Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2008

Fall athletes excited for start of season

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In the afternoon August sun, dozens of DuVal High School football players began their second day of practice Monday wearing padding, helmets, their black and orange uniforms and wide smiles showing months of pent-up excitement.

Sports practice for county high school fall athletes began Saturday, and players and coaches were itching to get back out on the field to begin their sports seasons.

"It felt amazing Saturday to have the pads back on; it felt like game time," said Marcus Rountree, 17, a senior football player at DuVal High School in Lanham on Monday. "We have a new head coach and we should be better this year… more on the same page."

New coach Dameon Powell, also a guidance counselor at the school, said he is also looking forward to the beginning of the season. In 2002, 2003, and 2004, Powell was the junior varsity head coach and varsity defensive back coach at DuVal High. From 2002 to 2007 he was the school's wrestling coach, and in 2007 he was the defensive coordinator. From 2005 to 2006, he was head football coach at Reservoir High School in Fulton.

In the 2007-2008 season, DuVal High's record was 6-4. Eighteen players are returning to varsity.

"It should be a very good year, and we should do very well," Powell said. "We didn't lose any kids to grades."

DuVal High's football team is building camaraderie off the field, too.

The 33 current members of the varsity team recently sponsored a car wash, had a bake sale on Aug. 12 at Lab Auto Auctions during a car auction and attended Reid Temple African Methodist Episcopal Church in Glenn Dale on Sunday, Powell said. The team also painted the school's weight room.

"We've been trying to change our image, and we're going out in the community," Powell said. "Coming together is an important piece. Everyone's got each other's back."

Soccer is another fall sport entering its season.

LaShea Marshall, 17, a senior soccer player, has been practicing over the summer and said she is ready for soccer season to begin.

"I've been practicing over the summer trying to get better," Marshall said. "Last year the team started off 11-0 and ended 11-1. I hope we score a point this season."

Bret Lobs, the new girls' assistant soccer coach at DuVal High, outlined his strategy for the team's improvement this year.

"My goal is to get the girls to play as a unit, not as individuals. To have fun and learn the basic fundamentals of soccer," Lobs said.

Athletes at Charles Herbert Flowers High School in Springdale are equally excited to be back on the field, returning from an 8-2 record during the 2007-2008 season.

"I'm hoping for a high energy level and for players to give 110 percent," said Brandon Killebrew, 17, a senior football player.

Killebrew's teammate, junior Jonathan Clark, 15, is ready to give football his all this season.

"It's going to be an exciting year," Clark said. "Things are going to be different than last year. We weren't focused enough. We need to come together as a team. There's no ‘I.' I'm pumped up and ready to go."

Coach Michael Mayo said he is also ready for the season to begin.

"I'm looking forward to starting practice and see how things fall into place," Mayo said. "The kids are excited and want be there. But after the first practice, they're tired, huffing and puffing and reality sets in."

Other coaches agree that player enthusiasm is tantamount to a successful season.

"I'm looking for enthusiasm from returning players and players coming from JV— enthusiasm for playing with teammates, the season starting and feeling comfortable where they are condition wise," said Belbert Hughes, Largo High School head football coach. The varsity team's record was 3-7 in the 2007-2008 season.

Darryl Hamilton, the boys' and girls' indoor and outdoor track and cross country coach at Largo High, said his teams should be competitive this year. In the 2007-2008 season, boys' indoor track won the county championship and girls' indoor track came in second in the county.

Boys' outdoor track came in second in the county and second in the region, and girls' outdoor track came in third in the county and won the regional game. The boys' cross country team came in fourth in 3A in the county, and the girls' cross country team was 3A, 2A and 1A division champions.

"I'm excited to get back and start working with the kids and see if we can win a state title for indoor and outdoor track," he said. "We compete hard, compete well and try to do our best. We expect to win."

E-mail Liz Skalski at