A win this week against Patuxent, which will clinch a playoff berth with a win and which beat Calvert 55-6 last year, won’t be easy, but Sneade points to his team’s two losses this year as hope that it will be ready for Friday.
Calvert took a second-half lead on three-time defending 3A South champion Huntingtown before falling 30-27 in Week 3, and battled with a Westlake squad that has made six consecutive playoff appearances in a 14-8 loss in Week 5.
“Westlake was celebrating after they beat us because they knew they had beaten a good football team,” Sneade said. “That’s a testament to our kids and it changed how we feel about ourselves. Hopefully we’ve learned enough from the games we’ve played already this season to be ready for the type of game we face now.”
Game to watch: Severna Park (3-5) at Meade (6-2), Friday, 6:30 p.m.
Two years ago, when Meade linebacker Hunter Cox was a sophomore playing on the varsity for the first time, there wasn’t much for Mustang fans to get excited about.
Cox was playing for his second coach in as many seasons and working his way through a 4-6 season, Meade’s ninth straight year without a winning record. Last year, Cox and the Mustangs finished 6-4, snapping the program’s skid of losing seasons and coming within a game of the playoffs. This season, with the Mustangs alive and in the driver’s seat for their first playoff berth in a decade, the excitement around Meade football is growing.
“More people are asking what’s your record, how are you guys doing?” Cox said.
“The other day, I actually got stopped and asked by a person that doesn’t even go to the school how the Meade team was doing and who we were playing this week.”
At 6-2, the Mustangs control their own destiny in the Maryland 4A East region. With wins in their final two games against Severna Park and Broadneck, Meade would clinch the region’s third seed and make its first playoff appearance since 2001 when it advanced to the region’s quarterfinal game before falling to Bowie, 10-6.
The program’s turnaround has come with second-year Coach Rich Holzer at the helm, providing stability to a team that has undergone numerous coaching changes and roster turnover that comes as a result of the school’s location on Fort Meade. Holzer said his biggest task has been instilling a sense of discipline and a culture of winning on a team that had been lacking both during its long losing skid. When he took the job, Holzer reached out to Jerry Hartman, who coached some of Meade’s best teams in the 1990’s, and has tried to rebuild the program that Hartman described.
“He said that Meade back in the 80’s and 90’s was a powerhouse,” Holzer said. “They were the feared team in the county. They weren’t always the best, but everyone knew when they were coming out to Meade, you better buckle your chinstraps.”
The first steps toward that goal will come over the course of the next two weeks, when the Mustangs try to finally lock down that elusive playoff spot. Making the playoffs is now an expectation, Holzer has said to his team, not a goal, but for Cox and his teammates who have been on the team for four years, the opportunity to put the Mustangs in the postseason is more than just business as usual.
“You always want to be a class that is talked about as bringing back a tradition of winning to Meade High School,” Cox said. “To have winning seasons, back-to-back winning seasons, I can’t even describe it. It’s a great thing to know that you’ve pushed the program in the right direction so that future years can continue the success that you set up.”