Kyle Barnett used his right arm last year to make his mark on opposing defenses and the school's record book -- and to help lift Mount Hebron's football team out of a sluggish start.
Barnett completed 87 of 150 passes for 1,127 yards and a county-high 15 touchdowns and the Vikings went from an 0-2 start to their first playoff appearance in 21 years. He now has a school-record 25 career touchdown passes -- and his best may be yet to come.
"He was great last year -- every time our guys looked in his eyes they believed in him -- and he has gotten so much better since then," Mount Hebron Coach Larry Luthe said. "I can't wait for this season."
And neither can the Vikings, who finished 7-4 after losing to Douglass in the first round of the Maryland 3A East Region playoffs. Expectations have not been this high at the Ellicott City school since the early 1980s, when the team qualified for the playoffs twice in a three-year period.
Barnett accomplished the feat in remarkable fashion, guiding his team to four fourth-quarter comeback victories, including two in the final weeks of the season against teams in the playoff hunt.
Against River Hill, he drove his team 53 yards in five plays to set up the game-winning field goal with 1.5 seconds left. With a playoff berth on the line in the regular season finale against Wilde Lake, Barnett rallied his team from a 22-7 third-quarter deficit to pull out a 29-22 overtime victory.
"No matter the situation, Kyle always kept his composure and found a way for us to win," Luthe said of his senior starter. "There's not a lot of quarterbacks who can lead like Kyle."
Barnett should have a better supporting cast this season. Junior running back Chris Eccleston (885 yards, six TDs) returns, as do six defensive starters, led by junior defensive end Aaron Maybin. They will give the Vikings a chance to overtake defending county co-champions Glenelg and River Hill, both of which graduated several key starters.
This past summer, Barnett spent a week as a volunteer helping repair the homes of the less fortunate in northeastern West Virginia.
"I want to be a leader, whether it's helping make someone's house better or making us the best football team we can be," Barnett said. "Now that we experienced some success last year, the atmosphere around our team is totally different. We may have surprised some people last year because we won only two games the year before. But this year we're more focused because we know how good we can be if we work hard."
-- Jon Gallo