The handshake that defined Severna Park's victory over Annapolis on Friday may not have been the traditional one between coaches, but between the victorious coach and his quarterback.
"I need to step it up," Falcons quarterback Greg Zingler told Coach J.P. Hines as he took his hand after the game. "So do I," Hines responded, patting his player on the back.
The 16-0 win kept Severna Park (6-1 overall, 6-0 league) in first place in the county, but was not necessarily the work of a first-place team. The offense, led by Zingler, produced just 115 yards, starting drives in Annapolis territory six times and producing points on three of those occasions.
"I was disappointed with our running game somewhat," Hines said after the game. "I was disappointed definitely in our throwing. But you know what? You're going to have games like that, when you're going to have disappointment. But at least we came away with a victory. . . . My hat's off to the kids, coming off a huge victory from playing Old Mill, then having to turn around and play your hearts out against a team [Annapolis] who I think is probably one of the best in the county."
Annapolis turned the ball over five times, putting pressure on its defense to make plays -- which it did but not for the entire game.
Said Annapolis Coach Brian Brown: "I told the kids, I said, 'Our offense lost the game tonight. I'm the head of the offense, so the blame's on me. . . . We shut them down [on defense, but] we gave the ball to them how many times inside our 20?"
Tomorrow night, with hopes that the offense will revive, Severna Park visits Chesapeake (1-6, 1-6), a struggling team that has lost its last three games and is tied for 10th in the 12-team conference. But the difference in the standings doesn't concern Hines.
He's itchy regardless of the disparity in records, pointing to Broadneck's loss to underdog Northeast on Oct. 14 and Severna Park's upset of the Bruins at the end of last season -- a win that helped them make the playoffs for the second year in a row.
"If we go out . . . and lose to Chesapeake, they'll say we're not that good," Hines said. "I just hope our kids realize what's at stake and come to play."
What's at stake are not only playoff hopes, and possible home-field advantage in the playoffs, but also respect for a program that Hines says has gotten little.
"There's no respect for Severna Park, none," Hines said. "We're supposed to get beat. We're smaller than any other team we play, slower than any team we play, but we still try to get it done."
Don't tell that to the teams that have lost to the Falcons, though. "We knew Severna Park was good before we played them," Brown said. "They just played a good football game. They beat us."
Several other teams are still eyeing the top spot in the county league, should Severna Park falter. Old Mill and Annapolis will play tomorrow for second place in their first meeting since 2002, when Old Mill defeated Annapolis for the third straight time.
"I think they're very athletic. They do a lot of things well," said Old Mill Coach Mike Marcus. "Right now I think we're definitely the underdogs. We're going into their territory. . . . Their defense is very good, very physical, very fast. [They get] a lot of hats to the ball. They're so solid at all 11 positions."