In Josh Furman, state finalist Old Mill has new story line

By Alan Goldenbach
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 4, 2009

It's always been about numbers with Josh Furman, eye-popping numbers that elicit both amazement and doubt.

Did a 6-foot-2, 200-pounder really run 40 yards in 4.36 seconds, as Furman was reported to have done at a combine in April 2008? Did that same running back-linebacker really post a 42-inch vertical leap at another combine last May? Does that player go to a school like Old Mill, which has no history of producing a recruit of his caliber?

"I kind of had to prove myself this season," said Furman, who has whittled down his college choices to Michigan and Virginia Tech, "and back up those numbers."

Here are a few more of Furman's numbers that should remove any remaining doubt: 2,272 rushing yards and 31 touchdowns, and an 11-2 record for the ninth-ranked Patriots as they head into Friday's Maryland 4A final against No. 6 Wise at M&T Bank Stadium. He has all but put the Patriots on his shoulders in these playoffs, posting a stunning 414 yards and six touchdowns in a 58-55 double-overtime win over Arundel in a region final, and adding 201 yards in the mud last week in the state semifinal, a 20-13 win over defending champion Sherwood in which Furman rushed for two touchdowns, including the game-winner with 17 seconds remaining.

He has 18 highlight clips on YouTube, one of which has nearly 5,000 hits.

Old Mill, which has advanced to the playoffs 11 straight years, has seldom enjoyed postseason success. In only three of their past 10 trips did the Patriots win a playoff game. Only once (2005) did they reach the semifinals.

"We've always been a team that's been one and done, or maybe we'd win one game," Furman said. "To get this far, it means a lot. Now, we just have to finish it."

Furman has one final chapter to write in a high school career that started with a bang.

His first significant playing time came in Week 7 of the 2006 season, as Old Mill was staring at two straight losses after falling behind South River in the first half. First-year Patriots Coach Damian Ferragamo decided to insert Furman, an undersize freshman, at defensive end in the second half, hoping to trigger some sort of spark.

"South River was kind of giving it to us," Ferragamo said, "and I figured if we lose, we're going to lose with young kids."

In a game that has become legendary around Old Mill, Furman went wild, leading the Patriots to a 29-22 comeback victory, and posting what coaches believe were five sacks in the second half, "though that number seems to grow each time the story is told," assistant coach Jason Dunlap said. "One time, I heard someone tell it and [Furman] had seven" sacks.

After the season, Furman's parents divorced. He moved with family to spend his sophomore year at Annapolis. But it was a difficult transition. Furman said he had hoped to get a chance to play running back, and didn't. Throughout the season, he said he stayed in contact with then-Old Mill defensive coordinator Ben Thompson, who would send Furman messages on his MySpace page, "You're still wanted here."

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