Towson senior left tackle Eric Pike is known for turning around defenders rushing the Tigers’ pocket, clearing room for runners and protecting his quarterback. The 6-foot-5, 298-pounder is good at it: so good, in fact, that he was named a 2013 Football Championship Series all-America for the ease with which he changes defenders’ courses.
He’s also got a knack for turning his teams around. As a junior offensive and defensive lineman at DuVal in 2007, Pike led the Tigers to their first playoff appearance of the century. DuVal went 6-4 in Pike’s senior season, back-to-back winning seasons for a team that hadn’t won a game the year before his arrival.
Pike says he still keeps in contact with DuVal Coach Dameon Powell, whose Tigers have evolved into a consistent contender. Powell’s gotten to watch Pike help turn around another Tiger team — Towson’s — which he will captain in a second-round playoff game against second-seeded Eastern Illinois (12-1) at 8 pm Friday on ESPN2. The seventh-seeded Tigers, who received a first-round bye, won their first playoff game in 29 years when they beat Fordham 48-28 in last week’s second-round game.
“It’s been a complete 360 [since I got here],” Pike said. “The team’s gotten better: more of a family, the coaching staff is great. The strength and conditioning coach has done a great job of growing us, getting us stronger. And everybody’s sold on winning.”
As the Towson program’s grown around him, Pike says he’s made major strides, as well. Known for a relentless work ethic, Pike won the team’s first ever Scout Team Offensive Player of the Year award for his work during his redshirt freshman season in 2009. Now a captain, Pike credits Towson offensive line coach John Donatelli with not only bringing him to Towson, but molding him into an NFL draft prospect during his five years at the school.
When he was a college-hopeful at a camp at Maryland, Pike said Donatelli, the longest tenured coach on Towson’s staff, took him aside to show him a few new techniques. Pike tried them and saw immediate improvement. That growth continued under Donatelli at Towson, where Pike emerged as a four-year starter. He’s never missed a game.
“I learned the game. The game speeds up a whole lot in the transition from high school to college football,” Pike said. “My football IQ has gone up tremendously: knowing defenses, knowing what they’re able to do…now I know what to look at when I’m evaluating film, to give an advantage and know what’s going to happen post-snap from what’s going on pre-snap. Coach [Donatelli] has done a great job of teaching us how to read defenses, our lineman assignments, and technique.”
Pike isn’t the only former Tiger on Donatelli’s offensive line. His high school teammate Randall Harris also plays for the Tigers, and both were first-team All-CAA selections in 2012 and 2013.
“It’s great just having somebody I’ve known for a long time, somebody I can trust who I know has my back,” Pike said of Harris. “Going to college is a big step in a person’s life, and being able to do it with a teammate again, to have another couple seasons together, it was a great opportunity.”
“We’ve both been competing against each other since DuVal,” Pike added. “To be able to compete against each other, doing the same thing, still competing against each other to be the best, we definitely push each other to bring out the best in us.”
NUMBER CRUNCH: 3
The number of games Towson won in Pike’s first two seasons (redshirt freshman season included) at the school. The Tigers have won 11 and counting this season, and 27 over the past three seasons.
— DeMatha linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley orally committed to Purdue over the weekend, choosing the Boilermakers over Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and others.
— The Stuart girls basketball team snapped an 82-game losing streak Saturday.
— Tuesday’s winter weather postponed a full evening’s worth of DMV basketball games. Here’s our list of rescheduled dates.
— Quince Orchard defensive back Kyle Gregory chose Monmouth after his visit this weekend, the third Cougar in three years to become a Hawk.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
The No. 7 Bullis girls’ basketball team, with its talent-loaded roster, has gotten off to a rough start with losses to Good Counsel and Carroll. The Bulldogs look to grab their first win Wednesday night at 6 p.m. when they host Stone Ridge.
VIDEO OF THE DAY:
In case you missed it, here are highlights of Northwest’s 4A state championship win over Eric Pike’s old Prince George’s 4A rival Suitland Friday at M&T Bank Stadium