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Alisha Yocum

Catoctin High School’s (CHS) Boys Track and Field team showcased their exceptional talent and dedication at the recent Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) 1A West Region Championships, with several standout performances.

Deacon McIlvain made history by securing the all-time best shot-put throw for Catoctin, launching an impressive 51 feet, 2.75 inches to claim victory in the shot-put event. Gab Riling dominated the distance races, clinching victories in both the 1600-meter and 3200-meter runs.

In a competitive 800-meter race, Dennis Lease, Gab Riling, and RJ Etzler demonstrated their prowess by clinching the top three spots, with Lease taking first, Riling second, and Etzler fourth in a challenging regional field.

Furious Trammel showcased his versatility and skill by securing first place in the long jump, triple jump, and 400-meter dash, solidifying his status as the best in Catoctin history in these events. Additionally, Gavin Sheetz delivered a stellar performance in the 110-meter high hurdles, securing second place while breaking the 16-second barrier.

The team’s relay efforts were equally impressive, with the 4×400-meter relay team consisting of Trammel, Lease, Etzler, and Sheetz storming from behind to claim first place.

Coach David Lillard has been coaching the team for four years and couldn’t be happier with the results from the recent meet. Typically, CHS competes against much larger schools, so the group doesn’t necessarily see winning results during the regular season. Lillard says “ These guys rock because they keep on grinding and trusting that meet results are nothing compared to hitting personal bests and preparing for championships.”

Lillard knows it is a tough week ahead, especially for the seniors as they prepare for graduation and the team heads to the State Championships on May 22 & 23 as this paper goes to publication. Lillard says “Staying sharp is the key”. We wish them the best of luck as they continue to make the Catoctin Community proud.

Members of the Catoctin High School Track and Field Team recently won Regionals.

Pictured: (top, from left) Kendall Jones, Gab Riling, Bryce Bowers, Furious Trammel, Dennis Lease, CJ Ruby, Wayne Ferson; (bottom, from left) Wyatt Sullivan, Santi Canadas, and RJ Etzler.

Alisha Yocum

If you live in the area, there is a good chance you were asked by a Thurmont Little Leaguer to support their most recent fundraiser: the Hit-A-Thon. This is Thurmont Little League’s (TLL) biggest and most critical fundraiser for the year. The way it works is the players ask for donations. For every $10.00 collected, they get one attempt for their chance to hit the ball the furthest, with a maximum of 10 hits.

This year, the group raised $17,255, which goes towards the purchase of equipment, field maintenance, and other necessary items to keep the league running at its best. The results are shown on the right for the longest distance, individual fundraisers, and team fundraisers. Prizes were awarded to the various winners in each category.

Distance

Majors:

Desean Brown; Orioles; 225 ft

2. Nemo Dewees; Bandits; 185 ft.

3. Parker Hahn; Nationals; 180 ft.

Minors:

1. Sean Dunn-Rito; Royals; 149.2 ft.

2. Aiden Koontz; Eagles; 128.6 ft.

3. Rhett Axline; Eagles; 128 ft.

Donation Amount

1. Carson Unger; CP Dragons, $1,475

2. Jackson Boyer; Minors Tigers; $1,050

3. Jace Fisher; Minors Red Sox; $455

Coach Pitch:

1. Graham Pearl; Orioles; 127 ft.

2. Caleb Lynn; Goats; 121.5 ft.

3. Harvey Schildt; Dragons; 107 ft.

Tee Ball:

1. Clayton Orndorff; Green Monkeys; 106.1 ft.

2. Bohdy Eiker; Worm Burners; 83 ft.

3. Salvatore Guido; Aces; 73.6 ft.

Pizza Party

Majors — Nationals $835

Minors — Tigers $1,555

Coach Pitch — Dragons $2,225

Tee Ball — Hurricanes $925

Desean Brown of the Majors Orioles won the Hit-A-Thon for the longest distance. Brown hit the ball 225 feet during Thurmont Little League’s Hit-A-Thon.

with Michael Betteridge

Catoctin High School spring sports began with some pretty big news. With the retirement of Athletic Director Keith Bruck, who moved up north to take over at Fairfield, Catoctin began the search process for a new athletic director. 

Since WTHU arrived on the sports scene in 2008, Catoctin High School has had three great athletic directors: Tom Sherald, Kevin McMullen, and Keith Bruck. 

Sherald was a local guy all the way and Kevin McMullen was, too. Keith Bruck worked at Catoctin for 22 years, with his eye on the job all the way back to when he was assistant athletic director for eleven years, and finally landed his dream job as athletic director for the past six years. All three of these guys were local products.

Now, Catoctin has gone all the way to Waldorf, Maryland, to find its next athletic director: Brett Campbell.  Campbell, the former head basketball coach of the St. Charles Trojans, guided his team all the way to the 3A State Championship at College Park this past March, where they lost by three points to Northeast. Coach Campbell and his family have moved to Thurmont, and we welcome him into our Cougars family! A special shout-out to Coach Rich who stood in as temporary athletic director during the search process. Thanks, Coach Mike!

Spring sports are finished at Catoctin, so let’s put a ribbon on a great season.

Baseball 

What can you say about Coach Franklin and his guys. Year after year, game after game, they always “bring it.” Sitting atop the dugout, over and over again, I would smile while I listened to Coach Franklin “coaching up” his players. At times, he would laugh, at times he was stern, but he never let his players off the hook without a smile and a twinkle in his eye when he spoke to them. Every player on that team knew that Coach Franklin and his staff had their backs. 

Catoctin had some exciting bats this year. Brayden Grable batted .392 on the season, followed by Bryont Green at .340.  Castellow provided some clutch hitting, along with Jake Bell, Garrett Worth, Gavin Watkins, and Patrick Morlan. Last year, the team to beat was Clear Spring. This year, Brunswick ended the Cougars season in the regionals.

Softball 

We couldn’t help but wonder what this team would have been with Taylor Smith in the circle, but between the Cougars amazing bats and some pretty awesome pitching from Aubrey Courtney and Kassidy Kreitz, the pain of Taylor’s injury faded into the distance. 

Catoctin softball led all categories in county softball at the plate. Bralyn West had an amazing season! She led the county in hitting, with a .679 batting average and 6 homers.  Meghan Gray led the county in home runs with 10 and RBIs with 34. Kassidy Kreitz had 7 homers and 31 RBIs, second place in the county.  Courtney and Kreitz took on the role in the circle to overpower opponents for a combined 15 wins. That is not too shabby for the smallest high school in Frederick County to lead in all those categories. The Lady Cougars battled all the way to the regionals, where they ended the season against Liberty.

Lacrosse 

Catoctin boys and girls pulled the No. 3 seed in the brackets, where they both lost to Middletown—the boys in the semis, and the girls in the regional finals.

Track and Field

The Catoctin boys track team won their meet at Fort Hill in the regionals with some notable standouts.

Senior Furious Trammel captured first in the 400 meter dash, the Triple Jump, the Long Jump, and in the 4×400 meter relay with teammates Ronald Etzler, Gavin Sheetz, and Dennis Lease. Gavin Sheetz placed second in the 110 meter hurdles and third in the 300 meter hurdles.  Gabriel Riling won the 1600 and 3200 meter runs and placed second in the 800 meter run. Dennis Lease won the 800 meter run. 

The Catoctin girls track team finished eighth in their meet with a fourth place show in the 4×800 meter relay run by teammates Olivia Baker, Katelyn Bell, Anjiston Casne, and Keira Taylor.

Tennis

Finishing in the playoff brackets in singles for the boys was Zach Kerr and for the girls was Grace Bell. In boys doubles: Daniel Martin and Jackson Starliper; girls doubles: Anessa Stauffer and Lillian Holden; and in mixed doubles: Elliana Mucker and Magnus Moore.

To the Catoctin spring sports seniors, Brayden Grable, Bryont Green, Anthony Kinnamont, Patrick Morlan, David Shipton, Gavin Watkins, Garrett Worth, Charles Dougherty, Randy Hall, Alexander Hauk, Ben Krauss, Haydn Matthews, Vince Reaver, McKenna Gisrael, Malin Grongstad, Allison Kelly, Abbey Shaffer, Anessa Stauffer, Bryce Bowers, Santiago Canadas Fraga, RJ Etzler, Wayne Ferson, Anthony Kinnamount, Dennis Lease, Timothy McCarthy, Gabriel Riling, David Stitely, Furious Trammel, Meghan Gray, and Reagan Miller: Thanks for all you have done for Catoctin sports during your high school careers. May your new journey be even more successful!

Jeremy Johnson, CYA Football & Cheer President

The world of youth sports continues to be a foundation for our community and the future of our next generation. Over the years, there have been both good and not-so-good things that have occurred in youth sports. With that being said, the thing that stands out the most and remains steady and strong is opportunity. There is a tremendous amount of opportunity for the youth to participate, no matter the age, sex, level of skill, or economic status. As part of CYA Football & Cheer, we pride ourselves in opportunity for all.

Over the last year, the launch of Frederick County High School Girls Flag Football has inspired us and motivated a new pilot program within MVYFL (Mountain Valley Youth Football League) to start a Girls Flag Football program for Grades 6-8.

As one of the largest and most successful local youth football associations in the area, MVYFL has the opportunity to develop a feeder girls flag football program for our area high schools. Through our outreach and connections throughout the community, we have a high probability of success for many years to come.

The Girls Flag Football Program’s goals are to promote physical fitness, build self-confidence, foster teamwork, develop leadership skills, offer college opportunities, and challenge gender stereotypes. The league vision allows girls to participate in both cheerleading and flag football.

Starting after Labor Day, the program will have a jamboree-style game day every other weekend through the end of October, with the possibility of a playoff format. The participating MVYFL directors are working diligently to plan and develop the most successful program possible.

Our local leadership at CYA Football & Cheer has also spent countless hours helping to develop this new opportunity for our local youth, as well as the youth of participating MVYFL teams across most of Frederick County.

For further information on the program, please visit www.cyafootballcheer.com and click on registration.

Catoctin Youth Association (CYA) Lacrosse is on an incredible upswing this season! Despite the formidable challenges posed by the COVID pandemic, the program is coming back stronger than ever, thanks to the steadfast dedication of new board members. Their selfless commitment ensures that young boys and girls have the opportunity to engage in this exhilarating sport.

While there’s still plenty of work ahead in the rebuilding process, each passing season brings remarkable growth and improvement. This year, the combined first- through fourth-grade team has returned to the field with unparalleled vigor, boasting an impressive undefeated record of 5-0.

According to Bryan Smith, the head coach of the combined first- through fourth-grade team, “The unwavering dedication and effort displayed by these young athletes, both on and off the field, fill us coaches with immense pride.”

The coaching staff places a strong emphasis on the fundamentals and cultivates a culture of good sportsmanship among its players. This focus is evident in the resilience shown by the older seventh- and eighth-grade team throughout their season’s challenges. Their camaraderie has blossomed into a tight-knit family unit that extends beyond the field and into the Catoctin High School lacrosse program. It’s truly heartwarming to see high school players generously sharing their expertise with youth players, fostering a positive and nurturing environment for our budding athletes.

Chris Doll, the varsity head coach for Catoctin Men’s Lacrosse, affirms that “without a CYA program, you can’t have a successful high school team,” a sentiment echoed by their own successful seasons.

In addition to their competitive teams, CYA is home to the Scoopers—a group of younger children diligently focused on mastering the basics of the game. This program serves as a crucial steppingstone, and CYA Lacrosse is thrilled to announce its plans for further expansion next season, including the introduction of a girls first- through fourth-grade team.

According to Amber Reaver, board secretary, “The future of CYA Lacrosse is promising, and we are excited to embark on this path of growth and success together!”

You can learn more about Catoctin Youth Lacrosse by following its social media pages or by visiting the website at tshq.bluesombrero.com/Default.aspx?tabid=1326268.

with Michael Betteridge

Memo to Catoctin Athletics: Do NOT schedule any baseball or softball games at Boonsboro next year!

Last year, two remarkable Catoctin teams—baseball and softball—rode the bus all the way down to the tiny little town founded by Daniel Boone’s cousin, William Boone. That little Washington County town of Boonsboro was the scene of two historic battles during the Civil War: The Battle of South Mountain in 1862 and the Confederate retreat from Gettysburg a year later.

Catoctin baseball strutted into Boonsboro, riding a 13-game win streak last year, while their Lady Cougar’s compatriots just 200 yards away faced Boonsboro on the softball diamond, riding an equally impressive 6-game streak on their way eventually to the 1A State Championship. After the dust settled, both teams experienced unexplainable defeats at the hands of Boonsboro. Was that a peculiar twist of events? One would think so.  Both teams had beaten Boonsboro at home. Should we just chalk it up to a coincidence or bad juju? Maybe the bus driver made a wrong turn and went through Burkittsville on their way to Boonsboro. All of that would have been easily dismissed were it not for last month’s 2024 return visit to Boonsboro. This time, our guy and gal Cougars were not so cocky. There was no swagger or boasting on the bus. But, the results were the same. The Lady Cougars were pounded 11-1 in a five-inning mercy rule game, and the guys went down 5-2 against what many believed was an inferior team.  Both baseball teams are hovering right around .500, but Catoctin has faced much better competition than Boonsboro. On paper, they are better.  But, once again, the Catoctin baseball and softball teams had a quiet ride home on the team bus.

How can this be? Maybe, it’s the crowd or their fields at Boonsboro.  Maybe, it was that terrible music they were playing from the announcer’s table. I mean, who plays John Fogerty, Johnny Cash, and Allanah Morrisette all in the same break?

Like the Confederates did in 1863, Catoctin should blow the retreat bugle now before they even look at a return to Boonsboro next year. Or, maybe they should bring the Boonsboro Warriors a better mix tape for their games?

If you subtract that trip to Boonsboro from the season, things are looking pretty good. The boys have a good pitching rotation going with Worth, Watkins, Koenig, and Morlan. They come at you from a bunch of different angles. Green, Shipton, Grable, and Bell all have hot bats, and how about that Urbana game?  Facing the team they tied last year for the CMC baseball championship and the #1 team in the county this year, they were down 7-3 for most of the game. In the bottom of the 7th inning, the Cougars rallied at 2 outs with consecutive hits from Grable, Bell, Morlan, and Ferrell. Castellow drove in the winning run 8-7, with a clutch blooper past the mound that he beat out at first. The biggest win so far this year for our baseball team! Watkins struggled against Urbana for four innings, giving up 7 runs. But Urbana is one of the best-hitting teams in the county, that shakes up pitchers with lightning-quick runners who can steal bases at will. Three of Urbana’s runs came off overthrows on runner steals, alone. Catoctin showed real guts, grit, and determination in that game. This is a team that won’t quit, no matter what.

The Lady Cougars softball team chemistry was completely altered with the loss of ace pitcher Taylor Smith.  Taylor isn’t just missed in the circle but at the plate, too. Coach Valentine adjusted the pitching rotation with Aubrey Courtney and Kassidy Kreitz in the circle. And just like their baseball counterparts, the Lady Cougars faced their CMC softball championship rivals from 2023, the Urbana Hawks, once again, back in mid-April. They dispatched the Lady Hawks easily, 10-0 in 5 innings. 

Without Taylor Smith’s dominating pitching, they no longer have the luxury of holding opponents to 2 or 3 runs. Taylor had a smokin’ rise ball that was unhittable. Now, they must rely on run production, and that is exactly what they have been doing. In their first four games of the season, they outscored opponents 56-11. That’s an average of 14 runs per game! Bralyn West is leading the county in hitting, batting .684.  Kassidy Kreitz is leading Frederick County in home runs and RBIs.  Kassidy is a double threat, hitting and pitching. She has an ERA of .51 and averages 10 strikeouts per game.  Abigail Shives and Raegan Miller are right behind her, batting in the 500s. And what can I say about Meghan Gray, the senior and University of Maryland-bound catcher for the Lady Cougars? She has stepped in to continue as a leader of this team and fill the void in the absence of her co-captain, friend, and teammate. My advice is that we erase Boonsboro from our memories and just think of it as an annual bad dream, at least for now. Oh, but I forgot, there is a strong possibility our baseball and softball teams could end up back at Boonsboro in the playoffs. That playoff journey begins on Thursday, May 9. Don’t worry… I’ll talk to the bus driver personally.

Ryan Tokar, CYA Basketball

Dwight Baumgardner, Head Coach, Catoctin Middle School Girls Varsity

The 2023-2024 CYA Basketball season came to a thrilling end in early March. After months of rigorous practices and intense games, it was time for our players to showcase their skills in the end-of-season tournaments for their respective leagues. Our K-2 Instructional Clinic also came to a close, with all of the players learning a lot and having a bunch of fun in the process.

While many teams made serious runs throughout the playoff tournaments, only three were left standing to battle it out for a chance at a championship. From our MYBA Rec Program, CYA was represented by our U12 Boys, coached by Justus Yocum, and U16 Boys, coached by Keith Myers. The U12 Boys had an amazing run during the regular season, going undefeated. That momentum continued in the playoffs, as they remained hot all the way to the championship game. Unfortunately, some untimely injuries and a tough St. John’s team derailed their run, as they fell just short in the championship.

Likewise, the U16 team had an equally impressive regular season, fighting hard and working together to stay very competitive throughout against some very good competition. They, too, would make a solid run in the playoffs; but, like the U12 squad, they fell just short in the championship against Middletown. Despite these losses, both teams represented CYA Basketball well, and they should be extremely proud of their efforts.

On Sunday, March 3, the Catoctin Middle School Girls Varsity team defeated Linganore 39-35 to win the Mid-MD “AA” League Championship.  The team had an outstanding season, going 14-2 during the regular season.  They won their division with a 9-1 record. In the playoffs, the team defeated FSK in the quarterfinals by a score of 59-20. In the semifinals, they defeated Walkersville 46-35, and then beat the previously undefeated Linganore team in the championship to finish the year 17-2 overall. Olivia Hoyt and Sophia Burgee were named Co-MVPs for the playoff tournament.

Congrats to all of our teams on a successful season. We look forward to seeing everyone again next fall!

Mid-MD Girls Varsity celebrates winning the AA Tournament Championship.

Team members are: Ashlyn Vaughan,Caroline Hoyt,Chloe Mathias, Olivia Hoyt, Leah French, Madelynn Case, Madeline Whetzel, Sophia Burgee, Logynn Thomas, and Ivy Simon, with Head Coach Dwight Baumgardner (back, right) and Assistant Coach Tommy Hoyt. 

This is the third straight year the Catoctin Middle School Girls have won Mid-MD Championships.

CYA’s Boys 12U Team went undefeated during the regular season. Pictured (from left) are Coach John Veronie, Stiven Obest, James Clements, Sawyer Burrier, Deegan Beard, Nathanael Fountain, Jeremy Veronie, Weston Tyler, Dominic Jacobs, Daniel Genemans, Eli Yocum, and Coach Justus Yocum.

Sports Talks with Michael Betterridge

Every year, at the beginning of every sports season—fall, winter, and spring—I find that I always have a pre-conceived narrative developed in my head about how the season will turn out before it even starts. And I am certain that the narrative will come to fruition simply because I love my Catoctin Cougars, and that kind of selfless and righteous loyalty and devotion must always be rewarded with success…in a fair world.

I envision a Cougars football team that blows through the opposition to a Cinderella state championship, like in a blizzard in 2009 or Doug Williams holding the championship trophy aloft in his final game in 2019. I dream of another repeat 2022 girls’ basketball team with freshmen Brooke Williams and sophomore Taylor Smith churning through the 1A, this time to win a State 1A championship. I dream of another carnival-like ride from Smithsburg to Bel Air and Deep Creek Lake to Waldorf in 2021, when we put 500 miles on the Cool Oldies 1450 radio wagon to win a state baseball championship against St. Michaels at Regency Furniture Stadium. It’s “poetry in motion” for dreamers like me.

But reality is the constant reminder that the world isn’t fair, and it levels the playing field for everyone.

At the end of the football season, our Catoctin Cougars football team led us down that primrose path to victory on the road in the playoffs, following a tough regular season to Loch Raven and then Patterson Mill. Could this be the year? And, then, Mountain Ridge ended the dream in Frostburg three days before Thanksgiving! There was nothing thankful about that resounding defeat that ended their season.

So, it was on to basketball. As they say, boys will be boys; and so it was with our boys’ basketball team, who play hard, but lose often.

The girls won out to Christmas, six wins in a row! Then, they ran into eventual 4A Maryland State Champion Clarksburg, who handed them their first defeat during the Christmas week tournament at Hood College. If you are going to lose, do it to the state champion of one of the largest schools in Maryland! And, then, 10 wins in a row to face a really good Linganore team for only their second loss of the season. A win at Middletown, and then a loss at Mountain Ridge, and there they were, positioned as the #2 seed in the 1A for a big run to College Park for the second time in three years.

They started the state tournament quarterfinals after six wins in a row against the No. 7 seed, Surrattsville. At 22:17 of the game, our announcers observed that Taylor Smith twisted her ankle. Taylor got up during the injury timeout and walked off the injury. We breathed a sigh of relief. They took her to the bench and checked her out as a safeguard. After the initial shock of the injury subsided, and Taylor relaxed on the bench, the trainer brought Taylor over to the area behind the bleachers to see how she was doing and to examine the injury more closely. We all thought it was an ankle injury, but when we saw the trainer examine Taylor, we realized this was a knee, not an ankle. As we watched, the trainer had Taylor do some deep knee bends and then jump. Taylor’s knee completely gave out on the jump and she sank to the ground in serious pain. And, we knew, this was not good. Sitting immediately to the left of my position at the broadcast table at courtside was Taylor’s softball coach, Jess Valentine. She saw the collapse, and I heard a gasp from Coach Jess in horror. She began to realize that the most valuable player on the 2024 Catoctin girls’ softball team, who had played to within one run of a state championship last year, had just experienced a potentially devastating year-ending knee injury. The narrative had taken a turn that was as far from our dreams as we could ever imagine.  Taylor had torn her ACL. I remember the eerie sound in the gym that night.  You could have heard a pin drop when Taylor collapsed on the floor in pain.  Coach Burdette, Coach Little, and I looked at each other at the broadcast table and our hearts sank. The basketball team lost its quarterback, and the softball team that was destined for a repeat state championship would soon be without its starting pitcher and one of its best hitters before it had even begun. The worst realization for all of us was that as the Lady Cougars destroyed Surrattsville, 55-18, in that pivotal game, they could have easily done it without Taylor, who would not have been injured. But, then, who knew?

The Lady Cougars basketball team lost in the next round to South Carroll, even though the team, without Taylor, played their hearts out. Taylor sat on the bench, along with her crutches, cheering her teammates on at Thomas Johnson High School in the 1A state semifinals.

It was such a devastating loss to our broadcast team, personally, that for the first time in 10 years, we did not go to College Park for the finals, even though the Oakdale girls and the Frederick boys were playing for championships. 

Congratulations to the Frederick boys on a MD 4A basketball State Championship, the lone Frederick County team to bring home a trophy from College Park this year. 

Year after year, we follow every Frederick County team to the state championships. This year, we would have broadcast the Oakdale girls in the 3A and the Frederick boys in the 4A, but we just didn’t have any desire to go there without our Lady Cougars after what happened to Taylor.

I guess, in retrospect, success is hollow without overcoming disappointments, and that’s why we play the games. They tell the stories of real life and not my fairy-tale sports dreams.

Taylor, we love you. Your heart, toughness, athleticism, and competitive spirit represent our hopes that spring eternal. I think I can speak for the entire community when I say that we are all praying for a quick and complete recovery. 

That was why it got so quiet in the gym that night…we were all praying for you!

Jeff Yocum

In 1988, Coach Richard Long gave up coaching at Francis Scott Key High School (FSK) to spend more time coaching his son.

Before he hung up his whistle and clipboard, though, he had racked up quite an enviable record at FSK.

In January of 2024, FSK inducted Sabillasville resident, Richard Long, into its Athletic Hall of Fame.

Although FSK is one of Carroll County’s smallest schools, Coach Long’s records in basketball and baseball gave the school prominence—not only in Carroll County, but throughout the State of Maryland.

Coach Long’s Achievements

Helped start FSK’s football program in 1969—coaching three years as an assistant coach.

Helped start the baseball program in 1968.

Coached freshman basketball from 1968 to 1972 and 1990—record of 77 wins and 23 losses.

Coached baseball from 1968 to 1988.

FSK went to the state Final-Four five times.

State Champion in 1984.

MVAL Champions 1970, 1974, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1980, 1981, and 1984.

At a time when only the top four schools went to the baseball playoffs, his teams went 19 times in 21 years.

Coached the Maryland State All-State baseball team in 1985.

Named Carroll County Times Coach of the Year six times.

Baltimore Sun’s Coach of the Year for the State of Maryland.

Carroll County Computer Teacher of the Year.

Carroll County Teacher of the Year 2002.

Nominated Maryland Teacher of the Year 2002.

Coach Long retired from teaching in 2002. Since 1996, he has been the minister for the Catoctin Church of Christ in Thurmont. He and his wife, Debbie, reside next-door to his son and daughter-in-law, Eric and Hope, along with his two grandsons, Hunter and Tucker, who get to take advantage and benefit from all of his coaching knowledge.

with Michael Betteridge

March is always depicted as such an angry month. After all, March is actually named after the god of war: Mars. This came from the Roman calendar, and modern historians know that because their military campaigns began in March. The original pre-Julian calendar didn’t even bother to name the winter months. They were treated as throwaways. At the conclusion of the unnamed months, a named month was needed to reflect the transition from winter to preparing to go to war. March was originally the first month of the year. 

Modern society follows the spirit of the ancient traditions. We have March Madness and references to March being a “Lion” and “mad as a March Hare” and “beware the Ides of March.” It is even tempting to look at the actual meaning of the word for this month as a command to action…March! The central theme being: March madness is really a part of human DNA.

Has March gotten a bad rap? I don’t think so. It can snow 10 inches in one week, and then be sunny and in the 60s the next week. That happened just five years ago. On March 8, 2019, the daytime high was 37 degrees and it was snowing. On March 11, the daytime high was 61 and it was sunny.  March can bring raging wind, sleet, and ice, as well as warm sunshine, budding flowers, and birds chirping, all in the same month, even days apart.

We mark March as a time of transition: “In like a lion and out like a lamb.” We transition our clocks to daylight savings time in March.  March symbolizes the shedding of old habits and a path for new beginnings.  Just as the Earth shakes off the shackles of winter madness, we are encouraged to embrace the sanity of spring.

Sports have always been a great metaphor for life. Who would ever come up with the term: “May Madness”? It just doesn’t work. 

The term “March Madness” is not new. It is 85 years old. The term originated in 1939, when high school teacher Henry Porter referred in a sports column to an eight-game high school playoff basketball tournament by saying the following: “A little March madness may complement and contribute to sanity and help keep society on an even keel.” That’s right! March Madness started in high school basketball! It wasn’t until 1982 that famed CBS broadcaster Brent Musburger claimed he borrowed the term from an automobile commercial while broadcasting a high school basketball game.

Musburger brought the term over to college ball when he went to work for CBS, and it stuck. Can you imagine Brent Musburger sitting in the Catoctin gym, broadcasting Cougars basketball on WTHU? Well, that’s where Musburger got his start, in a high school gym in Illinois.  Who knows? Maybe you could be watching the next Musburger at Catoctin 10 to 20 years from now. For certain, not yours truly, but have you listened to our newest WTHU sports announcer Ryan Piers? He is “future star” good!

March Madness is now everywhere, especially here in our area. The governing state body for high school athletics, the MPSSAA, expanded girls’ and boys’ high school basketball to include all schools, big and small, regardless of their season record. They created an “NCAA” bracket of schools in the 1A, 2A, 3A, and 4A divisions. That means 388 boys’ and girls’ high school basketball teams will compete in our own March Madness, which will end with 16 teams playing at the Xfinity Center on the campus of the University of Maryland on March 15 and 16 for a state championship!

For your own little bracket pool, let me help you with a little advance forecast of who to watch in the tournament. In the 4A Boys, Frederick, Urbana, and TJ are at the top. In the Girls 4A, the Frederick lady Cadets are back! In the Girls 3A, Oakdale and Linganore are the teams to watch. The Boys 3A are struggling with Oakdale right around .500. The 2A Boys team to watch is the Walkersville Lions. Coach Mathis has them primed and ready to make another run to College Park. Don’t forget about the Middletown boys and their incredible undefeated run through midseason. Speaking of Middletown, watch out for the Lady Knights in the tournament and keep an eye on Williamsport. They love to play the spoiler. Coach Murphy always surprises.

And, now, our own bracket of madness: the 1A Boys and Girls Basketball tournament is always a nail-biter.

Once again, Coach Amy has our Lady Cougars poised at the top. This will not be an easy postseason for the Lady Cougars, who will almost certainly have to work their way through Smithsburg, Mountainridge, and Southern to make it back to College Park.

The boys have it easy.  No pressure. They are sitting toward the bottom of their bracket, and any postseason victories the team and Coach Zach can secure will be a win for the program. They are much improved this year.

No matter what your opinions on March, there is always one thing you can count on: madness. And, don’t forget, the softball and baseball seasons begin in March. I hope I have convinced you. March deserves every depiction it receives, good and bad. 

Hang in there. It’s all about the ride.

Ryan Tokar, CYA Basketball

On Sunday, February 4, CYA Basketball held its annual Shoot-a-thon fundraiser. This is the largest annual fundraiser for our program, and proceeds go toward necessities like gym rentals, uniforms, equipment, paid officials, and league fees. As always, the community came out in support of the program in a big way once again this year, with the Shoot-a-thon bringing in over $10,000 in online and cash donations.

The concept of the Shoot-a-thon is for players to collect money from sponsors for a chance to win prizes. To be eligible for prizes, each player must raise at least $50.00; however, they can continue to raise additional money above and beyond that. Prizes are given out to the top overall fundraisers and to the players who have the highest overall percentage of shots made. The number of shots attempted is based on the age group of the player, with anywhere from 20 to 100 shots being attempted. In most cases, shots are attempted from the free throw line; however, the younger ages are moved in several feet closer and shoot on lowered rims. CYA Basketball programs consist of youths, aged kindergarten all the way through high school. The boys and girls high school teams served as volunteers to help record the scores for younger players.

The winners of this year’s highest shooting percentage were: Alex Potter—Highest Overall Percentage Foul Shooter, K-2 Clinic—Carson Unger, U10 Boys/Girls—Bryce Rickerd, Saniya Smitely and Peyton Wills, U12 Boys/Girls—Luke Wiles, U14 Boys/Girls—Mason Hewitt, Mid MD Boys/Girls—Brayden Rickerd, and High School—Samantha Orndorff. The overall fundraising winner was Brynleigh Irons, while leaders from each age group were: K-2 Clinic—Kaylee Cox, U10 Boys/Girls—Aiden Munday, U12 Boys/Girls—Eli Yocum, U14 Boys/Girls—Austin Vernon, Mid MD Boys/Girls—Chase Cregger, and High School—Abagayle Shrives. Winners were each awarded a Dick’s Sporting Goods gift card for their prize. The teams with the most overall donations also earned a free pizza party.

Along with the $10,000 raised, the league also collected several hundred non-perishable goods, which were donated to the Thurmont/Emmitsburg community to help those in need. Players received raffle tickets for each item they donated, and there were several great prize baskets given away. Connor McGrew won the Movie Basket, featuring a Warehouse Cinemas gift card and all the snacks you need for a movie night. Jessica Watson won the Baseball/Softball Basket, which included a free Thurmont Little League registration with other themed items. Bryant Price won the Football Basket with a free CYA Football/Cheer registration and a football/pump/tee pack. CYA Basketball also donated a themed basket with a free registration, and one basketball set, shoe charms, and a Gatorade bottle/towel package. This was won by Jace Fisher. And, finally, there was a gift card tree featuring a few favorite local establishments, which was won by Dave Oxenford.

Throughout the afternoon, there were activities, including music, Face Painting by Elizabeth, and team/individual photos. All in all, it was an enjoyable day and a wonderful event. CYA Basketball would like to thank the community, parents, and volunteers for their support. Without you, it would not have been such a tremendous success.

February was a busy month for our program, kicking off with our annual Shoot-a-thon Fundraiser on February 4. We raised over $10,000 and collected plenty of non-perishable food for the community. Most importantly, the players had a lot of fun!

On Friday, February 16, we celebrated CYA Night at the Catoctin Lady Cougars basketball game. This was in conjunction with their Breast Cancer Awareness Night, so there was a packed house on hand to see this hard-working group of ladies, who would eventually go on to win the CMC Championship.

February is also a bittersweet month, as players who have been in our organization for many years—some as far back as Kindergarten—prepare to move on from our program to the next level of high school. We held recognition ceremonies for both the girls and boy’s 8th graders from our Mid MD Programs.

The Girls’ Varsity team would go out and defeat Oakdale by a score of 60-23, while the Boys’ Varsity lost in a tough matchup against Smithsburg. We also used the Boys’ ceremony as an opportunity to recognize the contributions of two long-time coaches from within our program: Eric Harvey and Jenn Cregger. Both will be moving on after this season, and they were surprised by returning players from the Catoctin JV team, who presented them with some nice parting gifts. CYA Basketball would like to thank them for their many years of dedicated service!

Speaking of our Mid MD program, we had two teams win division championships this season. The Girls’ Varsity, led by Dwight Baumgardner, went 9-1 to win the Chesapeake Division. While the Boys’ JV, also went 9-1 to win the Piedmont Division in their league. Congrats to both teams on an amazing season, and best of luck in the playoffs!

The month wound down with a rare matchup between two of our U14 MYBA Boys teams. They battled it out in front of a huge crowd of their families and friends at Thurmont Middle School. Coach Kiona Black’s team would come out with the victory, to secure the bragging rights for this year.

And, finally, we closed out the month with CYA Basketball Day at Mount Saint Mary’s University. Players received discounted admission by wearing their CYA jerseys and were invited on court at halftime to participate in a huge game of “Knock Out.” Everyone was treated to a big Mount victory over Iona. It was an exciting way to cap off an extremely busy month.

Alisha Yocum

Our local community is known for its love of baseball, and 12 local players will get to take that love of the game to Cooperstown Dream Park in New York this August.

Jeff Potter of Potter Baseball, an organization based out of Odenton, Maryland, has taken over 200 players to Cooperstown to play in the week-long tournament since 2009. During this tournament, teams of 12-year-olds from all over the country come to experience what people call “the greatest tournament in America,” which started back in 1996. Cooperstown, New York, is also home to Doubleday Field, where the game of baseball began back in 1839, as well as the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Potter receives two “berths” each year, which allows him to select two teams to play in the summer tournament. In 2024, Potter has selected a group of young men from the Catoctin community to receive one of his “berths” and will play as the Potter’s Pirates. For the past year, families of the baseball players have been fundraising to cover the costs associated with playing in the tournament, which nears $30,000.  The 2024 Cooperstown team includes Camden Atkinson; Desean Brown; James Clements; Kaiden Dewees; Daniel Geneman; Parker Hahn; Holden Holmes; Evan Laird; Wesley Meekins; Weston Tyler; Jeremy Veronie; Eli Yocum; and coaches, Nathan Laird, Justus Yocum, Chad Hahn, Jimmie Holmes, and John Veronie.

Potter said he has sent two teams from the Catoctin area in the past, and it was a great success. He is looking forward to a long relationship with the town of Thurmont and surrounding areas.

The Potter Pirates would like to thank the community and the local businesses for their support to help make this dream a reality, and they can’t wait to make everyone proud when they take the field in Cooperstown this summer.

Local players will represent the Catoctin community, playing for the Potter’s Pirates in Cooperstown, New York.

Photo Courtesy of Nicole Tyler

with Michael Betteridge

This month, we tack on an extra day to the end of the month: February 29. This is called a leap year. We do it every four years. But, since the advent of the atomic clock, which is even more precise than the Gregorian calendar that Western civilization has used for hundreds of years, according to the National Bureau of Standards, we now have “leap seconds.” The new atomic second does not always line up with the Earth’s solar day, so scientists down 270 in Germantown, Maryland, are allowed to add or subtract leap seconds at their discretion.

And you thought technology makes life simpler!

If you are born on February 29, you are a leapling. That doesn’t mean you can jump higher. It just means that even though you may celebrate your birthday every year, you are much younger than the rest of us. This has its pros and cons. Because the Earth revolving on its axis is slowing down, we have to adjust. If you think these calculations are way too precise, just imagine what would happen to our astronauts who are trying to dock to the International Space Station if the scientists have the wrong time measurement in relationship to the Earth’s rotation.

This all started with Julius Caesar, who had an affinity for the Egyptians and decided to adopt their solar calendar in 46BC. They argued about this for 1,706 years.

American colonialists went to bed on September 2 and woke up on September 14. Since there were no agreements on the proper calendar to use for hundreds of years, there were no adjustments made, and by the time they settled the matter in 1752, they were 11 days behind!

National Bureau of Standards scientist James Barnes once said: “It takes time to agree on time.” But, those aren’t the only leaplings around. We have some right here in our own back yard, past and present. Catoctin Lady Cougar Kathy Messner, who graduated in 1998, still holds the all-time Maryland high school State record for the high jump at 5’ 9”—Messner literally jumped over my head! Hannah Stone won a State championship in 2012, with a high jump of 5’6”.

This year’s Catoctin Lady Cougars basketball team has a bunch of leaplings. Sophomore Brooke Williams at 5’10” is ranked 3rd in Frederick County in rebounds, averaging eight per game. Her teammate, Taylor Smith, is averaging 5.9 rebounds per game, and Kelsey Troxell, 5.6 rebounds per game. Talk about leaplings! And if you think our Lady Cougars can leap, how about the boys?

Robert Ruch Jr. is 2nd in the county with 9.3 rebounds per game. Former Cougars Coach Brian Burdette, who is now in the broadcast booth, put it this way when describing Ruch’s play against Brunswick recently: “He plays like a man among boys.” Indeed! Ruch, Matt Offutt, and Logan Williams are the leaders on this team. It all starts with them. Furious Trammel, David Stitely, and Brady Koenig leap past opponents in boys Indoor Track and Field.

Meghan Grey, Becka Zentz, and Ella Burrier qualify as leaplings on the ladies Indoor Track and Field team.  And let’s not forget the best leaplings of all: girls volleyball. You can’t play volleyball if you can’t leap. Just ask Mackenzie Anderson, the Calhoun sisters, Tatiana Owens, Alexandra Potter, Abbey Shaffer or Dugan, Ganjon, Horman, Keller, O’Dea and Trinity Spidle.

Maybe we should change the mascot from the Catoctin Cougars to the Catoctin Leaplings, or should we wait another four years and see?

A New Year

with Michael Betteridge

Traditionally, the start of a new year signals a time for reflections, resolutions, and predictions. Let’s take some time to do that together.

Looking back at the 2023 high school sports year, we have many reasons to smile. 

Our Catoctin Lady Cougars basketball team was amazing in March 2023. They finished the season as the No. 1 seed in their region and went on to lose a heartbreaker in the playoffs to underdog Boonsboro.

Our Catoctin baseball team finished the season with 18 wins and 2 losses, one a jaw-dropper at Boonsboro and the other in the playoffs to the eventual Maryland State 1A Champion, Clear Spring Blazers, for the second year in a row. The Cougars were also declared baseball co-champions in the CMC with Urbana in a rather unusual game played at FCC that ran out of daylight.

Catoctin Lady Cougars softball battled all the way to the 1A Maryland State Championship, where they played their hearts out in a hard-to-describe 1-0 loss.

In a rather odd footnote, both Catoctin baseball and softball lost on the same day at Boonsboro, within shouting distance of each other. Both Boonsboro teams pulled off one of the few defeats of Catoctin that year on the same day at Boonsboro. We might want to reconsider that scheduling this year. And to add insult to injury, Boonsboro knocked our Lady Cougars basketball team out of the playoffs when they were almost certainly headed for another state championship repeat visit. We’ll call it the curse of Boonsboro for now.

Our Catoctin football team struggled this year. Fifth in their division, they lost their starting quarterback to injury toward the end of the regular season. But that seemed to give them a bit of a chip on their shoulders, and they plowed through playoff divisional opponents as the underdog on the road all the way into the state quarterfinals. That is a pretty respectable show of guts and determination for a team that many critics had written off as the playoffs began.

Catoctin boys lacrosse finished 9-3, and the girls lacrosse finished second seed in the 1A region two. Shoutouts to Brody Buffington who made it a very interesting year indeed, both on and off the track; to Furious Trammel who had a great season, and an even better postseason; and to Jenna Conley who finished the Maryland State Girls Track Championship in the 800, 1600, and 3200 meter runs. Catoctin cross country finished fourth in the 1A West championship! Catoctin field hockey made it all the way to round two of the playoffs. Shoutout to Catoctin Cougars golf leader, Jordan Moore, who finished the year with a 146 in a two-day combined state championship total. Catoctin boys and girls soccer made it into round two in the playoffs.  Both teams had a great regular season.

That’s our look back. Now it’s time to talk about resolutions. I resolve that I am terrible at New Year’s resolutions. Like most people, I start the year off with some amazing aspirations. Every year, I resolve to lose weight, to read more, and to spend more time with my family. By March or April, I pat myself on the back for achieving such great goals and staying on track, but then I begin to drift back into the routine that created them in the first place. I will share a tool I have used for many years that I find very helpful with personal planning for the new year.  It was created by Zig Ziglar, and it’s called the Wheel of Life. Google it and print out the wheel, which helps you plan personal, physical, family, career, spiritual, and financial goals. Just rate yourself on his wheel and set some goals and objectives for the year. It’s fun and personally challenging.

Now the final part of our New Year’s journey together: predictions!  Here’s my first prediction for the New Year: If Catoctin can avoid the Boonsboro curse, the Lady Cougars basketball team will play in the 2024 Maryland State championship for the second time in three years in March. Brooke Williams, only a sophomore, will lead the 1A in scoring and rebounding. Taylor Smith and Kelsey Troxell are the heart and soul of this team’s spirit. Kylie Perhach, Harley Fitzpatrick, Sam Orndoff, Grace Williams, and Beka Zentz are amazing off the bench. Coach Amy Entwistle has built something special over there on Sabillasville Road. And, if you haven’t seen the JV team play, make it a point to do so! I can’t wait to see those girls on varsity. These are some athletic ninth and tenth graders.

Catoctin baseball lost senior Joey McMannis to the University of Maryland, but only two other seniors graduated. Pay close attention to this year’s pitching tandem led by senior Logan Malachowski, and my prediction that they will beat Clear Spring this year. Two years in a row is enough.

Catoctin softball will feature Virginia-bound Taylor Smith on the mound again, with only two seniors graduating from last year’s championship team. I predict another trip to the finals at the University of Maryland softball stadium. That may be the best bet for the 2023-24 high school sports season.

One final prediction: I predict Deb Spalding will have a blast in Arizona and enjoy all the great things to see and do. It is one of my favorite states from the Kaibab to Organ Pipe. I want to thank Deb Spalding for her support and leadership through 2023. She supported me when I took on the task of writing this column in 2022, and I am truly grateful for her trust and wish her all the best as she moves to the next challenge in her life. Thanks, Deb!

with Michael Betteridge

Prediction: Christmas Will Come Early This Year

Here in December, many of us are out shopping for Christmas gifts for our loved ones. Flush with the delicious smells of the Thanksgiving kitchen and basking in the glow of tryptophans, we pull out the wrapping paper, ribbons and bows and we start wrapping the special presents first.

For Frederick County football fans, we’ve selected the gift, chosen the paper and now we’re looking for the right ribbon to finish that perfect gift. Heading into the first round of the Maryland State football quarterfinal tournament, the gift has been selected.  We see a historic presence emerge from our region. With only ten high schools in Frederick County, seven of them are in the tournament, now that’s some special wrapping paper. Granted three of those teams are there because of the new 4A/3A and 2A/1A divisions, but it’s still one for the record books.

Our own hometown Catoctin Cougars tie a ribbon around an amazing run through two higher seeded teams on the road in an improbable story of injury, disappointment and last second victory. Their season ended in the quarterfinal in Frostburg, but what a Cinderella story. Fifth in their division, only three wins on the season, they pull off back-to-back stunners. They beat Loch Raven at their house and then they traveled ninety-one miles – all the way over to Patterson Mill – to pull out a last-second-win on a nifty Shaymus Stull quarterback sneak to stun the Huskies. Ask wide receiver Logan Malachowski how it felt to go there in 2021 and beat them on their own baseball field as the underdogs and then to do it again in 2023 wearing a football jersey. Patterson Mill wants nothing to do with the Catoctin Cougars for quite some time. 

The Cougars are certainly in good company with their Frederick County neighbors: Walkersville, Oakdale, Linganore, Frederick, Middletown and Urbana made the playoffs too.  I think we can all say that Frederick County football has arrived as a predominant force in Maryland high school sports. Montgomery County has thirty (30) high schools and five (5) in the playoffs. Prince Georges County has four (4) schools in the playoffs out of twenty-four (24). Baltimore City has thirty-seven (37) high schools with four (4) schools in the playoffs. Our only true rival is Allegany County with three (3) out of three (3) schools in the playoffs, but they are all in the 1A up against Catoctin. No wonder it’s so hard to win a football championship in the 1A for Catoctin and Brunswick.  They have to face those big, corn-fed mountain boys with nothing to do up north but play football all year. The road to Annapolis in the 1A always goes through Western Maryland. Is that incredible? Frederick County, one of the smallest counties in the number of high schools has 7 out of 10 schools playing in a Maryland State football quarterfinal!

What is the most precious Christmas gift you ever received? Can you remember way back to when you bolted down the stairs Christmas morning and began tearing through the wrapping paper and boxes? Then, in the corner of the room leaning next to the tree, you saw it! You felt a lump in your throat. Could it be? Are my dreams and prayers about to come true? You began to tear open the paper exposing the box and YES! there it was. The lettering on the box gave it away. A Sears Silvertone electric guitar with an amplifier built right into the case! I was fourteen years old and I was certain that this was the beginning of my career as a rockstar guitarist. Alongside the case was a brown and black velour turtleneck long sleeved shirt. I still have that picture of myself standing there next to the Christmas tree looking like I was a part of the British Invasion right down to the braces on my teeth, smiling and ready to form my own eighth grade rock band.

Frederick County high school football fans feel about this postseason the same way I felt about my first electric guitar – ecstatic! Because, we are almost guaranteed, after a four-year drought, Frederick County is bringing home a trophy. Last year, we had only one team in the State championship: Oakdale and they lost to the dreaded Damascus Hornets. Linganore lost the championship in 2021. No football in 2020. Catoctin and Middletown won the 1A and 2A in 2019. Four long miserable years with only two teams in State and they both lost.

Here’s why I compare this football season to the most incredible Christmas present you ever received. It’s almost 100% certain that Linganore and Oakdale will meet in the 3A State football championship. Can you imagine what the stands at the Naval Academy will look like filled with Hawks and Lancer fans? Neighbors will look across the field at each other. They will meet at the snack bar. Some will wear black, some will wear red. And if Walkersville can make it past a powerful Huntingtown team, we will have three Frederick County teams vying for two Maryland State championships in the 2A and the 3A just like 2019! Wow, Frederick County football is for real.

Christmas just might come three weeks early this year!

with Michael Betteridge

Life Is A Playoff!

Fall is a time of transition from summer to winter. November marks the end of fall. The weather is beginning to change. Our beautiful meadows and woods are beginning to change. We sense a hint of change in the air everywhere. We bring the winter clothing out. We prepare our homes and yards for the winter. We gather with family and friends to thank the Lord for the blessings and the harvest in our lives. We are comfortable with the rhythm of the seasons. We recognize the time is drawing near when we will be inside more than not. We spend more time outdoors now that the hot summer months have ended, enjoying the mild days and the crisp, cool nights.

I love to go camping. For 30 years at this time of year, I have made it a point to head out to my favorite campsite to spend two or three days just relaxing, enjoying the quiet, fishing and hiking, and sitting by the campfire. My family and I have made many memories during these fall campouts. Time with the children and grandchildren, laughing, playing, and discovering. Time with each other. We all need to take time from our busy schedules to stop and listen to that “rhythm.” To reconnect with the Lord’s creation. To get away and remember who we are again. The grind can take its toll. We need to recharge our tired bodies and minds.

Competitive sports are a lot like life. They teach young people when to work hard, when to rest, when to reconnect, and how that rhythm can prepare them to achieve beyond their limits.

In high school competitive sports, November is a time of change. A time when we transition from the high school fall sports regular season to the playoffs. A time when young people learn that life can sometimes require more than you think you can give.

The ebb and flow of the seasons are driven by change. Change is inevitable. Even the playoffs have changed in the past eight years. In 2015, Frederick County departed from the Monocacy Valley Athletic Association and formed the Central Maryland Conference (CMC). This created a whole new alignment in teams and schedules. In that first year, we only played Frederick County teams in the regular season. The playoffs stayed the same. In 2016, we changed from playing the football championships at Ravens Stadium to the Naval Academy. In 2017, we added Washington County to the CMC. In 2019, we changed from a ten-game regular season schedule to nine games. That change includes a new playoff format that allows every football team to play at least one round in the playoffs, regardless of their record. In the past, only the top four teams in each division played in November. Now, everybody plays in the postseason. The new playoff format would allow a regular-season winless team to actually win a state championship! The chances are slim to none, but for the past four years, it is possible. Our Frederick County teams play in the CMC. Just this past August, the CMC added a 16th school to the conference: Clear Spring. The CMC created two new divisions: Small School (1A and 2A) and Large School (3A and 4A/3A) within the conference, with four new subdivisions. There are two for the small schools: Antietam and Gambrill; and two for the large schools: Potomac and Spires. Now, two CMC championships (small school and large school) will be crowned in every sport except football (risk of injury) and girls flag football, which is too new. Field Hockey will have one championship game.

We begin this month with coaches, players, and fans preparing for the fall sports season playoffs. Trick or treat turns into trick play or fumble treat, which turns into Thanksgiving and then the state championships. Many of you know how much fun sports at Catoctin Stadium can be. Can you imagine how much the “electricity” gets turned up in the playoffs?

Let’s talk about football. Catoctin lost to Brunswick in the final game of the football season last year, and then lost to them again a week later at Brunswick in the first round of the playoffs. This year, we could be headed for a similar matchup. These two teams always play each other on the last game of the regular season; and for the past two years, they also met in the first round of the playoffs. The Catoctin Cougars football team has not made it past the first round of the playoffs since Doug Williams coached them all the way to a state championship in 2019. Brunswick may be the stumbling block again this year. Only time will tell.

Catoctin had a rough schedule this year, playing against five out of nine teams on their schedule that have a combined 36-11 win-loss record. Their lone three wins this season came against teams that were below .500: Williamsport, Tuscarora, and Smithsburg, who have a combined five wins total amongst them in 27 games played. Catoctin football has not beaten any good teams this season.  They have only made it past three teams that are struggling. They will enter the playoffs as a sixth or seventh seed in an eight-team division.

Football is not the only fall sport headed into the playoffs. The boys soccer playoffs began on October 25, and the Cougars boys soccer team has a good chance to make it out of the 1A West region 2 playoffs.

Regardless of the high school fall sport you follow, this month will provide the roller coaster thrills and spills that make football, girls flag football, cross-country, soccer, field hockey, and volleyball so much fun. This is a special time of year for our Catoctin seniors and their families.

November’s changes bring permanent memories that last a lifetime.

Life is a playoff!

with Michael Betteridge

A Century Later:

An Old Sport with a New Name

On October 11, 1923, a new sport was launched in Frederick County: field ball. This was an 11-on-11 game for girls, played on a field where the players ran up and down the field passing the ball to each other and trying to put it through a goal. It was kind of like basketball on a soccer field. In that first game, Frederick defeated Thurmont 13-0. This girls’ sport was played up until the 1940s when it eventually died out.

One hundred years later, field ball is back. Only now, we call it flag football. Flag football is not a new sport, and girls playing football is not new either. But girls playing flag football is new and exciting and is taking off all over Frederick County.

As a culture, we have been trying for the past 50 years to redefine the role of women in sports. It has been a difficult process. And, uniquely, because of the contact involved, football has been one of the few sports where women rarely competed.

When I was in my early 20s, I remember my brother burst into my bedroom shouting: “Quick, quick, Joe Garagiola is over at Jackie’s house, interviewing her.” 

Well, Joe was a really big name in sports broadcasting, so I knew this was huge. It was huge because our next-door neighbor had just made the first cut on the Washington Senators baseball team. The first woman ever to enter Major League baseball. Jackie could hum a fastball. Jackie never made it past the second cut. There are no breakthrough female athletes in Major League baseball or the NFL. However, women have managed to break through the coaching barrier at the NFL level.

While coaching youth football, I remember playing Chambersburg in the opening round of the playoffs at the Gettysburg High School field. Fairfield and Chambersburg were tied at the end of regulation. The tie-breaker formula was to line up on the 10-yard line. Each team had four downs to score. Chambersburg won the toss, lined up, and immediately punched it in behind their big strong fullback. When that fullback took off her helmet and smiled at the crowd, one of my players gasped and said, “She’s a girl.”

Girls can play football. Several years ago, I was asked to broadcast an Arena Football game at the Frederick Sports Complex. After the game, the Baltimore Charm began practice. It was the Ladies’ Lingerie Football league. Leaving the word “lingerie” out of the discussion for a minute, these were some big, strong athletic women, playing a dangerous contact sport at collision speeds, and they were good! That lingerie thing was just silly. It defines the struggle, once again, over the identity of women’s sports.

One hundred years later, high school girls’ sports have overcome the challenges of stereotypes, and an exciting new sport has evolved this fall: High School Girls Flag Football. 

The Catoctin Cougars flag football team is coached by former Catoctin Cougar’s softball and basketball star, Lizzie Dougherty. Lizzie graduated from Catoctin in 2018. Lizzie drove in the tying run in the CMC championship softball game that helped her team beat Linganore for the County softball title. Ironically, her Cougars softball coach, Jess Valentine, is now the head coach of the Tuscarora Titans girls flag football team. These two former Cougar players stood across the field from each other last September 20—mentor versus mentee, coach versus player, now coach against coach. We covered the game broadcast, and it was truly a surreal moment seeing Coach Valentine in Tuscarora green. Apparently, you can coach at more than one school in more than one sport. Case in point, next spring, you will see Coach Valentine back in Cougars blue in the dugout with Lizzie Dougherty, an assistant softball coach. It’s a good thing the Cougars don’t play Tuscarora in softball this year. That could be very confusing for some of the Tuscarora players.

The rules for flag football are very different from regular football. The field is smaller. There are no kickoffs or punts. The game demands speed and agility, not strength and power. You can expect a lot of fun trick plays that utilize backs and receivers in motion and counter plays to fool defenses. With a running clock and two 20-minute halves, the game was over in a blink. It lasted one hour and four minutes. It was truly a learning experience for our broadcast team. We enjoyed it immensely. We were very impressed with the speed of Tuscarora. They are fast and athletic. Coach Valentine even dialed up some old school gadgetry, pulling the Statue of Liberty play out for a nice gain in the second half.

Our Lady Cougars were led by senior quarterback Peyton Davis, who ripped off some pretty good runs of her own. Maddie Ohler made some great catches and showed some real finesse and running ability. Maddie, Kayden Glotfelty, Mackenzie Lewis, and Aubrie Courtney looked like the same excellent athletes we saw in the state championship softball game last May. Morgan Gregory was the defensive star of the game for Catoctin. She had six tackles and one quarterback sack.

There are two more home games on the schedule for the Lady Cougars flag football team: Wednesday, October 4, and Wednesday, October 11. Put a star on one of those dates on your calendar and head over to the new, beautiful Catoctin football stadium to enjoy some electrifying, girls flag football. What a great way to spend an evening. Go Cougars!

The Catoctin-Ettes, inc., has just completed its in-house twirling and marching contest for its membership. Corps members competed in various marching events, including pom poms, baton, and adult-parent march. In addition to marching, the twirlers performed their twirling skills and competed with various dance moves as they pertain to baton twirling. 

The contest gave the twirlers a taste of a different avenue of baton twirling, as they twirled and danced their way through these competitive events. First place trophies were awarded to deserving individuals; and second and third places were also recognized awards.

Parade Strut first-place winners were Kasandra Grimes, Hannah Gonzalez, and Georgia Winslow. Second place was awarded to Janae Rene’, Ruby Elswick, and Sydney Topper. Third place was earned by Isabelle Roath.

Pom Strut trophies were presented to first place winners: Georgia Winslow and Janae Rene, with second-place ribbons going to Sydney Topper, Hannah Gonzalez, Kasandra Grimes, and Ruby Elswick.

Basic Strut, which is a march using two arms, had first-place winners of Janae Rene’ and Hannah Gonzalez. Second place was earned by Ruby Elswick and Kasandra Grimes.

In the event of Basic Skills, in which twirlers demonstrate twirling concepts, first place was earned by Georgia Winslow, Janae’ Rene, and Ruby Elswick. Second-place ribbons were earned by Sydney Topper, Isabelle Roath, and Hannah Gonzalez. Third place went to Kasandra Grimes.

Parade Routine allows the twirler to compete in the routine that is the group’s parade style demonstration. First place trophies were captured by Ruby Elswick and Isabelle Roath with second place going to Janae Rene’.

Presentation is a short program constructed solely by the twirler. First place for admirable work went to Hannah Gonzalez, Georgia Winslow, and Janae Rene’.

The highlight of the contest was the Parent Strut and the Parent-Child Strut. First place was earned by the Rene’ family of marchers in each of the two events. Ruby Elswick also won first place in the Parent-Strut event.  Second place was earned by Leann Deardorff, while third place was won by Cheyenne Shaw.

The group now begins work on its annual holiday program, set to be held at Catoctin High School. For more information on the Catoctin-Ettes, inc. and upcoming free baton-twirling courses, contact Donna Landsperger at 240-405-2604 or by email at donito@aol.com

with Michael Betteridge

Comfort Is The Enemy Of Greatness

Our hometown Catoctin Cougars’ fall sports season began on August 9 at 7:00 a.m. at Catoctin High School, when our guys and gals came streaming through the doors of the school, carrying their gym bags, equipment, and hopes and dreams for the fall 2023 high school sports season. Football, soccer, cross country, field hockey, volleyball, and golf are in full swing with everyone returning to practice exactly two weeks before the first day of school on August 23.

One of the biggest changes at Catoctin is the new artificial turf field, installed throughout the month of August. Some athletes like the artificial surface because it is faster, and some prefer natural grass because it is more forgiving. The one undeniable thing is that you can play on the artificial surface no matter what the weather and that is precisely why Frederick County has upgraded the final four high schools in the county that had natural grass fields:  Brunswick, Catoctin, Tuscarora, and Walkersville. Money was allocated by the Frederick County Council in the form of a $10 million Maryland state grant, specifically to upgrade those four schools. And that didn’t sit well with the boosters at Governor Thomas Johnson High School, who raised $200,000 to fund their new turf field in 2021, which took years to raise. Had they waited two years, that money could have been used to benefit the student-athletes because the county and state would have paid for the field. Timing is everything! 

There are those who think Catoctin won the lottery with its new field and others who think turf fields harm the environment, cause more injuries, and cost more in the long run with an 8- to 10-year life cycle. Like it or not, Catoctin football, soccer, and lacrosse will be played on an artificial turf field from now on.

But, new fields are not the only change in the fall sports season. Early in August, the Central Maryland Conference (CMC) announced a complete realignment of all the teams in the CMC. Clear Spring was added. The CMC now has 16 schools in the league and has been broken down into two divisions: a small school division with 1A and 2A schools and a large school division with 3A and 4A schools. The small school division will consist of the Antietam and Gambrill subdivisions, and the large school division will consist of the Potomac and Spires subdivisions. Catoctin has been placed in the small school Antietam division, along with Clear Spring, Boonsboro, and Smithsburg. Catoctin football will not be affected by these changes in the CMC since there is no CMC championship for football.  The football postseason is guided by the Maryland Public School Student Athletic Association (MPSSAA).  For sports other than football, there will now be two CMC championship trophies awarded: one to a small division school and one to a large division school.

Every year at the start of the football season, I like to hang around the Catoctin practice fields, workout areas, and sports classrooms to prepare myself for play-by-play coverage on the radio. I have been doing play-by-play on WTHU here in Frederick County now for 15 years. Just like high school sports, preparation is everything. I also attend the Catoctin football chalk talks and scrimmages, but what I really enjoy is learning from the Catoctin coaches.

Recently, while attending a Catoctin football practice session, Head Football Coach Mike Rich said something to his players that was timeless. I was moved by the words of advice he gave his players. He told them that “comfort is the enemy of greatness.” He is right! Getting up at 5:00 a.m. to make a 7:00 a.m. football practice is uncomfortable. He reminded his players that at that very moment, their classmates were still on vacation and probably in bed asleep. He challenged them with the notion that not everybody belonged in that room. Showing up is easy, but putting in the hard work every day is what will make them Catoctin football players. After Coach Rich was done, I wanted to put on a helmet and pads and suit up to play myself.

Coach Rich, now in his fourth season at Catoctin, is highly motivational. He is building something special on Sabillasville Road, and it’s starting to pay off.  Coach Rich keeps pounding his mantra into players over and over again. He calls it the three B’s: Be consistent! Be relentless! Be accountable! Excellent advice for teenage athletes.

Senior Haydn Matthews and Shamus Stull will share time at quarterback this season, surrounded by a very large offensive line. Haydn has matured from last year. He is big and strong and has a cannon for an arm. Stull is a player to watch this season. He ran with teammate and track star Brody Buffington in the 4×100 relay track team. This kid is a burner! With Matthews’ size, arm, and athleticism and Stull’s speed, defenses will go nuts trying to figure out how to adjust to that QB tandem. Robeson and Watkins are huge on the offensive line, with teammates Randy Hall and Braydon Bagent, this could be one of the best o-lines since 2019. At wide receiver, they have real legitimate speed in Charlie Dougherty and Vince Reaver. One of the biggest surprises last year was Logan Malachowski. Logan is a big, strong target with good instincts and a deep threat to take the ball away in a crowd, which he did several times last year in the end zone. The most amazing thing about Logan is that he has only played football for one year. This is his second year ever playing organized football. Logan was also a big part of the Cougars 2023 baseball team, playing centerfield and pitching in relief. I am really excited about this wide receiver corps!             

Speaking of baseball, somehow coaches convinced Eddy Titchom, who helped Coach Franklin with the baseball team last spring as a manager, to suit up and play football. He is huge! The biggest guy on the team. He will make an immediate impact on this team. And, finally, junior running back Jake Bell looks bigger and stronger than ever and will carry the load in the backfield behind the wall up front with his teammate running back Wayne Ferson, a thunder and lightning tandem.

The defense is anchored by one of the strongest defensive backfields in recent history. Charlie Dougherty will play both ways, but according to coaches, he is one of the best safeties they have seen in a long time. Charlie will call the plays for the defense. Expect big things from Charlie this season, sticking his nose in there and busting up the opponent’s offense and reading the quarterback’s eyes in the backfield. Pound for pound, the defense is special and the time spent in the weight room this year shows. These guys are big, strong, and athletic. Offense is fun, but defense wins games!

This team is on board with Coach Rich’s three B’s, and with a new turf field to add to the excitement, this Cougars football team will consistently and relentlessly pound their opponents all the way into November. 

I predict a very special season for the 2023 Catoctin Cougars football team. On Friday, September 1, the season began at Catoctin High School on their brand new “field of dreams.”  Come on out to the new field and cheer our Catoctin Cougars football team to victory. Catoctin can’t win without its twelfth man. That’s you!

Thurmont Babe Ruth Baseball finished an excellent spring 2023 season. The organization fielded a total of six teams among the 14U, 16U, and 18U divisions of the Frederick County Babe Ruth League.

In the 14U division, Thurmont had three teams with small but mighty rosters.  The Nationals, managed by Jeff Kuhn, had one of the youngest rosters in the league, but they held their own during the season. The Nationals finished with a record of 6-12-1. The Cougars, managed by Joe Wehage, were in contention near the top of the standings all season, finishing with a record of 12-5. The Thunder, managed by John Code, finished the regular season with a record of 16-2, good for second place out of the league’s 17 teams. The Thunder capped off the season by winning the end-of-season tournament, with three mercy rule victories to bring home the league banner. 

In the 16U division, Joe Wehage’s Crusaders finished in fourth place out of eight teams, with a record of 7-9. 

In the 18U Wood Bat division, Thurmont fielded a pair of teams, finishing in the top two spots in the final league standings. Joe Rizzo’s Expos had a record of 8-5 during the season. Tim Castellow’s Cougars finished at the top of the regular season standings, with a record of 10-2. The Cougars wrapped up the season by winning the end-of-season tournament and taking home another banner for Thurmont Babe Ruth.

Courtesy Photos

18U Cougars Team

14U Thunder Team

The Future of Catoctin Cougars Sports

with Michael Betteridge

I started coaching football in Fairfield at the youth JV level. The kids I coached were in second and third grades. Today, that same group of kids are juniors and seniors in high school, and many of them are playing high school varsity football! I coached JV for two years, then mid-varsity, and finally varsity, with the same group of kids. I followed them through their development as young athletes and watched them grow from little boys into young men. It is an honor to be a part of their lives.

It was a lot of hard work with many hours of practice, from early afternoons until dark weekdays. From the scorching heat of August to the frozen turf of November, we practiced hard. On weekends, we traveled to games all over southern Pennsylvania. 

Coaching at the youth level required many skills: scheduling, logistics, medical, equipment, fundraisers, counseling, motivational training, and, most importantly, where the parents were involved, politics. And that was before we even took the field to play football. Youth coaches and administrators work long, hard hours. They attend year-round classes on safety, techniques, and organization. They must be certified, background-checked, and are held to the highest standards of community behavior.

Today’s youth sports programs are the reason that high school athletics excel. When I was young, all our small community had to offer in football was the Catholic League. Many of my friends were Catholic. I was jealous that they got to play organized football in elementary and junior high school, while all I could do was get in a pickup game out in the cow pasture. I tried to convince my Methodist mother to convert the family to Catholicism so that I could play football in junior high. “It wasn’t a good enough reason,” she told me, with a smile. We had little league baseball, but there were no other organized youth sports for kids my age.

Our children today are truly blessed. We’ve come a long way since my youth. We have youth sports in football, basketball, baseball, softball, soccer, field hockey, and volleyball. Catoctin youth sports are directly responsible for the talent we see today at the high school level in all sports categories. With years of experience playing together, by high school, our young athletes know exactly what to expect from their teammates. More importantly, our kids start playing together at an early age and form bonds that last a lifetime. Year after year, graduating Catoctin senior athletes step up to the microphone on Senior Day and talk about how much they will miss their teammates and how long they have been playing sports together at the ripe old age of 17.

Recently, I had the opportunity to broadcast the 10-12-year-old Thurmont youth baseball team on the radio. They are a very well-coached group of talented young athletes. As I sat in the press box before the game and watched the warmups, I realized that I was looking at the Catoctin High School baseball future out there on the field. I Googled the 2017 All-Star Little League team and laughed out loud. On that roster were Connor Crum, Joey McMannis, and Peyton Castellow, all Catoctin Cougars baseball graduating senior stars in 2023. During my broadcasts, The Thurmont Bucks 2023 Little League baseball team battled opponents from all over Central Maryland and put up some impressive victories, scoring 48 runs in three tournament games. That’s sixteen runs per game! Four or five years from now, Bradley Goddard, Eli Yocum, Parker Hahn, Ethan Tokar, and their Bucks teammates will probably be tearing up the 1A in baseball with Coach Mike Franklin at Catoctin, putting up similar numbers.

When you look around the region and you see sports powerhouse schools like Linganore, Oakdale, and Urbana, you wonder why, year after year, season after season, they continue to win. You need to look no further than LOUYAA (Linganore Oakdale Urbana Youth Athletic Association), the largest youth athletic association in Central Maryland. Successful high school sports programs look to these feeder organizations and work closely with the youth coaches and administrators to align their strategies and implement playbooks and cultures that are consistent.

Catoctin Cougars football coach Mike Rich, who is a product of the LOUYAA system, is building the same relationship with the CYA (Catoctin Youth Association) and Catoctin Youth Football. Coach Rich runs clinics in the offseason with the CYA and maintains a strong relationship with all the coaches and administration. The depth of this relationship is not just off the field, but on the field as well. Coach Rich explained to me that offensive strategies are largely based on the players and their unique skills. At the youth level, they work on teaching the same offensive fundamentals, but the focus is on building defenses that use high school terminology and play calling. Youth football players are completely familiar with what coaches want to do when they arrive at the high school level, as a result. The part of the relationship that Coach Rich enjoys most is the times when he and the youth coaches can just sit down, relax, learn from each other, and “talk football.” They take the time to meet regularly.

Our Catoctin youth programs from Little League to CYA are the secret to the Catoctin Cougars high school sports success. The level of community involvement in youth sports in Northern Frederick County is something that makes us proud to be Cougars. Drive by Leisner baseball field on any given day and try to find a parking space. Or try to find a seat in the stands or on the grass hills at a Catoctin football game, and you’ll understand why we’re the “baddest cats” on the mountain. 

Our youth programs are producing some awesome young athletes, coaches, and fans!

Check out the Catoctin Youth Association Facebook page, Catoctin Youth football, and the Thurmont Little League websites today, and come on down to catch a game real soon!

Ryan Tokar, Thurmont Little League

The regular season has come to an end at Thurmont Little League (TLL), but there is still a lot of baseball to be played! As the normal slate of games concluded, the league quickly moved into All-Star and tournament season. First up were the TLL In-House All-Star games for the T-ball and Instructional (Coach Pitch) divisions, which were held on Tuesday, June 13.

Representatives from T-ball included Lucy Liller, Gabe Shankle, Maverick Cox, Brailey Hammock, Carter Rodas, Brenton Tull, Billy Sullivan, Andrew Smith, Tinsley Young, Rylee Oden, Carson Lingg, Kellam Robertson, Tucker Long, Chance Grimes, Emmet Amyot, Everett Oxenford, Cash Burrier, and Ryder Murray.

The Coach Pitch rosters were made up of Jon Rose, Caleb Lynn, Caleb Valentine, Tyler Roderick, Declan Myers, Michael Mendez, Parker Ketterman, Wyatt Breeden, Addison Lingg, Abel Boone, Braxton Lovejoy, Eli Yanke, Jackson Boyer, Knox Devries, Colton Grimes, Logan Otto, Jett Derr, Brantley Steinhour, Chase Stine, Gage Baugher, Zachary Montgomery, and Michael McGinnis. Congrats to all of these future stars on a great season of baseball!

The Minor League division post-season kicked off with their In-House playoffs, which included a host of extremely hard-fought games, culminating in the Cougars becoming this year’s champions, overcoming a valiant fight by the Rays. Both teams put forth a tremendous amount of effort and displayed excellent sportsmanship throughout the game.

The Cougars were managed by Darryl Dextradeur, with assistants Kevin Rickerd, Kevin Rabbit, Anthany Wolfe, and Nathan Fritz. The roster included players Bryce Rickerd, Julian Thompson, Colson Wolfe, Payton Fritz, Logan Smith, William Fletcher, Liam Ecker, Brayden Constable, Joseph Fogle, Leland Beach, and Marshall Frey. Congrats to the Cougars on a successful campaign.

Next up was the Minors In-House All-Star Game, featuring Brayden Nash, Luke Wiles, Brooks Otto, Aaron Oden, Tyler Warfield, Bryce Yocum, Angus Riddle, Wade Wolfe, Julian Thompson, Bryce Rickerd, Payton Fritz, Marshall Frey, James Hewitt, Dennis Smith, Liam Delawter, Cole McCauley, Josh Tingler, Jace Fisher, Devin Riffle, Scarlett Riffle, Chris Kehne, Jerome Turner, Lewis Turner, and John Clements. These teams put on quite a display of athleticism for the fans in attendance and showcased the up-and-coming talent at TLL.

Additionally, there will be a Minors All-Star team traveling to play in the Emory Frye Memorial Tournament. Managed by Darryl Dextradeur, the team will be made up of Marshall Frey, Payton Fritz, Bryce Rickerd, Julian Thompson, James Hewitt, Cole McCauley, Brayden Nash, Brooks Otto, Dennis Smith, Garret Troxell, Luke Wiles, and Riley Workman.

TLL is also proud to announce a softball All-Star team for this year, represented by Madison Oden, Ella Rose, Ella Flanary, Hadley Crone, Dixie Eckenrode, Hannah Crone, Emma Stevens, Aubree Shull, Abby Shankle, Joclyn Cassidy, Kiley Long, Kathryn Bradhsaw, Kinsley Bowlus, Erin McGrew, Demi Hudson, and Tori Brown.

The Majors Division was represented by two teams in end-of-season tournaments as well. The second-place Warriors and Manager Chris Merriman played in the Dave Fogle Tournament at Frederick National Little League. The team gave it their all and made it all the way to the Championship game, but they came up just short against a very good team from Lower Montgomery County. Meanwhile, the Thurmont Bucks, coached by Rick Reeder, played in the Gregg Quedeweit Memorial Tournament of Champions right here at Thurmont Little League. The Bucks had a remarkable season, losing only one game in league play. They started strong with wins over Montgomery County Upper and Frederick American, but, ultimately, they would lose in a very hard-fought game to the eventual champion, the Brunswick Cubs, in the third round. Overall, it was a great season for these boys, and they made all of us at TLL proud.

There will be three All-Star teams representing TLL in District 2 Tournament play. The 10-12-year-old team, managed by Jeff Kuhn, includes Tucker Bryant, Callen Edmonston, Bradley Goodard, Parker Hahn, Shawn Livingston, Reed McCauley, Brayden Rickerd, Ethan Tokar, Weston Tyler, Jeremy Veronie, Bracen Webb, Eli Yocum, Noah Bradbury, and Luke Berg. The 9-11-year-old team began their District 2 Tournament on June 25. This team will be managed by Nathan Laird, and the roster includes Joey Blentlinger, Desean Brown, Nathan Camilleri, James Clements, Kaiden Dewees, Chase Dumas, Marshall Frey, Chance Kruger, Evan Laird, Wesley Meekins, Brooks Otto, and Riley Workman. Finally, there will be an 8-10 team, consisting of Levi Baker, Nemo Dewees, Payton Fritz, James Hewitt, Riggins Koenig, Cole McCauley, Brayden Nash, Owen Ott, Bryce Rickerd, Dennis Smith, Julian Thompson, and Luke Wiles. Darryl Dextradeur will also manage this team. Congratulations and best of luck to all the teams participating in tournaments this summer.

Be sure to check out next month’s edition for a full update on All-Star tournament play, as well as a recap of several fun events TLL will be taking part in this summer.

Fall registrations will be opening later this summer as well, so be sure to sign up to be a part of a tremendous organization!

The first-place Thurmont Bucks represented TLL in the Tournament of Champions.

Minors Division players celebrate after their Championship game.

with Michael Betteridge

Summer Is Here…

Let’s Celebrate

Most of us have seen the silly antics of NFL football players doing their handshakes, dances, and performances in the end zone after a touchdown. It’s not sports, it’s performance art at its finest. It started out with the “spike” years ago; at first, the officials threw a flag and called it unsportsmanlike conduct, then they let it slide. Soon, the spike was followed by a finger pointed at the sky and a sort of combination “thank you, God” and “We’re number No. 1,” depending on the player. Then, this performance art became Lambeau leaps, somersaults into the endzone, choreographed dances, political statements, and so on. It spread to other sports, which now permeates most pro sports as we know it. Pro-athletes are for sale to the highest bidder; their brand is more important than the team.

At high school and collegiate levels, overt celebrations were completely unacceptable—it sent the wrong message to young athletes.  These celebrations took the focus off the team and put it on the individual; it was disrespectful to opponents and simply not allowed. But, just like in pro sports, exceptions have crept in.

This Cougars’ high school season, we had a high visibility collision between culture, official rules, egos, and fair and consistent application of the celebration rules. An athlete raising one finger to the ceiling during an event could receive a disqualification, but a mosh pit celebration at home plate for a baseball player who hit a home run was fine. Why?

My favorite celebration recollection was several years ago in the gym at Catoctin High School during a basketball game. It was the last game of the season, and Catoctin had a big lead over its opponent.  Coach began putting his bench in the game to give them some floor time.  There was a very special kid named Cody who was a heck of a Cougars football player, but he wasn’t as good at basketball. He was a third-string basketball player, and he hadn’t seen any time in a game all season. So, when Coach put Cody in the game with five minutes on the clock, the crowd reacted with a round of applause for Cody. Then, something unbelievable happened.  His teammates all collapsed into a four-corner offense and fired the ball to Cody who was standing just beyond the three-point arc at the top of the key. His teammates managed to get the word to their opponent, who relaxed their defense for a moment; in that split second, Cody was wide open with the ball. Cody set his feet, took aim at the basket and launched the shot! The pin-drop silence fell over the crowd. The ball arced into the air with the faintest hint of backspin and gently swooshed through the net for a beautiful three-point basket. The crowd erupted into a deafening roar of celebration. It was as if Catoctin had just won the state championship.  Cody turned to the crowd and gave his best Hulk flex then dropped to the hardwoods and rattled off three rapid fire push-ups. Again, the crowd erupted. It was a moment I will treasure forever because in that moment of complete unity and accord between both teams and fans, everyone understood what had just happened, including the officials.  That was a common-sense application of the rules. No whistles were blown.  No flags were thrown.

Today, common sense seems to be in short supply on both sides of the equation. Catoctin track star, Brody Buffington, one of the fastest high school sprinters in America, was disqualified back in February when he looked back at his own teammates and raised his index finger into the air.  The track meet was in Hagerstown, but the DQ (disqualify) wasn’t announced until later.  Everyone who has ever competed in high school athletics in Frederick County understands the officiating in Washington County. His disqualification was biased, excessive, and lacked any common sense. The backlash spread throughout Frederick County and beyond, reaching all over the nation in newspaper and TV reportings, making Buffington somewhat of a local celebrity as a result. Three months later, in a head-shaking moment, Buffington did it again. And, this time, it wasn’t an individual event, but a team relay event that affected the whole team.  Remember what I said about common sense on both sides of the equation? 

But in all fairness, something else was at play. I asked a Catoctin football player why he thought they singled out Buffington. His answer was on target, “because it hurt the loser’s feelings.” He was right. In this “everybody is a winner” culture, you can’t point out that there are losers on the field. Because if you’re No. 1 then they are No. 2, and that’s unacceptable. There is another factor involved: the rules are different for different players in different sports.  You can pile up in a rugby scrum, or you can pile up on the pitcher’s mound after a big win in a delightful revel of celebration in baseball, but a raised finger is a NO-NO? You can drop to the floor and do pushups during a basketball game, but a gesture to the crowd by a track star is verboten. You can hurtle over the net and toss your racket into the air after winning a tennis match, but spiking the football will get you 15 yards. So, what’s the answer? 

Simple…save the celebrations until after the game is over. Also, someone has to remind the officials that their decisions affect lives for years to come, so use your God-given common sense. Don’t be stupid!

Now is the perfect time for celebrations, now that the season is over. Let’s celebrate Catoctin’s never give up “Little Football Team that Could,” who put a big scare into the only undefeated team in Frederick, and with one-point losses in their two final regular season games against top ranked teams, made believers out of all of us. How about celebrating the grit and determination of Catoctin’s boys’ soccer team or the girls’ soccer team, led by Nicole Andre, Natalie Hoys, and Molly Parsons? Don’t forget Catoctin field hockey, led by Anna Abruzese; Catoctin volleyball and Anna Belluomo; Catoctin lacrosse, led by Jameson Doll and Vince Reaver; Catoctin golf, led by Jordan Moore. Catoctin girls’ basketball ran all the way to the region finals, led by freshmen sensation Brooke Williams and sophomore point guard Taylor Smith.  Catoctin boys’ basketball went on a run with Robert Ruch Jr. and Colin Toms, led by Matthew Offutt. Catoctin boys’ baseball was sensational, led by Joey McMannis, Peyton Castellow, Connor Crum, and Joel Miller, battling all the way to the region final for the second year in a row after a state championship in 2021, the most recent addition to the Catoctin championship trophy case. And, finally, our Lady Cougars basketball team 1A Maryland State championship runners-up, with a story book season, led largely by a team full of sophomores. I’ll say it again: Now is the time to celebrate!

As a former coach, I was never a fan of in-game celebrations. My response to my players has always been, “Knock it off, act like you’ve been there.” There is nothing that gets under an opponent’s skin more than a calm, focused “that’s what we do because we’re Catoctin” swagger.  I’m throwing down the challenge to every Catoctin Cougars athlete and coach. How about you? Are you ready for some real Mountain Ball in September? The kind Fort Hill faced in November 2019 when they lost their first-ever road football playoff game right here in Thurmont?

To all my Catoctin Cougars friends: Have a great summer. You deserve it! 

Ryan Tokar, Thurmont Little League

On Saturday, May 6, Thurmont Little League (TLL) held its 2023 Hit-a-thon. This is the largest annual fundraiser for the league, and proceeds go toward necessities like field maintenance, uniforms, concession upgrades, and general complex improvements. There were fireworks on and off the field, literally! This event seems to grow bigger and bigger each year, as players enjoy not only the competition of seeing who can hit the ball the farthest, but also who can gain the most dollars in donations. Our TLL families and the surrounding community stepped up once again. This year’s Hit-a-thon brought in over $29,000 in online and cash donations, the largest amount raised in league history!

The Hit-a-thon is an extremely fun event for our players. They have a great time competing against their friends and teammates, and all for a great cause. Players receive one hit for every $10.00 raised, for a maximum of 10 hits. They can continue to raise additional money above and beyond that in order to win prizes. A bonus hit is also awarded if a player brings a non-perishable item for the Thurmont Food Bank.

Prizes are given to the top overall fundraisers and also to the players who hit the ball the longest distance. The Majors and Minors Divisions are judged on where the ball lands, while Coach Pitch and T-ball divisions are given credit for how far the ball rolls.

Distance winners for this year’s Hit-a-thon were as follows: Majors—Nathan Camilleri (201 ft), Daniel Genemans (200 ft), and Nemo Dewees (194 ft). Minors—Carter Misner (145 ft), James Hewitt (144 ft), and Payton Fritz (138 ft). Coach Pitch—Chase Stine (157 ft), Logan Otto (143 ft), and Graham Pearl (141 ft). Finally, from T-ball—Maverick Cox (129 ft), Gabriel Shankle (120 ft), and Lucy Liller/Liam Lawrence tied (112 ft). TLL Softball had a great showing once again this year as well. Distance winners from our Softball program were: Dixie Eckenrode (116 ft), Hadley Crone (115 ft), and Victoria Brown (112 ft).

The overall fundraising winners this year raised some of the highest totals in event history. Congratulations to the following winners: Carson Unger (Coach Pitch Dragons) $1,960, Liam Lawrence (T-ball Blue Jays) $1,650, and Emma Stevens (Softball Mavericks) $770. They will each be awarded an Amazon gift card for their prize. In addition to the individual winners, the teams with the most overall donations earn a free pizza party at the end of the season. Highest earning teams were: T-ball Blue Jays—$2,910, Coach Pitch Dragons—$2,755, Minors Eagles—$1,445, Majors Nationals—$1,115, and Softball Mavericks—$1,335. Along with over $29,000 raised, the league also collected several hundred non-perishable goods which were donated to the Thurmont Food Bank to help those in need. TLL would like to thank the community, parents, and volunteers for their support. Without you, this event would not have been such a tremendous success.

Throughout the day, guests enjoyed treats from Crazy Dave’s Pizza, Snowball Waterfalls, and the TLL Concession Stand. After the dust had settled on the Hit-a-thon, team pictures, and a full slate of in-house games, an impromptu kickball game broke out on the Majors Field, with kids from all divisions enjoying themselves while waiting for it to get dark. Once the sun finally set on the day’s festivities, a huge crowd of TLL family members settled in to enjoy an amazing fireworks display, put on by Innovative Pyrotechnic Concepts. Everyone loved the up-close view of the show, which lasted for over 10 minutes and put an exclamation point on an already fabulous day.

The spring season is winding down, with games concluding in early June. We will then move on to the end-of-the-season tournaments and All-Star games. Look for more information in next month’s issue!

Thurmont Little League collects non-perishable food items for the Thurmont Food Bank