Friday, November 12, 1999

Renewed focus helps Ferguson fuel Holmes

Enquirer contributor

        While the Holmes football team was struggling last year through a 1-9 season, quarterback Brian Ferguson knew his preseason problems might have been a factor.

        “It was hard, because we knew we had a better team than what we were presenting on the field,” he said. “It seemed like we were in every game, but we just couldn't finish. I think I could've helped the team more than I did.”

        Ferguson is proving that this year. The results are an 8-3 record and a second-round playoff matchup with Dixie Heights tonight at Dixie.

        “I don't think there's any doubt that he's been the difference,” Holmes coach John Vander Meer said. “He's got the leadership abilities and he obviously has the athletic skill, but he also has those intangibles you just can't teach kids at quarterback. He's definitely more focused this year.”

        Two years ago, as a sophomore, Ferguson was installed as the starting quarterback, and he operated Holmes' option offense with such aplomb that the Bulldogs went 7-5 and reached the second round of the playoffs. During the regular season, he gained 958 yards rushing and passed for 456 yards and five touchdowns.

        Ferguson's troubles started last summer, which he had to spend in summer school. That forced him to miss conditioning, so he wasn't in shape when he did show up for practice, prompting Vander Meer to name Antwan Curry the starting QB.

        “After the Dixie game last year, he became the starter again, but he never had the season he could've had,” Vander Meer said.

        Ferguson actually did better throwing the ball with 641 yards and nine TDs, but that was due to Holmes being forced to play from behind. He ended up with 311 yards rushing and new resolve.

        “It was something he knew he screwed up,” Vander Meer said. “He made a commitment to be here this past summer.”

        This season, Ferguson has gained 579 yards rushing and passed for 1,140 yards and 15 TDs. When he's not keeping the ball on the option, he's pitching to Eddie Bane, who has gained 1,085 yards. Bane's average of 9.5 yards a carry led Northern Kentucky runners with 100 or more carries.

        When he throws, Ferguson is often aiming at Jerry Weaver, who scored 11 TDs and was fourth in the area with 37 catches in the regular season. Marco Hallman was second on the team with 14 catches.

        “Brian wouldn't be able to do that if he hadn't been able to practice this summer,” Vander Meer said. “To run the option, he has to have intelligence. You're not blocking two people every time you snap the ball, and he has to have the intelligence to decide whether to keep it or pass.”

        Ferguson, who ran for a score and passed for two in Holmes' win last week, said he didn't feel any extra pressure to be a team leader.

        “Basically, one guy is not just a leader,” he said. “We have a team thing. We just all work together. It always made everything easy.”

        He's hoping that concept helps Holmes overcome Dixie Heights, which beat the Bulldogs 35-13 during the regular season.

        “We haven't said anything about them beating us,” Ferguson said. “In the last game, we hurt ourselves. We didn't play as a team.”


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- Renewed focus helps Ferguson fuel Holmes