Good Counsel Linebacker Chris Pitsenberger Is Getting Rave Reviews

DeMatha Coach Bill McGregor and Good Counsel Coach Bob Milloy talk about the rivalry between their two football teams and Saturday night's meeting for the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship. Video by Atkinson & Co.
By Josh Barr
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 21, 2008

He has 10 siblings, including a twin brother, and plays middle linebacker alongside the Washington area's most coveted high school football recruit. And yet, somehow, Chris Pitsenberger has carved a niche for himself -- at home and on the field for top-ranked Good Counsel.

"Everybody knows about him," Good Counsel assistant coach Kevin McFadden said, leafing through some of the letters that college coaches have sent to Pitsenberger, a junior with plenty of time before he needs to make his college choice.

Although All-Met teammate Jelani Jenkins might lead the region in college scholarship offers -- he says a decision is not imminent -- Pitsenberger leads the Falcons in tackles, something coaches are quick to point out. At 5 feet 11 and 210 pounds, Pitsenberger is revered for his hard tackling and ability to snuff out plays. It probably doesn't hurt that many opponents funnel their offensive plays away from Jenkins, giving Pitsenberger more opportunities to make plays.

"I'm not saying he's a better linebacker than Jelani, but he's right there," Good Counsel linebackers coach Steve Ghent said. "He's more of a throwback, traditional middle linebacker, where Jelani is a hybrid strong safety-linebacker and can easily match up with receivers and match up on the corner."

This may be Pitsenberger's first year playing with Jenkins on the Falcons, but the two have plenty of history.

"I wouldn't say I get looked over that much [playing next to Jenkins]; I've had to prove myself, I guess," Pitsenberger said. "Me and Jelani played together [in youth leagues] back at Maplewood. This is our first year playing together a lot. I feel comfortable with Jelani."

Playing football is somewhat of a tradition in the Pitsenberger house. Older brother Laurence, now a freshman at Maryland, played for the family's neighborhood public school, Walter Johnson, as does Chris's fraternal twin, Michael. Walter Johnson Coach Tom Mulholland said that Michael is "by far our best player."

Of course, that creates an interesting dynamic in the Pitsenbergers' Bethesda home. For while Good Counsel has been one of the region's most successful teams in recent seasons -- the Falcons are 11-0 entering tomorrow's Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship game against 11th-ranked DeMatha -- victories have been much harder to come by for Walter Johnson. Playing quarterback, running back and safety, Michael Pitsenberger helped the Wildcats snap their 36-game losing streak earlier this season.

"The dinner table, especially during football season, [football] is all we talk about," said Tom Pitsenberger, the boys' father.

When Good Counsel and Walter Johnson play on the same night, Tom usually goes to Walter Johnson, while his wife, Marguerite, usually watches Chris play for Good Counsel. When they get home, the twins share the experiences from the night.

"Even though they're not doing good, he has a good time playing there," Chris said.

"He talks a lot about the team, and I talk a lot about the individual side of it," Michael said.

While it might have seemed natural for the twins to go to the same school, Marguerite thinks it has worked out well. Another brother, Andrew, played on the freshman team at Good Counsel this season.

"They've always had their own friends, did their own things," she said. "It's not like they hung out together even when they were in middle school. They've always had their own circles of friends. Sometimes you imagine they would be closer, but they're not that type of twins. Because they are twins, they want their own space and their own circle, so they're not constantly compared to each other. With so many kids, we don't compare them anyway."

The twins are quite different. Chris is more serious about football, but he excels by reacting to what he sees on the field, where Michael takes time to think things through, Tom said. Michael has curlier hair, while Chris's is short and straight. Chris is stockier, Michael is skinnier. But while he gives up about 35 pounds, Michael said he can hold his own when the boys wrestle.

Tomorrow night, Michael and many more family members plan to be in attendance at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis. Michael said he is likely to wear one of his brother's Good Counsel sweatshirts or jackets, supporting the Falcons as they try to end DeMatha's five-year reign atop the league.

"Chris is a serious player, he is a rugged guy," Good Counsel Coach Bob Milloy said. "Everybody is talking about Jelani, but [Pitsenberger] gets attention from us, believe me. He is not a practice guy. But when them lights go on, look out."

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