There was a lot to celebrate at Frederick High last Friday night.
Football was back in its normal time slot. The stands were packed with fans. Everything felt a little more normal.
On the field, the Cadets delivered in a big way, too. Senior running back Chris Metevia returned after missing last season due to personal reasons and rushed for 221 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries. Travon Neal, a junior cornerback and receiver who is attracting attention from Division I colleges, scored four touchdowns.
All of it contributed to a 44-30 victory over visiting Aberdeen.
Yet coach Kevin Pirri and some of his players came away feeling somewhat unsatisfied.
“There is definitely a lot of room for improvement if we are smarter with the football, if we are more disciplined,” Pirri said during Tuesday’s practice, four days removed from the game. “If we are more focused on shutting the door, then we don’t let up 16 points in the fourth quarter.”
That was one of the major sticking points after the game, the points Aberdeen scored in the fourth quarter. They not only injected a little life into the Eagles but took a little shine off of what otherwise was a dominant performance by the Cadets.
“We just have higher expectations,” Pirri said.
In the six-plus seasons Pirri has presided over the program, the Cadets have transformed themselves from a program that would be thrilled to win any game to a program where style points matter.
The talent level has improved considerably, and so has the accountability. It’s no longer good enough just to show up. It’s more about developing good habits and the proper mindset and good techniques that will translate onto the field.
“It kind of goes back to the mentality of years ago when we struggled to win games,” Pirri said. “It’s like, ‘What is our expectation? Can we beat our expectations?’ Now, our expectations aren’t set around winning and losing. It’s around the individual mindset of each position group and the goals we set each week.”
In that sense, it helps to have Metevia back on the field.
“He’s a difference-maker in the locker room, verbally, on the field, off the field,” Pirri said. “He’s a kid if he said jump to the team, the team would pretty much say, ‘How high?’”
Metevia is 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds. When he was younger, he was one of the fastest players on his youth football team. But he was also one of the biggest. So, he played on the offensive line for the Frederick Steelers.
This meant he already knew how to block by the time he had slimmed down a bit and was required to read blocks as a running back.
“I kind of new what the offensive line was talking about over there,” he said. “[That helped] for sure.”
After missing last season, Metevia said the biggest challenge to getting back on the field was getting his conditioning back on track. So, he played a lot of basketball during the offseason. He also meditated quite a bit to try and get himself in the proper mindset.
“It was fun to get back out there and dominate a little bit,” he said of his performance Friday against Aberdeen. “When I first got here, it wasn’t the best team. But, over the years, we have been building the foundation. That’s one of the things we have been preaching around here, just building the foundation so the culture could change.”
On Friday, Frederick will receive another barometer of where the program stands in its development. The Cadets will take on Middletown, last year’s Frederick County champion and the 2019 Class 2A state champion.
Metevia said it’s a challenge the team will need to take “head on.”
“I think we are definitely moving in the right direction,” he said. “We have some things to clean up. But it’s moving in the right direction for sure.”