2002 Prince George's All-Gazette football team: Players of the year -- Gazette.Net


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While Parkdale High wasn't on the short list of state championship contenders at the start of the 2002 football season, running back Kevin Beverly thought differently.

“I knew at the beginning of the season everybody counted us out,“ said Beverly, the Star/Gazette 2002 Offensive Player of the Year. “Nobody gave us respect.“

In previous seasons, Parkdale faded after sizzling starts like in 2001 when it lost two straight after opening the season with a 3-1 record. The Panthers also had a reputation of talking trash only to finish the season carrying the trash can. This year, Parkdale didn't bark, but its bite was real thanks to Beverly.

He was the quiet storm behind Parkdale's state 4A championship run, rushing for 2,305 yards and 24 touchdowns on 279 carries.

Slowed by a hamstring injury the first half of the season, Beverly was unstoppable once the season resumed after three-week pause because of the sniper shootings. He posted 300 yard games against Oxon Hill (308) and High Point (school-record 367).

In the state finals against Sherwood, Beverly rushed for 139 yards and a touchdown. The 6-foot, 185-pound senior totaled 452 yards and six touchdown in the Panthers' three postseason triumphs.

“It doesn't seem real,“ said Beverly, who has offers from Kent State, Marshall, North Carolina State and Penn State University. “It's a dream, I'm still riding on cloud nine.”

Jefferson shines as senior

In a county filled with so many talented defensive players, few stood out as much as Gwynn Park linebacker Wes Jefferson, the Star/Gazette Defensive Player of the Year.

After playing alongside the likes of Seth Mitchell (Michigan State) and Kellen Pruitt (Syracuse) throughout his career, Jefferson got the chance to shine on his own this fall, and he did not disappoint.

This season, Jefferson recorded team highs in tackles (149), forced fumbles (10), fumble recoveries (6), and was second in sacks (11).

“His strength is how quickly he can fill a gap,“ said coach Danny Hayes. “He can see a play develop. That's why he's one of the best players in the nation.“

And colleges have taken notice. Jefferson, at 6-foot-2 and 239 pounds, has a long list of prospective colleges hoping to acquire his services including Penn State, Maryland, Notre Dame, Virginia and Fiesta Bowl-powers Miami and Ohio State.

Jefferson is a coach’s dream, especially for Hayes, who is also the team's defensive coordinator.

“Everything goes backwards when Wesley hits,“ said Hayes. “He has great technique and great footwork, and he can close very fast. That's what most linebacker coaches are looking for.“

Last month, Gwynn Park finished second in the 3A East Region but lost in the first round of the playoffs to Calvert. This past season prior to the playoffs, Jefferson helped the team finish at 9-0, the program's first-ever undefeated regular season.

Rucker took team all the way in first season

Winning in your first season as head coach is a rarity.

Parkdale High coach Mike Rucker not only led the Panthers to the class 4A title in just his first season, but he did it with a team that had missed the playoffs in 2001. The accomplishment earned Rucker the Star/Gazette Football Coach of the Year honors.

It didn’t hurt that Rucker had been on the Parkdale coaching staff under Bob Johnson, his predecessor at the Riverdale school.

‘‘Working with coach Johnson, I learned a lot of things to do,” Rucker said. ‘‘I had a chance to prepare by watching someone else in that position. I think he did a really good job in my preparation. A lot of people would not hire a guy my age [30].”

Rucker said he knew that he had the makings of a playoff team. The Panthers had made the playoffs two years ago, losing in the opening round. But no one could have figured that the Panthers offense — based on a power running game — could ever produce a 2,000-yard rusher with last year’s entire offensive line lost to graduation.

After Parkdale’s victory over Sherwood in the state title game, star running back Kevin Beverly said the line performed so well only with the help and motivation of the coaches.

Rucker found it easy to get the unit ready to play each week.

‘‘I think one of the biggest things that motivated them what that they didn’t play last year,” Rucker said. ‘‘For the senior kids, those were kids that didn’t play a lot as juniors. I think that was their motivation — not having to sit down and watch the other kids play.”

Rucker was also quick to credit his coaching staff for the team’s success.

‘‘I think [having reliable assistants] is paramount, because as a head coach you can’t do it and be everywhere at one time,” Rucker said. ‘‘You’ve got to have people around you who can communicate your vision to the kids.”