Mt. Hebron 2011 Football Preview
A Maturing Viking team turns to its past and looks to the future in 2011.
The Mt. Hebron Vikings will draw upon both their school’s tradition and its developing talent to move up the Howard County football ranks this fall.
Turning to Tradition
Coach Ross Hannon is in his fourth year at Hebron’s helm and looks to improve on last year's 1-9 mark. Hannon has strengthened his staff by returning former head coach Larry Luthe to the fold as his QB coach and offensive coordinator. An ‘83 graduate of Hebron (Hannon is an ‘85 graduate of the school), Luthe led the Vikings to the state championship game in his playing days.
Luthe was at Marriotts Ridge the last three seasons and as Hannon tells, “Our kids, parents, staff, and community are happy he is 'home'." Both Hannon and Luthe played for former coach Ed Holshue, who has since been honored with The Holshue Cup, created in 2002 and awarded to the winner of the annual Mt. Hebron/Centennial football game.
Holshue coached a combined 28 years at the two schools, included 16 at Hebron. Centennial leads the all-time series, 5-4, and this year the Vikings will look to knot things up on Friday, September 23 at Centennial.
Like the Army-Navy rivalry on the college level, The Holshue Cup contest will help young talent on both squads become aware of each school’s long football tradition.
Building for the Future
Both the facilities surrounding the Vikings and the squad itself will have the look of youth in 2011. Coach Hannon and his team are excited about the improvements to the school and its athletic facilities. “The conclusion of a three year, multi-million dollar face lift to the building will be an exciting time. We have a beautiful new 2,500 sq. ft. weight room and all new equipment...crucial for all of our athletic teams to train to compete.” Renovations are scheduled to finish in December of this year.
Taking advantage of the new improvements to the school will be a relatively young lineup for the Vikings. Last year Hannon started five sophomores and one freshmen, all of whom return. Their continued development will be a critical part of Hebron’s success this year.
Barring any changes prior to the season, Hannon expects to start four sophomores, six juniors, and one senior on offense.
Key players on this year’s offense include:
RB Jackson Porter 6’1” 185 lb. junior, QB Malik Gilmore 6’3” 185 lb. junior, SE Tyler Anthony 6’1” 175 lb. senior, SB Dillon Solo 5’8” 165 lb. sophomore, LT Ryan Hassan 6’3” 240 lb. sophomore, LG Brendan Chavis 6’3” 225 lb. sophomore
QB Gilmore will see time along with fellow junior Nate Gainey. Hannon describes the offense as “a ‘gun/spread’ team...[with] a little more pistol.”
A pistol formation is a variation of the shotgun, with the quarterback shortening his depth from center from about seven to four yards. The shortened “drop” improves the running potential of the formation (a running back can line up behind the QB and has a shorter distance back to scrimmage), while still giving the QB adequate vision of the field and depth for passing.
Both execution and field vision will be critical for the Vikings’ junior signal callers, as Hannon says, “We are balanced and multiple; we take what the defense gives us. Every play is a ‘run/pass’ option based on the defensive front and coverage.”
Like all sound defenses, the Vikings are based on a simple premise from which strategy follows. Hannon espouses a “no retreat...no defeat,” philosophy on the defensive side of the ball.
Hannon’s senior middle linebacker Storm Wallpher best exemplifies that approach. Wallpher lists at 6’2’ 195 lbs. and will be helped by a defensive unit that, while still young, will be more experienced than their offensive counterparts. Hannon projects a defense that includes three sophomores, four juniors, and four seniors.
In addition to Wallpher, key players on defense include:
DT Eddie Humphrey 6' 4" 315 lb. senior, FS Zach Nicholas 6'1" 195 lb. sophomore, OLB Brandon Leach 6'4" 200 lb. junior, CB Nate Gainey 6' 180 lb. junior, DE Herb Jenkins 6' 2" 210 lb. senior
Hebron’s 2011 schedule will be entirely made up of Howard County foes, not an easy draw in any season. “Howard County has some very good programs. Wilde Lake, River Hill, Atholton, and Hammond; Reservoir and Howard are strong programs recently, too.” Although Hannon didn’t name all the county programs, looking at the schedule, there will be few, if any, breathers for his Vikings.
When asked if Howard County football could be characterized by a style of play, Coach Hannon said that it was a “ground and pound style,” rather than favoring the spread sets that have proliferated on high school and college gridirons in recent years. Anyone who saw Wilde Lake and QB Joe Kelly wear down, and shut down, Franklin High School for the 3A state championship last fall would have to agree.
Key dates on the schedule for Hebron this season include their 9/2 opener at Oakland Mills, their 9/23 Holshue Cup game, and their homecoming game against Long Reach on 10/15. How the Vikings fare in those three contests will play a big hand in their road to .500 and beyond in 2011.
As Vince Lombardi aptly pointed out, “The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.” If Lombardi was right, and his track record showed he often was, Hannon’s team’s efforts this off-season will bode well for 2011 and beyond.
“We had a tremendous off-season from November to August 12. We had 74 players at summer workouts/conditioning. We are still very young, however, the level of commitment...has everyone looking forward to the season. We have a great group of student athletes and they represent Mt. Hebron High School with class.”
For a full Vikings' schedule and latest team news check: http://mthebronfootball.wordpress.com/.
This article has been edited to correct Jackson Porter's height.