Friday, September 17, 1999

Small Landmark Christian wins big




BY CAREY HOFFMAN
Enquirer contributor

[landmark]
From left, Landmark Christian senior Jim Bawtenheimer, coach Mark Ellis (sitting), coach David Pool and senior Jason Fryer.
(Craig Ruttle photo)
| ZOOM |
        Landmark Christian football coach Mark Ellis admits being a little sore. Ask him why and you begin to get an idea why his challenge is a little different than those faced by most other area coaches.

        Ellis, 39, filled in a for a few plays at that afternoon's practice at tight end when injury forced the regular tight end to the sidelines. With only 18 players on the field to begin with, Landmark football doesn't have any spare parts.

        That's a circumstance that has weighed down the program, to the tune of only one winning season in 22 years of existence. That's also why this year's 3-0 start heading into tonight's 7:30 p.m. neighborhood rivalry with Lockland is such a major development.

        Victory is no longer measured by finding enough players to field a team.

        “(Coach Ellis) has instilled the winning attitude,” says senior running back/defensive end Jason Fryer, one of seven seniors who have given the program stability this year.

        “You have to have a mindset that you are going to go out and win,” Fryer says. “It doesn't matter if we (only) have 18 guys -- only 11 are on the field at one time, just like the other team.If we work harder than everyone else, we can win.”

        Landmark has only 55 boys in the high school, putting a third of the male student body on the field in uniform on Friday nights.

        “What will take us into the next level of play is kids stepping up to the challenge,” Ellis says. “It's a 140-pound kid willing to step in and play offensive guard and just get in somebody's way.”

        Landmark enjoyed major progress last year, posting a 4-6 record and winning a Miami Valley Conference game for the first time in a decade.

        But not everybody was a true believer, admits senior tailback/defensive back Jim Bawtenheimer. “In the past, we've had some scrub teams and we've always been too small,” he says. “We'd go out in the first quarter, give up two TDs and be ready to give up.”

        Not this year. Landmark has outscored its first three opponents 126-26. Fryer has rushed for 334 yards and seven TDs, while Bawtenheimer has added 312 yards and four TDs.

        Last Friday, Landmark beat Division III Clermont Northeastern, the biggest school the program has ever scheduled. The Golden Eagles held CNE's 232-pound fullback, John Fishback, to 124 yards rushing and the CNE offense to 148 total yards.

        “They thought and we thought that that real big running back could run all over us when the game started,” says Bawtenheimer. “But when they started coming hard at us, we came harder. When faced with adversity, we get better.”

        Ellis admits he keeps his offense geared to ball control because he feels he can ill afford to go three-and-out and force his team to expend too much energy playing defense.

        The Landmark defense is a high-intensity approach, coordinated by former CAPE star and NFL veteran David Pool.

        Pool says the biggest challenge of coaching at Landmark comes during the week when he tries to get his players to visualize what they'll see on Friday night without the benefit of having even 11 players to line up against them on offense in practice.

        “We just keep it simple so the kids don't have to think and just play,” says Pool. “Let their athletic ability shine and kids do things we never thought they could do.”

        Lockland (1-2), Landmark's closest rival, presents a huge challenge. Landmark has only beaten Lockland once in school history and last year, Lockland and star running back DeShawn Wynn ran up a 69-15 victory.

        That was particularly tough for Ellis to take, as he lives in Lockland, his wife teaches at Lockland and he coached many of Lockland's current players on a pee-wee team that also included Wynn and Ellis' son, Zach, now Landmark's starting quarterback.

        Wynn is not 100 percent after an early-season leg injury, but he and freshman Eric Ogletree will present a formidable challenge to Landmark's defense.

        “All I know is we have to control DeShawn,” said Ellis. “We can't let him get his because his could be so many as to just kill us.”

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