Kemar Scarlett disliked football. He thought the game was too physical, it was too easy to get hurt and he did not understand the rules. He was interested in running cross-country in his first year at an American school.
Scarlett was an easy target for Potomac Coach Eric Knight, though. Knight, searching for a kicker two years ago, knew the Wolverines had a good team for the upcoming season, but saw a glaring hole on special teams. So on the first few days of school, Knight walked through the halls asking students, "Who plays soccer but is not from here?"
A member of the basketball team pointed out Scarlett, a native of Jamaica who planned to run cross-country because Potomac does not field a soccer team.
Knight quickly had Scarlett try to kick a football. Just like that, Potomac had a kicker.
Scarlett is now a junior and seasoned veteran for the Maryland 2A defending champions, who take an 18-game winning streak into Friday's game at Friendly. He is the county's best kicker, giving the Wolverines an advantage over most opponents.
Knight said that all but five of Scarlett's kickoffs this season have gone into the end zone for touchbacks. Scarlett has made 4 of 5 field goal attempts and 16 of 18 point-after kicks; he averages 39.9 yards per punt. This past Saturday, in a 46-7 victory over Fairmont Heights, Scarlett made a 44-yard field goal and two 35-yard field goals.
"He's a crucial part of our defense, a crucial part of our offense and a crucial part of our special teams because of what he does," Knight said. "He's pretty much automatic."
It is quite a change from when Scarlett first joined the team -- when he did not understand penalties or plays or even when he should go onto the field. Now, he knows that fourth down is his time to shine.
"As we started practicing, I paid attention and started understanding it," Scarlett said. "I didn't like football at first. Because when I was in Jamaica, I was like, 'Oh my God, this sport is so rough.' I didn't think I would play the game. Then I started understanding the game. I love the game right now."
Along the way, Scarlett also received some tutoring. One day before last season, Knight and assistant coach Marvin Jackson arranged for former High Point coach and Maryland all-American Dale Castro to spend an hour with Scarlett working on the mechanics of kicking. "He showed me how to kick NFL-style," Scarlett said.
With a capable kicker, Knight had to make sure the other components of the kicking game were in place. Steven Stanback has become a consistent long-snapper, and Justin Karriem is the holder.
Although records are incomplete, Knight is certain that Scarlett's 44-yard field goal just before halftime last week is a school record.
Trouble in Numbers?
Forestville Coach Charles Harley was irate after a 54-21 loss at Friendly this past Saturday, accusing Friendly of running up the score and throwing the ball in the closing minutes to pad its players' statistics.
"I'm not complaining that they're scoring points," Harley said, adding that he substituted for his starters and let reserves play late in the game. "If he had his second [team] in scoring, that's great. But he had his number one quarterback in. No coach out there can say I did something like that to him. I hate to make it sound like I'm whining. But I don't do that to other kids. Competition is competition, but I don't think there is a place for that."
Friendly Coach George Earley denied Harley's accusation and said that passing was the only option because Forestville had so many defenders close to the line of scrimmage. Friendly quarterback Joe Haden completed 19 of 24 passes for 401 yards and six touchdowns, two in the fourth quarter. Earley said that for part of the fourth quarter, the coaches allowed Haden to call his own plays, just in case he had to do so in a two-minute drill.
"My offense is passing," Earley said. "It was not a kind of thing where I'm trying to run it up on somebody. When they put eight in the box, what am I supposed to do? They're blitzing every play. If you don't want me to throw the ball, you've got to play another defense."
Harley said his players were not as aggressive as Earley maintained.
A Transfer of Power
Back in the mid-1980s, Surrattsville Coach Tom Green's older brother, Robert, played with Dave Meggett at Morgan State. Meggett went on to a successful 10-year NFL career and now, with his son Davin, finds that his path has run back into Green's.
Davin Meggett played on the freshman team at DeMatha last season before transferring to Surrattsville.
Meggett sprained his ankle in the third quarter of a 40-20 victory over DuVal this past Saturday, but Green expects the two-way starter to be back in the lineup at fullback and linebacker or cornerback tomorrow at Rockville. Meggett, who also is the Hornets' punter and kicker, rushed 11 times for 91 yards against DuVal.
"He runs so hard and we run the option, so it helps because you have to take the dive," Green said. "If you don't take the dive, he kills you. I'm just happy to have him."
There was increased security for the game between Douglass and C.H. Flowers this past Saturday, one week after a 15-year-old female was stabbed to death following a game in Montgomery County. A Douglass official said five county policemen were on duty at the game, which drew a standing-room-only crowd of 2,000.
County supervisor of athletics Earl Hawkins said that the extra security was in response to a request from Douglass officials, and that the county's general security guidelines have not changed.
"We'll put more [security] there if they want it," Hawkins said. "It depends on the game, the school and what they feel the crowd will be, what they feel the needs will be for that game."