There isn't much on the football field that senior Mike Finamore hasn't done for undefeated Thomas Stone this season. He has started at quarterback, running back and defensive end. He lines up deep on kickoff returns and has shared punt return duties. He kicks off, punts and place-kicks for the Cougars.
And one other thing--he smiles. Constantly.
"He's real motivated," said his teammate in the backfield, All-Met running back Marcus Whalen. "Mike is a real team player. He's always on the field, you'd think he'd get tired. But he's always out there going, picking everybody up."
The 10th-ranked Cougars (11-0) will host Randallstown (9-2) at 7:30 p.m. in Friday's Maryland 3A semifinals. To many, it will be another game in which Finamore plays in Whalen's shadow. But Finamore is the one who, most often, leads Whalen through the holes in the offensive line--or creates them for him.
"I love being his lead blocker," said the 5-foot-8, 182-pound Finamore. "That's what I love about football: finding someone to hit."
Said Whalen: "Mike is the best all-around blocker on our team. He's amazing."
But Finamore has done a lot more for Thomas Stone. He has rushed for 1,061 yards and 13 touchdowns of his own (in addition to Whalen's 1,688 yards and 15 touchdowns) to give the Cougars a dangerous two-back threat. Finamore also has intercepted three passes--including one he returned for a touchdown in last week's 41-12 win over Westlake--and totaled more than 60 tackles. He returned one kickoff 75 yards for a touchdown and has converted 23 point-after attempts. He has averaged 52 yards per kickoff and 40 yards per punt.
"You see him out there," Thomas Stone Coach Richard Callahan said. "He never comes off the field. What's been big for us this year is him pinning teams deep inside the 20. It seems we're always the ones with the better field position. Everyone plays hard out there for us, but Mike, he's something else."
Field position was key in both of Thomas Stone's wins over rival Westlake--the 20-14 decision Nov. 5 that gave the Cougars the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference title and in last week's playoff rematch.
In the first game against Westlake, Thomas Stone started three of its drives in Westlake territory; Westlake started no better than from its own 27-yard line. Last Friday, the Cougars again began three drives in Wolverine territory, and Westlake never started in Cougar territory. The Wolverines did start at midfield once, but were pinned inside their 20 four times.
The funny thing, Finamore said, is that kicking is the one thing he rarely practices. He devotes some time to it during practice on Thursdays--and he did spend considerable time at it this summer--but Finamore said it's one of those things he's been doing for so long that it just comes naturally.
"I started kicking the first year I played football, which I guess was in the 75-pound league," Finamore said. "They used me at nose guard then, too, because at the time I was big for my age and I was so fast. But then they tried me at running back . . . and that's where I've stayed."
As a 9-year-old in the 75-pound league, his second season playing football, Finamore rushed for more than 1,000 yards and a gaudy 42 touchdowns.
Breaking the 1,000-yard mark was a goal that Finamore also set for himself this season, and he reached it in the Cougars' eighth game of the season against Lackey. He did it even after filling in at quarterback in the first two games of the year while Phillip Buddenbender nursed a broken hand. His biggest rushing game this season was a 200-yard, two-touchdown effort on 13 carries against Great Mills.
Despite these accomplishments, football is not Finamore's top sport. He is a standout center fielder for the Cougars baseball team, and he has been contacted by several Division I-A baseball programs, including Boston College, Florida State, Louisiana State and Maryland. He has not received any offers for a football scholarship.
"I'll go anywhere I can to get my education, but I'd like to get to a big school and play Division I [baseball]," said Finamore, who said he hopes to be a walk-on football player wherever he goes. "Baseball is my top sport because I'm better at it, but I don't enjoy it more than football. When I'm sitting out there in center field sometimes it gets, well, let's just say it's not as intense as football.
"And being intense--that makes me happy."
Doing It All
Mike Finamore's Stat Sheet
Rushing: 136 carries, 1,061 yards, 13 touchdowns
Passing: 2 of 5, 38 yards, no interceptions
Takeaways: Two fumble recoveries, three interceptions
Punting average: 40.1 yards
Kickoff average: 51.7 yards
* -- Does not include last week's game
CAPTION: Thomas Stone's Mike Finamore has scored 13 touchdowns as a running back, intercepted three passes and made more than 60 tackles on defense. On special teams, he has returned a kick for a touchdown and kept other teams in poor field position with his punting and place-kicking. "He never comes off the field," Thomas Stone Coach Richard Callahan said. "Everyone plays hard out there for us, but Mike, he's something else."