Varsity Letter

Varsity Letter: At Arundel, Ballboys Aren't So Lowly

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By Preston Williams
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 15, 2009

On fall Friday nights, Arundel High School freshmen Jack Gordon and Cooper Hibbs quarterback the junior varsity football team, hustle into school afterward to change into white T-shirts and black shorts, and then report back to the field for perhaps their most important role in the Wildcats' football program.

Ballboy.

Behind every great no-huddle spread offense is an eager ballboy (or two) who runs balls in and out of the game to keep the offense humming. They are of particular importance on rainy nights, when a dry ball and firm grip can make all the difference to a center, quarterback, receiver or running back. Their unstated motto: Just because the field is wet doesn't mean the ball has to be.

JV quarterback to varsity ballboy is no demotion, at least at Arundel, which has scored 1,258 points its past 33 games, a 38.1 average.

"Some people ask us about [being ballboys], but it's not that big of a deal to them," Gordon said Friday night, sitting with Hibbs on the team bench. "But to the players, I think it is. Before this year, I noticed it, but I didn't think it was as important as it is right now."

"It's a pretty good feeling when the coaches compliment us on that," Hibbs said. "They actually said we're in the running for best ballboys ever. It's pretty cool."

Would Arundel senior quarterback Billy Cosh have been able to set the Maryland record for touchdown passes in a career -- 85 and counting -- if not for his ballboys, those uncelebrated 12th men and loyal sideline cogs who never throw in the towel (unless, of course, a player requests it)?

Well, probably. But Gordon and Hibbs and their recent predecessors have made it a bit easier on the Kansas State-bound Cosh. In wet conditions against Severna Park on Sept. 11, for example, he threw for 308 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions, thanks in part to his conscientious ballboys.

"It's big, especially the rain games, because they have to dry the balls consistently," Cosh said. "They get them in really quick for us. I really appreciate what they do because dry balls mean success for us."

"It's a tough job," Wildcats Coach Chuck Markiewicz said. "They have to be on their toes. If they find themselves watching the game, the next thing you know they're a play behind and the ball might not get in. It could be a disaster."

With Gordon (the JV starter) and Hibbs being quarterbacks on a 5-1 team that runs the same offense as the varsity, they know firsthand how important a grippable ball is both to Cosh and to senior center Dominic Cetrone.

Sometimes, though, the officials don't share the Wildcats' affinity for ball swaps, particularly when conditions are dry. It all depends on the crew. Hibbs said the ballboys are instructed to gently nudge the officials with a request of "Let us get a ball in real quick," say, after an incompletion sails far out of bounds. Whether they can varies from week to week.


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