 15 minutes of fame last year.

Lynn Lowman will be opening an account along with them on Monday.

The trio will be part of a group representing the North Hagerstown football team in the Toyota Quarterback Challenge at halftime of the New York Jets-Baltimore Ravens preseason game at M&T Stadium.

"They say that less than one percent of high school players get the chance to play in the NFL," said North coach Dan Cunningham. "It's a good time and it gives the kids a chance to get a little of that experience early."


Little is the key word. Each of the players will have most of their fame allotment to spare.

The Quarterback Challenge is a showcase for Maryland high school quarterbacks who have been chosen to compete by the Ravens and the Maryland Football Coaches Association. Each quarterback is given two passing attempts to connect with his receivers. The longest completion wins a $300 gift card to Dick's Sporting Goods for the school.

Coccodrilli defeated North Caroline's Herb Dennis on Oct. 28, 2008, during halftime of the Ravens' game against the Oakland Raiders on Jonathan Ogden Day.

"It was exciting and fun, but of course I was nervous," said the Hubs junior.

Coccodrilli had Winter -- who admitted he dropped his pass -- as one of his receivers. Coccodrilli won his competition in a pass-off with a 47-yard throw in the swirling wind before more fans than he will see in his entire North Hagerstown career.

The competition lasted all of five minutes. Coccodrilli's reward was a football autographed by Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, while all the participants received gift bags which included shirts and hats.

"We get out there and it's real fast," Coccodrilli said. "You don't have much time to think. It's all instincts."

The lights, cameras and action of the NFL setting was somewhat overwhelming. The huge stadium with pristine surroundings and constant commotion was a whole new experience for Winter, in many ways.

"The field surface is so different and there are people staring at you and yelling at you everywhere you look," said Winter, a junior. "You try not to go out there and make a mistake with everyone watching you ... on TV ... during a regular-season game.

"This time, I hope to catch the ball. Last time, I know I was worried and tried to look good out there."

Coccodrilli will be in the bullpen on Monday while Lowman, a senior, will get the chance to show off his arm.

"I'm just going to send (Winter) out to the 50 and throw it," Lowman said. "I'm going to air it out and see what happens."

Cunningham said this is the "fifth or sixth time" North has been selected to participate in the challenge, but Monday will the third straight year the Hubs will take the field.

"It's unusual to be selected two years in a row," he said.

All members of the Maryland Football Coaches Association may apply to be part of the challenge. Schools place their names in a "lottery" for the Ravens games at which they would be available to participate.

North received 40 tickets for players to attend Monday's game. The team will receive VIP passes, which will allow the players to go on the field while the Ravens and Jets do their pregame warmups. North's representatives will get a chance to get a feel for the surroundings.

"A lot of kids have never had a shot at seeing an NFL game," Cunningham said. "It will be really neat. (Former Ravens defensive coordinator) Rex Ryan will be coming back for the first time as the Jets head coach."

Lowman, Coccodrilli and Winter won't get to see much of the game. At the start of the second quarter, they will be taken underneath the stadium to warmup so they will be ready to go at the beginning of halftime. They will have an NFL locker room in which to dress for the event, all part of the precious seconds packed into those few moments of fame.

"I'll be excited," Lowman said. "I'm going to get a chance to meet people and learn some things. I'm just going to go out there and do what I have to do."

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