When Urbana High School senior Brendan Wharton was a freshman playing junior varsity football, he and his teammates used to practice Friday afternoons, head to McDonald’s for dinner and then cheer for the varsity team at night.
Last Friday, for the first time since they were freshmen, they repeated their old Friday routine — with a slight twist.
They watched the North Hagerstown-South Hagerstown varsity game.
If North Hagerstown beat South Hagerstown and Urbana beat Linganore in the final week of the season, Urbana would make the playoffs. So, because Urbana didn’t play Linganore until Saturday, Wharton drove several of his teammates to Hagerstown after Friday’s practice.
And, yes, they even stopped for McDonald’s on the way.
Once they arrived to the field, Wharton and his teammates, all wearing Urbana gear, occupied the back row of the bleachers and stood the entire game.
“We’d be cheering for North Hagerstown like you’d think we were North Hagerstown fans,” Wharton said. “…When South missed that field goal, we were probably biggest fans of anybody there.”
On their way home, Wharton and his teammates began mentally preparing for their game against Linganore, and they delivered with a 25-0 win.
Wharton hasn’t just led trips to Hagerstown. He’s Urbana’s leading receiver for the second straight year.
Unlike last season, though, Wharton is playing more than just tight end on offense. He spent the offseason developing his speed, improving his 40-yard dash time form 4.80 seconds to 4.61 seconds.
“That was all him,” Hines said. “He took that on himself. As a coach it’s, ‘Wow, look what we’ve got here. How can we use him?”
As the season has progressed, Hines has learned the answer — tight end, wide receiver, slot receiver, defensive end and linebacker. Wharton’s athleticism has made him a dangerous weapon at many positions.
“He can run around guys,” Hines said. “He can jump over guys. And he can run through guys.”
Because he’s faster, Wharton has drawn more college inquiries. Cornell, Princeton, Harvard, Lehigh, Georgetown, Monmouth Massachusetts, Monmouth and Davidson have shown interest.
For now, though, Wharton is focused on Urbana’s game at 7 p.m. Friday at Damascus High School — what might be his final chance to play with the friends he made while eating McDonald’s and cheering at varsity games.
“It means so much,” Wharton said. “It’s not just one more. It could be four more. We’ve got to keep going.”