December 20, 2007
By David Driver
Used with permission
Darryl Jones went out of his way not to attend Laurel High School.
Every morning for nearly four years, Jones would wake up around 6 a.m. and ride in a car with his mother from Laurel to the Greenbelt Metro station.
From there he would take the green line to Fort Totten and then catch a shuttle bus to St. John's College High School on Military Road in northwest Washington.
It would have been much easier for Jones, who was living near Route 198 at the time, to attend Laurel High. He certainly would not have had to wake up so early.
"They saw a better chance for me (to get a college scholarship) at a private school," Jones said of his family.
Jones just finished his first season of college football as a freshman defensive back at Northeastern University in Boston. He played in 10 games for the Huskies, a CAA Division I-AA school.
Other college football players from Laurel include Femi Akinwande (University of Maryland), Reggie Gooch (Division III Salisbury) and Anthony Delborrell (Division III Catholic). All four players have something in common, besides playing in the defensive backfield: They did not attend Laurel High School even though they lived in that district. Akinwande played at Roosevelt in Greenbelt, Gooch played at Good Counsel in Montgomery County and Delborrell played at DeMatha Catholic High in Hyattsville.
Akinwande and the Terps will play in the Emerald Bowl in San Francisco against Oregon State on Dec. 28, Gooch and Salisbury appeared in the Division III national playoffs and Delborrell led Catholic in tackles this season.
"I was recruited by a lot of (high school) coaches to play," said Delborrell, a product of the Laurel Boys and Girls Club, who grew up in Montpelier. "I wanted to go to the best school to get a college scholarship."
Gooch echoed those sentiments, and said the opportunities were better for him at a private high school.
As top players leave for other schools, the Laurel High football team has not had a winning record since 1997 and has not made the playoffs since 1992.
The loss of top players to other schools is not the only reason, but it is certainly a contributing factor. Corey Harris recently resigned after two years as Laurel head coach, and the Spartans are looking for their fourth mentor since veteran coach Chuck Hickes stepped down seven years ago. The Spartans are 5-15 the past two seasons.
"We are going to lose the good football players to private schools because we are not winning. If we won, I think they would come here," said Terry Parfitt, the long-time Laurel High athletic director.
Pallotti head football coach Pat Courtemanche said he had just one player, a senior, on the varsity roster this season who attended Laurel High, and that was as a freshman. The player did not play football for the Spartans. Courtemanche said he also loses potential players to DeMatha, Good Counsel and St. John's. "We can't give athletic scholarships for football," said Courtemanche, who said that is not the case at those other three private schools.
Hickes was Laurel's head varsity coach for 16 years, and led Laurel to a state title in 1987, and the playoffs twice early in the 1990s. Hickes said it was not until the end of his tenure that he started losing players to other schools. He is well aware Laurel is looking for its fourth head coach this decade. "You have to have some stability there," he said.
William Lee, the commissioner of football for the Laurel Boys and Girls Club, said top players from his program, many who live in the Laurel High district, are now juniors and seniors with college potential at private schools such as DeMatha and Good Counsel.
"We have made several attempts to contact the varsity and junior varsity coaches over there," Lee said of Laurel. "The public school in our area did not seem to have interest in what we are doing, even though we reached out. One reason the program is not successful is they allow these kids to go to other programs."
Another top player to come out of the Laurel Boys and Girls Club is Jordan Scott, a DeMatha grad. Scott was one of the top running backs in Division I-AA this season for Colgate, although he was arrested on burglary charges last week in New York, according to the Associated Press.
What about using local youth football leagues as a feeder for Laurel High?
"It has not been tapped enough," Parfitt said. "That is one of the keys when we interview (for the coaching job), and try to make sure our boys stay home."
Lee said Pallotti football coaches attend youth league practices. "It has been a wonderful relationship," Lee said.
He said he would welcome a chance to work with Laurel High.
"It would benefit both programs. We have to compete with other (youth) football programs that are less than five miles from us, including Maryland City, and the Hurricanes," Lee said.
"If you win, it attracts kids. If you show interest, it attracts the parents. The parents will make the ultimate decision" on what high school their child attends.
"I don't know what we can do as a school," Parfitt said. "If these kids want to go to some other place, you can't blame them. You can't stop them."