- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 19, 2008

FREDERICK, Md. | The word “dynasty” gets tossed around in sports a lot, but Ryan Bonheyo is certain that it fits the Maryland School for the Deaf football program.

“That’s the perfect word,” the senior running back/linebacker said. “No other deaf school comes close to us. None.”

His coach, who also happens to be his father, sees it another way.

“Well, I don’t know that I like that word - it has an ending,” said Andy Bonheyo, whose other son, Todd, is a sophomore receiver and safety. “I don’t even want to think that our good program will come to an end. I’d like to look at it as an excellent program and not call it a dynasty - because that has a start and an end.”

Call it what you want, but right now there seems to be no end in sight. The school just won its sixth consecutive deaf school national championship, outscoring opponents 419-140 en route to a 10-1 record. The only loss came on the road to Reading (Pa.) Central Catholic, a traditional school with a larger enrollment. It was the school’s first defeat since 2005, ending a 34-game winning streak.

Bonheyo has a 75-8 record since he arrived in 2001, and his teams have won 65 of the past 67 games. This season, the institution was one of eight schools featured on the Toyota Line of Scrimmage, a halftime segment on NBC’s Sunday Night Football broadcast that spotlights the nation’s “gutsiest” programs.

All of this adds up to an extraordinary achievement for a high school with an enrollment of about 150 and for a team that rarely fields more than 30 varsity players. If the school were to join the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association, it would be its least-imposing member in terms of enrollment, but Bonheyo said a collaborative effort supercedes the numbers.

“The bottom line is, you can’t have a successful program without a good coaching staff, talented athletes, support from the school, support from the parents and support from the community,” he said.

He also instituted a rigorous weight program and a feeder system of youth league, middle school and, just recently, junior varsity teams that all do things the same way - his way.

“We have the same plays; the kids know what to do,” he said. “They know what to expect every year.”

Bonheyo, who played at Gallaudet and coached at the Model Secondary School for the Deaf in the District and in Texas before moving to Frederick, has a few expectations for his players.

“Commitment, a dedication to work hard,” he said. “Expect to win every game. And at the same time, have fun.”

No one knows this better than the Bonheyo brothers, who talk football nearly round the clock with their dad. Ryan, despite suffering a broken leg in the next-to-last game of the season, ran for nearly 3,200 yards and scored 47 touchdowns the past two years. He has orally committed to Towson and would become the school’s first deaf football player.

Ryan has played football “since birth,” his father said - only half-kidding. Todd, on the other hand, said he only started taking football seriously about four years ago.

“I used to really love to play baseball and football, but somehow my interest just changed to football,” he said. “Maybe it was due to living with these two guys. They brainwashed me, I think.”

Said Ryan, “He finally became mean. He could be a football player.”

With only one other deaf school - the Model School - in the immediate area, Bonheyo’s team will travel almost anywhere to play other deaf schools. Many have come here, but most of the opponents are traditional schools that don’t have deaf players. Bonheyo, who doubles as athletic director, said it has become increasingly difficult to fill his schedule.

“They say we’re too good, that they can’t play to our level,” he said. “But when I read their schedules, they’ve got one or two schools that we couldn’t play because they’re too good for us.”

To the Bonheyos, the real reason is clear.

“There are some schools [that] have pride that they don’t want to lose to a team that can’t hear because they think it’s embarrassing,” Ryan said.

“My only assumption is that they don’t want to lose to a group of deaf boys, coached by deaf adults,” Andy said.

“Can you imagine?”

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