After transferring to Suitland before last school year, Mark Duncan decided to play only football. Now a senior, he wants to do other things, such as playing basketball and running track.
Two years ago, Duncan started at shooting guard for Wootton High in Rockville. At Suitland, however, he knows that junior Navorro Bowman -- also a standout linebacker on the school's football team -- is the team's shooting guard.
"I know he's a little bit bigger," Duncan said. "So maybe they'll move me over to point guard because I've got speed and I can handle the ball."
While he might have to carve out a role on the basketball court, Duncan has done just fine on the football field, playing wide receiver and safety for the Rams. On Saturday, he returned the opening kickoff 82 yards for a touchdown, outjumped a defender for a pass that turned into a 90-yard touchdown, and set up other scores with a 30-yard punt return and a 25-yard catch. He also recovered a fumble in Suitland's 35-0 victory over Woodlawn of Baltimore.
"The stuff he did was unbelievable," Suitland Coach Nick Lynch said.
At Wootton, Duncan played varsity football as a freshman and varsity basketball as a sophomore. After transferring to Suitland, he spent much of the football season last year trying to adapt to his new team. "Now since he has been out there and knows what he's doing," Lynch said, "that's a good thing."
Duncan started things off right Saturday, bursting through an initial wave of defenders, then juking one defender near midfield.
The team wanted "to set the tone to this game," Duncan said. "We needed to start it early. Coach said we needed to start the game off right."
With a 35-0 lead in the second quarter, the mercy rule was invoked and the clock ran for the rest of the game.
"I think this team is excellent," Duncan said. "I think we're the best team in Maryland. I've been saying it since last year."
Duncan and his teammates might get a better feel for where they stand this Saturday, when they host Northwestern in a meeting of playoff teams from last season. However, after that game the Rams will not play another team that had a winning record last season until their final three games, against C.H. Flowers, Parkdale and Eleanor Roosevelt.
For now, though, Duncan has his mind on football. He said he has not picked up a basketball in "two or three months," keeping in line with one of Lynch's team rules.
"Coach has that implanted in our head," Duncan said. "You don't touch the [basketball] during football season."
No Alarm Yet
Eleanor Roosevelt Coach Rick Houchens liked the way his players drove 70 yards for a game-tying touchdown in the final two minutes. He thinks that maybe this will be a wake-up call that leads to late-season success. Maybe it will teach his players they need to be ready to take opponents' best shot every time out.
"I'm looking at positives, not negatives," Houchens said after Roosevelt's 13-7 season-opening loss to Severna Park.
In the past, such an early loss might make it a difficult road to the playoffs, but with the expanded postseason format introduced last year, teams are likely to advance to the playoffs with multiple losses. So Houchens is not ready to sound an alarm -- rather, he thinks the loss could serve as a motivator down the road.
"It's hard to keep that intensity all the way," Houchens said. "One loss is not going to keep us out of the playoffs. We're talented, we're fine, we just didn't play well."
A Tribute to Paden
To honor former coach Ralph Paden, Fairmont Heights will move its home game Saturday to Largo High and play under the lights at 7 p.m. so that it can be the county's only game taking place at the time.
Paden retired from coaching last month after 29 seasons with the Hornets. He had a career record of 177-103, taking his teams to the playoff five times and twice advancing to the state championship game. He is a member of the Maryland Football Coaches Hall of Fame.
"Ralph has been around a long time, given a lot to the kids and it's just a small token of appreciation that we can make this gesture," said Earl Hawkins, the county's supervisor of athletics.