This Maryland high school player profiles series is presented by the U.S. Army.
By Liz O’Connell, CountySportsZone.com
On Oct. 11, 2019, the Winters Mill High School football team trailed South Carroll, 17-14, with less than a minute to play and no timeouts.
Winters Mill head coach Matt Miller knew who he had to turn to for a play: Cayden Beard.
Beard caught a 30-yard pass through tight coverage and willed his way into the end zone to win the game for the Falcons — all with a broken thumb.
When Beard stepped out for a few plays toward the end of the first half of the South Carroll game, Miller thought he only jammed his thumb. Though the injury turned out to be more serious than that, the senior came back after halftime and continued to play both sides of the ball as a linebacker and wide receiver.
“That’s just who he is,” Miller said. “When we needed a play the most, he stepped up.”
Beard didn’t just show up during the South Carroll game. He left it out all on the field every single week, becoming heartbeat of the Falcons.
As an elected captain, Beard set the tone for his teammates, even after being sidelined the remainder of the year due to his broken thumb. It was more than just being in the front line for stretches; he continued to come to practice every single day, was a vocal leader and held his teammates accountable.
But Beard was also his teammates’ biggest supporter and wouldn’t hesitate to congratulate them if they did well. His teammates respond well to him, and Miller saw kids playing and thinking like Beard.
“Our kids this year were tough, hard kids and I really believe it started with him,” Miller said. “He’s always been a tough kid. I’ve seen him mature and develop as a senior.”
Beard was the glue the Falcons needed. Once he realized his leadership potential, he ran with it. Miller attributes all the close wins his team had this past season to the tone Beard set.
“He is the gutsiest and toughest kid I’ve ever coached in almost 20 years,” Miller said.