Hammond will make its third playoff appearance in school history on Friday at Patuxent in a 2A South region semifinal. The Golden Bears enter the postseason with a 6-4 record, including an upset of then-ranked River Hill, in Coach Justin Carey’s first year.
“It’s a big accomplishment for me and my staff,” Carey said. “It’s definitely rewarding to come in and try and build a program from all of our hard work in offseason.”
Carey, 26, is the youngest coach in Howard County. He got the job at Hammond after three years as a defensive coordinator at Atholton. He secured that gig soon after graduation from Bowie State.
The top job at Hammond involves more administrative work than Carey’s previous position with the Raiders, but it also gives him the opportunity to hone his detail-oriented coaching style.
“I’m a teacher on the field. I explain everything and allow my players to be students of the game,” he said. “I’m very laid back as well and like to have fun at the same time, and I think the players see that. When I have high energy, they have high energy.”
The Reservoir alumnus also said he keeps a running spreadsheet of local prospects so he can refer college scouts elsewhere in the county if the Golden Bears don’t have the type of player a school is looking for.
On Friday, Hammond faces a formidable opponent in undefeated No. 12 Patuxent, but Carey is confident that the level of competition in the county has prepared his squad.
“Howard County is usually the best competition day in and day out,” Carey said. “I strongly believe that we’ve been battle tested in this county.”
“Our ultimate goal is to keep winning, not to just get invited and be happy to be there,” Carey said.
The 2A division is a “juggernaut,” Carey said, and he expected the Golden Bears would need a record more around 8-2 to make it into the postseason.
He’s a strong believer that whoever emerges out of the 2A South region — the Hammond, Patuxent, Douglass (8-2) or Gwynn Park (10-0) — will have a strong shot at the title.
Hammond lost to each of the other playoff-bound county teams except for defending 3A state champion River Hill. The Hawks travel to City and Glenelg (9-1) will host Reservoir (7-3) in the 3A East region. River Hill and Glenelg victories could set up a rematch of a Week 1 defensive battle that saw the Gladiators lose their only game of the season, 7-3. . . .
The county’s lone 4A school — Howard — will travel to Perry Hall Friday for a 4A North matchup.
Patuxent is the only SMAC school with a berth in 2A. The rest of the conference is looking to break through in the 3A South, where Westlake will get another shot at 2012 state finalist Huntingtown (9-1) on Friday after a Week 9 loss to the Hurricanes. Lackey (8-2) hosts Stephen Decatur (7-3) of Worcester County.