Wednesday, August 28, 2013 p
Culture change at Blake BY JOHN HARRIS III SPECIAL TO THE GAZETTE
Senior wide receiver-corner back Mark Davis had heard all of the negativity about the James H. Blake High School football program while in middle school. By the time he arrived at Blake for his freshman season, none of that talk mattered to him. Especially after he began to spend time with his future teammates during summer workouts. “I had been hearing it all before I came to Blake,” Davis said. “‘Blake is no good, they are terrible.’ But then when it was time for summer workouts and passing league, I saw a bunch of people who were ready to work. I said to myself, ‘I think this is the [class] who can turn things around.’” The hunch that Davis felt turned out to be correct. That 2010 season, the Bengals’ junior varsity went undefeated at 9-0. Many players from this group moved up in 2011 to help Blake end six consecutive losing varsity seasons with a 7-3 record. That year, the Bengals barely missed the postseason. However, the momentum that they created helped them notch a second consecutive winning mark last season at 6-4 in the regular season, allowing them to qualify for the Class 4A North Region playoffs. “Back in 2010, I decided not to bring any sophomores up to the varsity. I wanted then to experience winning. That undefeated JV team helped to change the mentality and the culture of our program,” Blake coach Tony Nazzaro said. “Back when we had our last winning season in 2004, I sort of knew the culture might change a little, but I did not realize that it would change so much. Back in 2005, whenever we would start losing by 10 points, it seemed like we would just hang our heads and before you knew it, we’d get behind by 30. It was basically a culture of losing that was hard to get rid of.” While this season’s Bengals’ squad returns just shy of 50 percent of its starting lineup, Nazzaro sees an air of confi-
dence with the 2013 edition that couldn’t be found nearly a decade ago. “In 2004, we lost a huge number of seniors, and then things fell [down] from there,” Nazzaro said. “We graduated a lot of starters this past year too, but the difference is, you can see that we are now building a solid program.
I just feel really good about the kids in this program.” One of those players is senior Tayahd Campbell, who is expected to play major roles on both sides of the ball as a middle linebacker and running back. “People are now starting to open their eyes and notice us,” Davis said.
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Seniors helped turn Bengals into winners
Potomac, Montgomery County, Maryland, Gazette