When a school's football team goes 0-10, that usually means a decline of student interest in fall sports. That is, except for Surrattsville High in southern Prince George's County, where Coach Sharon Hilman's Hornets have won the county AB volleyball league championship for the 11th time in the last 12 years.
And although players in most nonrevenue sports toil in relative obscurity before a handful of relatives, Surrattsville often draws several hundred for volleyball.
"We developed a winning tradition in the beginning, and that really got things going for us," said Hilman, whose squad finished the regular season at 15-0 this year. "Now we're getting the little sisters of some of the girls who were our first players. And they know about our tradition, what we need to do to keep winning.
"We've had very talented players, but they're also very good students and good people, willing to work hard and work together," said Hilman, who has compiled a record of 175-16 since 1973.
For its amazing success, however, Surrattsville never has won a state volleyball title, something it hopes to rectify this weekend at Catonsville Community College.
And why hasn't Surrattsville won a state volleyball championship?
"I wish I knew," Hilman said with a laugh. "We're due. That's for sure.
"Prince George's County doesn't have the junior high feeder program like Montgomery and some of the other counties. We have to teach volleyball to our players right from scratch, while some other school systems have a two- and sometimes three-year jump on us."
Raye Smith, a 5-foot-9 senior hitter/middle blocker, is the team's best individual player. An honor student who aspires to majoring in pre-med, she also is a member of the Capital volleyball club, an elite team that draws scholastic players from Montgomery and Prince George's counties.
Denise Dixon, Robin Burroughs and Kitty Harple also have made significant individual contributions, but Hilman quickly points out that the collective play and chemistry of this team have been their key to success.
"We've had a very successful girls athletic program here, especially in volleyball and softball," Hilman said. "And the boys program should pick up soon, too."
John Zier has resigned as Surrattsville football coach after 19 years. His teams won Prince George's A League titles in 1977-79 and once shared the crown with Friendly. Surrattsville finished 0-10 this season. Paul Tehres, the school's new basketball coach, has been named to succeed Zier . . . DeMatha quarterback Chris Baucia (79 of 133 passes for 1,117 yards, eight touchdowns and one interception) is a triple-threat back. Besides being a deft scrambler, he's averaging better than 43 yards per punt and has kicked three more than 60 yards . . . It's tough to get noticed on a 4-6 team, but Woodward wide receiver Dan Altobello has caught 60 passes for 739 yards and six touchdowns . . . WINX-AM-1600 will broadcast several Montgomery County scholastic football playoff games.
The Gonzaga-St. John's football game, one of the area's oldest rivalries, will be played on Saturday at 11 a.m. at Walter Johnson. Last year the game was played at Byrd Stadium.
"We're starting this game early so it won't conflict with the DeMatha-Carroll or McNamara-Good Counsel games," said Gonzaga Coach Mark Gowin.
For those baseball players unwilling to suffer through another winter of discontent, consider the Maryland Professional Baseball School, which is sponsored by the Montgomery County Recreation Dept., which will hold preseason training sessions for pitchers, catchers, infielders and outfielders beginning Jan. 5. The eight-week course will be taught at Springbrook, Wheaton, Kennedy and Churchill. Registration closes Dec. 18.