Big Time Pride at Poolsville High
After plunging into a tradition of loss, the Falcons decided it was time to regain their sense of pride
Published: Summer 2004
After winning only a total of four games in the past two years, the Poolesville High School football team and its diehard fans had lowered their expectations to the minimum. But when the Falcons tried a new conditioning program and put their trust in a new head coach, they found the confidence and athletic ability to reinvent themselves as winners. Sure enough, this Division 1A school in Poolesville, Maryland, shocked everyone this year with their success. Here is their story.
Poolesville is a town so small it doesn’t even have a single traffic light. Everybody knows everybody here, and high school football is a big deal. When the Falcons won, everyone in the community shared a sense of pride. But by 2002, that pride was becoming a dim memory, at least for varsity football, which hadn’t had a winning season for five years.
“Our JV teams were playing well and beat a lot of teams, but when they moved on to varsity those teams would kick our butts,” says strength coach and assistant football coach Woody Bierly. “We decided the major problem was we needed to get stronger.” But first they needed to upgrade their weightroom, which consisted of a garage that used to be home to the school’s auto shop classes.
“To give you an example of how bad things were, we didn’t have enough 45-pound weights for everybody to squat at the same time,” says Bierly. Unfortunately, school budget restraints meant the coaches had to find other means to finance a new program. Thanks to the tireless efforts of Coach Bierly, Athletic Director Michael Riley, Youth Football Coach Scott Ray and donations from parents, enough funding was eventually raised to buy those 45-pound weights and additional equipment, including Dot Drills pads and plyo boxes so they could implement a plyometric program for the first time.
Another positive step the school took towards improving the team’s win/loss record was promoting Larry Hurd from the JV coach to head coach. The consensus was that a better weightroom and weight training program was critical. The program chosen was BFS.
“I supported the BFS program wholeheartedly because it was the same program I had used when I played in high school when we won the 4A state championship in 1991,” says Hurd, a graduate of Quince Orchard High School in North Potomac, Maryland. That summer of 2003 the Falcons trained hard getting ready for the first game of the season on September 3rd. And their hard work did not go unnoticed. “The gains our kids made with BFS in strength and quickness were just phenomenal,” says Hurd. As an example, the previous year only three Falcons could bench press 200 pounds; in 2003 13 players reached that standard.
Every hour the athletes spent with the program over the summer months under the guidance of Coach Bierly paid off: This season the Falcons went undefeated, 10-0, accomplishing a feat that had not been duplicated for 20 years!
Their perfect season is even more impressive when you consider that because the Falcons are the only 1A team in Montgomery County, they had to play one 2A school and four 3A schools, and they had to play six away games, traveling up to three hours one way. They also had five sophomores on the team, and their linemen averaged only 180 to 190 pounds bodyweight. Despite these obstacles, the Falcons’ training and drive enabled them to defeat all their opponents, win a playoff game for the first time since 1983, and win their first playoff game. These results justifiably earned Coach Hurd recognition as the 2003 Frederick News Post Coach of the Year and the 2003 Montgomery Journal County Coach of the Year.
As a team, during the regular and post season the Falcons scored 399 points and gave up only 107 points. As for individual honors, the Falcons had three All County players, including running back Vincent Riggs.
Riggs was the Montgomery County Offensive Player of the Year and First Team All State, and the Montgomery Journal Defensive Player of the Year. Riggs rushed for 1,455 yards on 188 attempts, visited the end zone 16 times; as a linebacker he had 137 tackles, 41 for a loss, and five sacks. Riggs was voted the team MVP and earned an athletic scholarship to Shepherd College.
Two other seniors who became local celebrities for their outstanding play were quarterback Gary Ward and linebacker/wide receiver Josh Funk. Ward, who also became the leading scorer in school history for the basketball team with 1425 points, passed for 1245 yards and rushed for 432 yards. Those stats include 16 passing TD’s and six rushing TD’s. Funk, who received a scholarship to Ohio State for lacrosse, had 31 catches for 691 yards, 68 tackles and six sacks.
“One big difference the BFS program made was in raising the level of confidence in our kids,” says Hurd. “This season a lot of our games came down to playing well in the fourth quarter. Our kids knew how hard they had worked, they believed in the program, and that made a huge difference. I attribute a lot of our success to the drive and spirit that our kids gained from being in the BFS program.”
Recalls Bierly of the Falcons’ transformation. “When I first started coaching 10 years go, I think we had 18 kids on our football team, and we couldn’t even put together a full scrimmage of 11 on 11 – we had to run half lines to do it. I also remember times when our games drew only about 30 people to the stands. At our last game we had 2,500 people in the stands.”
Adds Hurd, “During the past several years our football players had gotten used to disappointment, but now they walk in the community with chests out and heads high – and they are always wearing their jerseys or their BFS shirts. Everyone in the community is proud of what we’ve done this year by going 10-0. We are excited about seeing our one-year gains and seeing what it’s going to be like when our freshmen become seniors. Our program is going to continue to grow by becoming bigger and faster and stronger as we take it to the next level.”