For some high school seniors, it's hard to come up with one defining moment of their football careers. Severna Park linebacker Mark Otto is one of them.
But after a little bit of thought he recalled one such moment. In the fourth quarter of this season's Old Mill game, with Severna Park holding a four-point lead, Otto made a play that was key to the Falcons' holding onto the lead.
He sacked the Old Mill quarterback, forcing a fumble that was recovered on the Patriots' 13-yard line by fellow senior Chase Kettler. The Falcons scored on the next play, extending their lead to 28-17 en route to a win and eventually a county title and a playoff berth.
It was an impressive play for Otto, who, at 6 feet 1 and 190 pounds, isn't the biggest or most intimidating linebacker in the county. But his experience and "football IQ" make a difference as the Falcons head to the 3A East Region tournament as the top seed. They host Harford at 1 p.m. Saturday.
"Otto's playing as well as anyone this year; he's very talented," said Severna Park defensive coordinator Robert Harris, who works closely with the third-year varsity player. "His knowledge is far superior to others; he recognizes formations immediately."
Severna Park Coach J.P. Hines agreed. "He doesn't make mental mistakes at all," he said. That is a quality "you love to have with players in football or any sport because when you break down mentally, it costs you."
Harris also thinks Otto's passion for the game helps him contribute to the team: Through nine games Otto had 80 tackles -- 53 of them solo -- in addition to 2 sacks and an interception.
"I'm one of the most competitive [people] out there," Otto said. "I always expect to be the best at whatever I do. . . . It's not in my blood to lose."
Otto, who played youth football for a championship Green Hornets team and also plays lacrosse for Severna Park's perennial powerhouse team, hasn't done much losing this year. The 10-1 Falcons' only loss has come against Calvert Hall, a private school from Baltimore, in the first game of the season. Otto believes in his team's abilities on offense and defense and expects success in the playoffs.
"It feels really good this year," Otto said, noting that the Falcons barely made the playoffs last season. "We're going in with a full head of steam."