The early schedule season wasn’t kind to Hammond High’s football team. Three teams who made the 2009 state postseason with a combined 30-7 record, were atop the Bears’ 2010 agenda.

After being downtrodden for nearly two decades, Hammond may be on the verge of a turnaround. The Bears emerged 2-1 from the opening gauntlet, capped with a 14-13 victory over previously unbeaten Wilde Lake last Friday. The Bears handed Atholton, last year’s Class 3A East Region finalists, its first loss of 2010.

“When I first looked at the schedule and had River Hill, Atholton and Wilde Lake, I looked at the best three teams in the league,” said Hammond coach Dan Makosy. “If for some reason we can come out 1-2 or 2-1, we’ll be off a great start.”

Hammond, which plays winless Marriotts Ridge Friday, is a victory shy of equaling 2009’s three-win output. The Bears have so far given River Hill its closest challenge (27-6 Sept. 3) in the first three weeks.

Despite last season’s 3-7 mark, Hammond lost four games by eight points or less. Makosy, who won three state championships at Damascus, said close games is what he wants.

“You got to control the ball,” said Makosy. “Against River Hill, they had 7 snaps in the first quarter. We gave Wilde Lake and Atholton two. We run the ball, we eat the clock, that’s our defense.

We play field position. We try to limit giving the other team the ball. It keeps the game closes, then anything can happen.”

It starts with the interior where Peyton Rose, Rocco Piano and Baldwin Aszala have shined for Makosy. Makosy said Rose was originally slated for tight end. Dionte Jones and Devon Payne headline a young crop of skill players.

“Last year was rough for them. Their fundamentals were poor and they’re learning a new system, offense, defense, special teams, everything,” said Makosy. “It was a big learning curve for them, it was a big learning curve for me coming from an established program.”

Makosy headed one of the most successful programs in the state at Damascus, winning state Class 4A titles in 2003 and 2005 and the 3A crown in 2007. Hammond has made one playoff trip (1985) in its history.

Makosy said changing the culture has been a process. No players are permitted to say “I” and each wears black cleats. Any in-school transgression results in a benching. Makosy said five starters sat the first half of last week’s Wilde Lake game.

“It going to take us a while, but we’ve gone leaps and bounds from the beginning of last year to where we are now,” said Makosy.

No doubting Thomas

With opposing teams starting to key on Mark Venable and Navassa Brown out due to injury, Franklin wanted Ian Thomas to become an offensive threat. He answered call in last Thursday’s game against Catonsville.

Thomas produced the best performance by an area receiver with 213 yards and four touchdowns in the 13th ranked Indians’ 42-34 victory over Catonsville.

“We talked before the game and told him it’s now or never,” said Venable, a senior running back. “You got one more year, but right now is where it is. He made big plays. He’s a playmaker.”

Venable, who rushed for 101 yards, threw a 56-yard scoring pass to Thomas in the second quarter, the last of three first half scoring catches for the 6-foot-1, 190-pound junior. He had a 21-yard catch and run score on Franklin’s opening drive in the second half.

“All week I was challenging him to be that guy I could go too,” said Franklin coach Anthony Burgos. “He showed he’s a legitimate wide receiver.”

“I came out with the mindset that nobody could stick me,” said Thomas, who finished with eight receptions.

Corralling the Stags

cyrus jonesIt’s not often DeMatha Catholic loses. It’s rare that the Hyattsville school absorbed a beating like it did against No. 1 Gilman School Saturday evening at Unitas Stadium.

The 25-point Greyhounds’ victory was the largest margin over DeMatha since Midwest power St. Xavier (OH) defeated the Stags, 28-7, in the 2007 opener. Prior to that, Gilman was the only team to beat DeMatha by at least two touchdowns (14-0 in 2000) since 2000.

DeMatha has won six of the 11 meetings with the Greyhounds since starting a yearly series in 2000. Here’s the result of the prior contests.

2010: Gilman 35, DeMatha 10

2009: DeMatha 56, Gilman 35

2008: Gilman 21, DeMatha 14

2007: DeMatha 42, Gilman 0

2006: DeMatha 24, Gilman 6

2005: Gilman 22, DeMatha 19

2004: DeMatha 12, Gilman 9

2003: DeMatha 15, Gilman 7

2002: Gilman 12, DeMatha 3

2001: DeMatha 16, Gilman 0

2000: Gilman 14, DeMatha 0