Ronnie Crump had talked to senior Marcus Pickens about his football-playing cousin, but the Potomac (Md.) coach never met Darren Kelley until he enrolled at the Oxon Hill school two days after classes began last month.
A transfer from Owings Mills High School, Kelley has already made an impact for the Wolverines as a two-way starter. The senior running back/strong safety had 105 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries in a 20-8 win over Friendly on Saturday that further muddled the Prince George’s 3A/2A/1A standings.
“That never happens with us,” Crump said of Kelley’s last-minute transfer. “Guys like that usually end up somewhere else. That’s a rarity to get a kid like that this late in the game.”
At the beginning of preseason camp, Crump wasn’t sure who would be featured in the offense alongside senior quarterback Antonio Washington. The coach said Kelley joined the team after he recently moved in with Pickens, a linebacker/fullback who has orally committed to St. Francis (Pa.).
Kelley’s role has grown with each passing week. Crump said Kelley struggled in a 35-19 season-opening loss to Gwynn Park, dancing around too much in the backfield and losing a fumble on a play on which he carried the ball in the wrong arm.
On Saturday against Friendly (2-1, 1-1), Kelley got Potomac (2-1, 1-1) started with a 23-yard touchdown run after an interception by sophomore defensive lineman Keiron Howard. In the fourth quarter, he clinched the team’s second straight win with a six-yard score. Kelley has now totaled 198 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 38 carries — all team-bests.
Crump believes Kelley will join Pickens as a Football Bowl Subdivision recruit. He said the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Kelley has the grades to play at the next level and has received interest from a variety of schools, most notably Towson, Ohio and N.C. State.
“The competition [in Prince George’s county] is much more aggressive” than Kelley was used to,” Crump said. “He’s learning to make one cut and get downhill fast.”
The victory by Potomac coupled with Gwynn Park’s 39-16 win over rival Douglass has created a log jam in the league race. The four preseason favorites — Potomac, Friendly, Gwynn Park and Douglass — are all 2-1 with their losses coming against each other. Crossland and Forestville are both 3-0 but have yet to play any of the perennial powers.
Potomac, Friendly and Crossland will be trying to earn a state playoff spot in the Maryland 3A South, while Gwynn Park and Douglass jockey with teams from Howard County and the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference for a 2A South berth. Forestville is in the 1A South.
“The kids had some things going on that they couldn’t shake off against Friendly [in a loss on Sept. 7], but it is what it is,” Gwynn Park Coach Danny Hayes said after his team’s victory on Saturday. “We knew it was a must-win for us today in order to stay in the hunt” for a playoff berth.