It began during summer football discussions with Patt Foster.
The Brunswick High School football coach understood the problems that had been plaguing Frederick’s program since 2007: undersized, shallow roster, no feasible way to stand toe-to-toe in a power game.
In 2009, Foster had dealt with similar issues by introducing a new type of game that eschewed from the typical Frederick County ground-and-pound: the air raid. His teams passed and passed often, and in just one year he turned a 3-7 team into an 11-2 state semifinalist.
In a November game against Fort Hill in 2011, the Railroaders set five new single-game passing records: most passing yards (484), pass attempts (65), completions (42), attempts by one quarterback (Ian Fisher, 64), and completions by one quarterback (Fisher, 41).
So in August, when Frederick coach Vince Ahearn surveyed his thin, 30-man roster and the talent that lay within, he abandoned his beloved triple option and went the Patt Foster route. He spread it out and went to the air.
“[Foster] has helped us,” Ahearn said. “We’ve exchanged a lot both defensively and offensively so it’s been a great relationship between us and Brunswick and sharing information in the offseason. And it’s nice because neither one of us play each other so it’s an easy thing to do.”
The Cadets are enjoying their best start to a season since the last time they finished above .500 in 2007. The only team to score more points and gobble up more yards through the air, no shock here, is Brunswick.
And it hasn’t come without a little backlash.
“Some teams don’t respect us,” said quarterback Matt Hynes, who has thrown for 10 touchdowns and ran for four more through five games this season. “They think we’re still kind of a fluke this year.”
The ugly truth is that the Cadets could have fallen to 1-4 as easily as they jumped out to 4-1. Four of the five games Frederick has played have come down to a single possession. Most of them are that close because, by the time the fourth quarter rolls around, the Cadets are battered, rugged, and flat-out gassed.
Century nearly rallied in the season-opener but Frederick managed to cling to a 30-28 victory. One week later, North Hagerstown brought it to within one score before the scoreboard finally showed all zeroes. Middletown became the first team to take advantage of a Frederick fourth quarter collapse as they rallied with a late and decisive touchdown drive on Sept, 21. And last week at Linganore the Cadets blew a 27-0 lead before Jerel English swooped in for the rescue with the game-winning touchdown run.
“They’re going to put me in the hospital,” Ahearn said.
But the reason Frederick even makes it as far into games as it does prior falling victim to exhaustion is because it doesn’t try to play a game it can’t. Ahearn and the Cadets have accepted that they will never be able to keep up in a power football league.
“It goes back to numbers and it goes back to size and if we went power football I don’t know if we could compete,” Ahearn said. “So with the type of athletes we have and the type of players that we have, it behooves us to spread things out.”
Late collapses or not, pretty or ugly, Frederick wins games. Utilizing the new offensive scheme that will never require Hynes to take a single snap under center, the Cadets beat Linganore for the first time in eight years. Frederick currently is the only team to draw within two possessions of Middletown and has vaulted past traditional powers Urbana and Gov. Thomas Johnson.
“Certain teams, they put seven in the box. If you can run on that then you’re a heck of a running back,” Hynes said. “But when they do that, we can just pass on them.”