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with Michael Betteridge

There Is Something Special Happening on Sabillasville Road

It’s not like Catoctin Baseball Coach Mike Franklin has never been mentioned here on these pages before. Coach Franklin is in his 24th season coaching Catoctin baseball. He was honored here in the Banner as Fellowship of Christian Athletes Coach of the Year in 2017. His teaching peers honored him in 2019 as Frederick County “Teacher of the Year.” He has two state baseball championships in the display case, one in 2013 and another in 2021.

Coach Franklin finished his baseball career as a player at Salisbury State. He began substitute teaching at Frederick High School in the mid-90s, where he met his mentor, Frederick baseball coach Frank Rhodes. Franklin joined Coach Rhodes’ staff as an assistant. His first year coaching, the Cadets made it all the way to the State championship, an experience that would give him an appetite for winning.

There is no way to begin talking about Catoctin Cougars baseball without laying out the very foundation of the program, Coach Franklin. His smile and his attitude are infectious. He elevates his players. One of his former pitchers, Mason Albright, made it all the way from a humble start on the Sabillasville Road practice field to the “Big Leagues,” where he received the largest signing bonus ever for a 12th-round Major League Baseball draft pick with the Los Angeles Angels: $1.25 million dollars in 2021 at age 18.

Good coaching builds for the future and that’s why good coaches seem to enjoy success over and over again. And that is what is unfolding in 2023 for the Catoctin Cougars baseball team. History is repeating itself, going all the way back to 1996.

Coach Franklin’s teams always produce great pitching. Sophomore pitcher Joey McMannis pitched this team to a 2021 state championship, and he will take the mound this season as an experienced senior, with 20-30 Major League teams interested in him and a fastball above 90 mph. McMannis was an integral part of that incredible “Cindarella” story two years ago.  They finished the 2021 regular season as the No. 4 seed in the 1A West and traveled to Clear Spring to face the No. 1 Blazers, whom they defeated.  Then, back on the road again, after winning the regional title at Clear Spring, still an underdog, they make the short trip over the mountain to Smithsburg for another amazing win! But now the short trips were over. They had to pack up the team bus and head all the way across the state to Bel Air to face a powerful Patterson Mill team. Once again, they pulled off the impossible upset.  If that weren’t enough, now they had to come home, regroup, pack and travel 130 miles to McHenry to face Northern Garrett, the No. 1 seed in the 1A. That afternoon when they arrived, the playing field was surrounded by a 20-foot-high chain link fence. Cougars fans who had made the difficult drive had to peer through the chains in the fence to see the game. It was a very uninviting venue for baseball. It was more like a ball field for the county jail. There was a cold, swirling wind blowing off Deep Creek Lake across the playing field, and it felt like March, not June. But, once again, the Cougars pulled off the impossible, crushing Northern 13-5 on a rally off the bat of Joey McMannis, who boomed a two-run shot over the massive fence, deep into left center. On the road again, their last game was equally far, but the excitement and anticipation were different this time. They were so excited and pumped up that the trip seemed like minutes rather than hours as the bus pulled up to the beautiful Regency Stadium in Waldorf, where they captured the 2021 Maryland 1A State baseball title!

All in all, the Cougars pulled off the impossible, with a grueling 500 miles of travel over the course of 10 days, producing five underdog wins to bring the trophy home to Thurmont for the second time in Coach Franklin’s tenure.

One of my favorite side stories involving that championship game began with a phone call from some avid Cougars fans who offered to pay the outrageous $300 live stream fee that the state charges businesses for permission to broadcast the video. WTHU had been providing video throughout the no-fee regular season and these fans were willing to cover the state’s playoff fee, just so they could watch the game from their lawn chairs on a big screen TV in Ocean City. Vacations don’t stop real fans from seeing their favorite team play in the big game. During the game, they posted pictures all over Facebook of the tailgate and game parties and what a blast they had. That game is still on the WTHU YouTube page, with 390 views!

Last year was a very successful year, but unfortunately, the Cougars ran into a familiar face early in the playoffs, the Clear Spring Blazers.  This is how rivalries are formed.  Remember in 2021, Catoctin knocked Clear Spring out of the playoffs early on their own field and went on to win it all. Well, in 2022, Clear Spring returned the favor by knocking Catoctin out of the playoffs in Thurmont. The Blazers went on to Waldorf, just like Catoctin had, and brought the 1A trophy home. Hey, if you are going to lose, it makes it easier when you lose to someone in your division (1A West) who goes on to win it all. Somehow, it takes the sting out of the loss when you lose to the eventual state champion, at least it did for all of us looking for “silver linings.” I am not good at predictions, but here is one I’ll make with confidence: Catoctin will play Clear Spring in the playoffs and the winner will go deep into the playoffs this year.

So, here we are in 2023! This team couldn’t look better! They have arguably one of the deepest pitching rotations in Frederick County, with two ace pitchers in McMannis and Castelow. Speaking of the Castelows, this team features two Castelow brothers who are tough, baseball-savvy kids who have both come back from substantial injuries last year. The brothers, Peyton and Keiten, are 100 percent ready and anxious to get back on the field. They have a great defense and don’t forget their offense. This is the team that invented “Mountain Ball,” also known as “death by a thousand cuts.” 

Of course, coaching, as I mentioned earlier, is also a team strength. This group of assistant coaches is very special. Led by Tyler Ausherman, Will Delawter, Nick Huff, William Warram, and Ken Mcivor, I had a chance to catch up with Coach Delawter recently. Will played for Catoctin and Coach Franklin in 2004. Like Coach Franklin, Will had a passion for teaching, too. After graduating from college, Will Delawter took his first assignment teaching in the Washington County school system, but it was way too far to drive to teach and coach at Catoctin. So, when he landed his dream job at Whittier Elementary in Frederick seven years ago teaching fifth grade, he contacted Coach Franklin and was immediately brought on to the Cougars team. Coach Delawter coaches outfield and hitting, and at games, you’ll see him parked on the first base line. His job as the first base coach is a sort of traffic cop for base runners.

Coach Delawter is married with two boys: seven-year-old Liam, and three-year-old Max, who was born in February 2020 and diagnosed with Downs Syndrome. I asked him what was the secret to his success, wearing four hats in one day: teacher; coaching in two leagues, Little League and High School; and father, and his simple answer was “time management” and the ability to shift gears from one role to the next. When I asked him what challenges he faced raising Max, Will said: “Max is such a joyful young boy and his enthusiasm and energy are infectious. He’s always in the middle of everything, fist bumping and encouraging us and making us smile all the time. He doesn’t challenge us, he makes us better.”

Catoctin has eight home games on the schedule this season. It’s not just baseball. It is fun! From the campy “Curtain Call” medallion given at home plate to the player who hits a home run to the silly stuffed dog in the baseball helmet mascot that goes everywhere with his guys, this team knows how to have fun and win! 

If you really want to see some exciting high school baseball and be a part it, come on over to Catoctin High School to check out this Cougars baseball team! And if you can’t make it to the games, there is always the wthuradio.com audiovault archive of the games. Just click on the high school baseball tab.

Ryan Tokar, CYA Basketball

March has arrived, and that can only mean one thing: Another season of Thurmont Little League (TLL) is already underway. The registration period for our baseball and softball programs closed on February 11, with over 300 registered players. Evaluations for the Majors and Minors divisions took place on Sunday, February 12 at Catoctin High School. Afterwards, the drafts were held, and teams were assigned so that practices could officially kick off. Despite the chilly weather, our Majors level teams are already hard at work preparing for the annual Garel Hauver Tournament at Brunswick Little League in late March which officially kicks off the season. The rest of the league will begin play on TLL’s official Opening Day, Saturday April 1.

Opening Day is always an exciting event for our league. Family and friends come out to watch all of the players be announced and paraded across the field. The National Anthem is performed by a special guest, followed by the ceremonial first pitch. After other welcoming remarks, everyone hangs around to see the teams take the field for the first games of the season. This year, there will, once again, be split ceremonies to help accommodate parking and keep crowds under control. The T-ball and Instructional teams will have their ceremony in the morning, while Minors and Majors will take place in the afternoon. There will be delicious snacks onsite from the TLL concession stand, and there will be several food trucks to choose from, such as Stroker’s BBQ, Glamourview Creamery, and Coco’s Grill. The TLL Photo Booth will be open for all those social media opportunities, and we are hoping to once again have visits from a mascot or two! Other vendors onsite will include local fire and ambulance crews, Frederick County Sheriff’s Office, Pivot Physical Therapy, and many more. We have a few other surprises in the works, so be sure to bring the entire family out for this fun-filled day!

Another extremely big draw during the opening day ceremonies are the raffle baskets. Tickets will be on sale to win a variety of awesome prizes. Baskets include gift cards and other donated items from a variety of establishments, such as Catoctin Wildlife Preserve, Thurmont Kountry Kitchen, Catoctin Breeze Winery, Baltimore Orioles, Tree Trekkers, Adventure Park, Frederick Keys, and plenty of others. We will also be having a 50-50 and a table of spiritwear and TLL discount cards for sale.

As always, we are looking for volunteers for the upcoming season. If you are interested in getting involved, please reach out to us at www.thurmontlittleleague.com. The biggest need is for volunteer umpires. If you are a high school or college student looking for community service hours or semi-retired with time on your hands, we will provide all the necessary training. We can’t wait for everything this season has in store for our players and families!

Aaron Meekins

There are two words that every athlete would love to have next to their name: State Champion. For youth wrestlers, the path to being a state champion starts at the Maryland State Wrestling Association (MSWA) Qualifier. There are four qualifiers around the state based on geographical area. On February 12, three wrestlers from Catoctin Youth Association (CYA) attended the Central/West Qualifier at Northwest High School in Germantown, Maryland. All three of them qualified for the MSWA State Tournament, which will take place March 11-12 at the Wicomico Civic Center in Salisbury, Maryland.

Ashton Thompson, one of CYA’s eighth-grade leaders who sets a strong example for the younger grapplers on the team with his work ethic and technical skills, took home first place at the qualifier in the 106-pound division. Gracen Baer, a third-grade student athlete from Sabillasville Environmental School won third place at the qualifier in the 63-pound division. Xavier Meekins, a third-grade student athlete from Thurmont Elementary, won first place at the qualifier in the 56-pound division. All three will represent CYA in Salisbury and look to add State Champion to their wrestling resumes.

In addition to CYA being represented at the state level, all the wrestlers are gearing up for the very competitive end-of-season Mid Maryland Wrestling League Championship Tournament that will take place on March 5 at Urbana High School. This year’s team has many talented experienced and new wrestlers that look forward to putting forth strong performances with the hopes of returning to the podium or getting there for the first time. Dan Gable, one of the most famous wrestlers of all time once said, “Gold medals aren’t made of gold. They’re made of sweat, determination, and a hard-to-find alloy called guts.”

Through the first half of the season, CYA wrestlers have put in the sweat, showed their determination, and showed they have guts. The tournament will be a great chance to put their skills to the test.

CYA Wrestling will finish their regular season with a home match on February 26 at 9:00 a.m. at Catoctin High School against the War Hawks and Maryland School for the Deaf. Please come out and support the team. Concessions are available and admissions are free. It will be their last tune-up before the MMWL Tournament, where they will face off against teams from Washington, Frederick, and Carroll counties. Keep an eye out in next month’s edition of the Catoctin Banner to see how they did.

*Correction/addition to last month’s article: At last year’s 2022 MMWL Tournament, Ashton Thompson placed second in his division at 95 lbs., and Shawn Smith also placed second in his division at 105 lbs.

The Catoctin-Aires, a 501(c)3 organization, will host Twirling Corps and 2023 Parade Corps Performing Color Guard classes for free at the Emmitsburg Community Building Gym in March. Twirling Corps is geared for the beginner student, aged five and older, who is new to baton twirling. Parade Corps is geared for the beginner color guard, student ages 12 and up, performing in flag and rifle. 

While instruction in the course is free, participants may purchase a properly fitted baton on the first night of the course at a discounted rate. This is an excellent opportunity to determine a child’s interest in twirling with no obligation or commitment.

Register by contacting the group director, Donna Landsperger, at donito@aol.com or through text or phone at 240-405-2604.

Ryan Tokar, CYA Basketball

On Sunday, February 5, Catoctin Youth Association (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. With registration numbers up this year now that the majority of COVID-19 restrictions on indoor sports have gone away, it was critical to offset some of the increased expenses incurred by the league. 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 $13,000 in online and cash donations.

The idea behind the Shoot-a-thon is simple. Players 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: Dallas Baker—Highest Overall Percentage Foul Shooter; K-1st Clinic—Maverick Williams; Girl’s 2nd-4th—Emma Santos; Boy’s 2nd-4th—Cole McCauley; U12 Boys/Girls—Robert Brooks; U14 Boys/Girls—Mason Hewitt; and Mid MD Boys/Girls—Madelyn Myers and Chase Cregger. Overall fundraising winners were: 1st Place—Kaydense Cox, 2nd Place—Zayden Jones, and 3rd Place—Bryson Duman. Winners were each awarded a Dick’s Sporting Goods gift card. The teams with the most overall donations also earned a free pizza party.

Along with the $13,000 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. Nicole Kelley won the Movie Basket, featuring a Warehouse Cinemas gift card and all the snacks you need for a movie night; Ashlyn Vaughan won the Baseball/Softball Basket, which included a free Thurmont Little League registration with other themed items; and Chase Shoemaker 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 Willow Bullis. And finally, there was a gift card tree featuring several local establishments, which was won by Peyten Wills.

There were activities throughout the afternoon, including music, a face painter, and team/individual photos. All in all, it was a great 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.

Players show off their designs, complements of Face painting by Elizabeth.

Shoot-a-thon participants pose with non-perishable goods collected during the event.

with Michael Betteridge

“How Do We Measure Success?”

What has been the most successful team in Catoctin Cougars’ history? Was it the 1986 football team, or that amazing 2009 football team, or the 2019 football team winning it all over again a decade later in Coach Doug Williams’ last game? Perhaps, it was the 2013-14 wrestling teams with three-time State champion Charlie Perella? Or, maybe it was the 2006 Lady Cougars basketball team, or what about 2021 or the 2022 Catoctin track team 1A champs threatening to repeat in 2023? How about the State Champion boys baseball team two years ago and their incredible five wins on the road, traveling over 500 miles by bus to win it all in Waldorf. Could one of them be the best ever? Wait a minute!  Did all of those winners come from the smallest school in Frederick County: Catoctin High School?  Amazing!

To find the answer, I browsed the MPSSAA record books, the official gatekeeper of all high school athletics in Maryland, to try and figure out which Cougars team excelled above the rest. I found incredible accomplishments by Catoctin teams, individuals, and their coaches. But, there was one major sport at Catoctin that seemed missing. This sport has one lone visit to the state tournament 42 years ago and no wins beyond the first round of regionals since then. It has one winning year, 2019-20, over the past 17 years. That team is the Catoctin boys basketball team. By record book standards, Catoctin boys basketball has been largely invisible. Although, sometimes the record books don’t reflect the real story.

Let’s back up for a minute and start with a more important question.  What is success anyway? How is it determined? How is it measured?  Over the past 20 years, we have seen a culture shift in youth sports and the way we measure success. It’s no longer about wins and losses, awards and trophies, or record books. It’s no longer about records or individual accomplishments. 

I coached youth football in Fairfield for five years and then turned my whistle in for a Public Address system to become the stadium announcer for all the home games for the Fairfield Knights youth football games for the past two years. And over that period of time, I have been puzzled by a new common theme that is alien to my upbringing: “Everyone is a winner.” For example, at the conclusion of last year’s football season, Fairfield had an awards banquet and everyone got a trophy. It didn’t matter how many games you won or where you placed in the standings. Many of the young athletes received personal awards, too: most improved player, best team spirit, most positive attitude. Everyone was a winner! As a matter of fact, the leadership was so committed to this mindset, they even gave me an award for announcing the games. A nice gift card for dinner at a fancy restaurant. That made up for all the missed dinners with my wife on Saturday evenings last fall.

I have heard both sides of the argument about rewarding athletes.  The old timers like myself don’t believe everyone should get a trophy. We say: “LIFE is about winning and losing.” “You’ll never be a real winner until you’ve tasted the sting of losing.” 

I subscribe to the old mantra of former Redskins football head coach, George Allen: “Every time you lose, you die a little inside.”  But the “new guard” seeks a kinder, gentler approach of empowerment, recognition, and validation. You hear words like “inclusiveness” and “diversity.” Everything is affirming and supportive. My guess is probably both sides are right. But, there is something else that lies just beneath the surface of awards and records. That something else is commitment.

What keeps a young athlete competing when their team isn’t successful by regular standards?  What motivates them on a cold, dreary morning to get out of bed and head to the gym to train when their team has a losing record or got stomped the previous week?  Certainly not that plastic trophy that everybody gets. Why do they keep playing when everything around them comes crashing down on and off the field or court?

We don’t have to go far to answer those questions. This can be accomplished by sharing the example of one Catoctin Cougars boys basketball player: Patrick Morlan. Patrick is in his junior year at Catoctin High School and plays forward for the Cougars boys basketball team. 

Patrick’s dad, Battalion Chief Chris Morlan, died from respiratory failure two days before Christmas in 2021 while Patrick was in his sophomore year. Patrick told me that his dad was sick for about a month. At first, he was sure he would be okay, but then complications from an old firefighting injury set in, and his dad’s condition quickly deteriorated.

Patrick’s basketball career started in third grade. When I asked him who inspired him to play basketball, he immediately said: “My father.”  Patrick’s father coached his youth basketball team from fifth grade to eighth grade, in spite of the fact that his father never played high school basketball. Patrick said that his father treated him just like the other kids but expected more from him on the court and off. Every night, Patrick would lie in bed watching the NBA network and dreaming of being a hero like his father. Patrick was cut from tryouts for JV basketball his freshmen year, but his dad wouldn’t let him quit. His dad became sick right around the time that basketball was gearing up for the 2021-22 season, Patrick’s sophomore year, and Patrick wasn’t sure that he wanted to try out again, but his dad urged him to give it another shot.

Batallion Chief Morlan wasn’t just any regular kind of firefighter.  He was a quiet hero. When Patrick was very young, his dad was severely injured when he fell through a roof rescuing his best friend and ended up in the hospital. Patrick visited his dad in another incident several years later in the hospital when his dad rescued two small children from a burning bedroom and ended up in the hospital with a collapsed lung. Patrick remembered that visit to the hospital well. It’s no wonder that Patrick’s role model, hero, and inspiration was his amazing father.

Patrick was no stranger to visiting his dad in the hospital, but when Chris Morlan was admitted in 2021 with COVID, visitation was not allowed. Patrick had to call his dad on the phone. As Chris’ condition worsened, Patrick would receive texts from his dad, periodically. Then, four days before he passed, Patrick received the last text encouraging him to never give up and pushing him to be all that he can be. Most kids would have given up, but Patrick couldn’t. It wasn’t in his DNA.  Patrick pressed harder and dedicated his life to his father’s memory and legacy. He was a Catoctin Cougars basketball player.

So, circling back to the question of what keeps a student-athlete going and what is the measure of success, Patrick’s dedication to honor his father is the very definition of success. For him, the question was “How could he not keep going?” Patrick summed it up for me in a way I never expected. When I asked him, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” His response gave me a lump in my throat. “I want to be just like my dad,” Patrick said. I think Patrick has grown up way beyond anything that we can understand or imagine for a 16-year-old.

Batallion Chief Chris Morlan’s leadership and sacrifice is the answer to my question.

The Mount Saint Mary’s University’s (MSMU) women’s bowling team finished fourth in the James Brown Invitational, held at the AMF Towson Lanes on February 11-12.

According to the Mount, the women’s team, the Mountaineers, lost a shot at winning a spot in the invitational match. 

The Mount reported that, “A pair of nail-biting bracket losses to #10 Maryland Eastern Shore and #24 Morgan State cost the Mountaineers a chance at winning the James Brown Invitational.”

However, the team did pick up one additional win Sunday against Fayetteville State in the final round of qualifying, resulting in finishing fourth in the field of 11. The Mount reported.

In the lone traditional round, it was freshman Trishelle Leal Uribe carrying the scoring load with a 225-game, thereby, rendering her just enough total pins for the weekend to earn a spot on the all-tournament team. Freshman Laney Wells continued her impressive weekend with a 212.

In Baker play, junior Alyssa Alexander (23.00), sophomore Rachel Hines (20.76), and Wells (20.58) gave the Mountaineers some solid frames in the effort.

The Broncos from Fayetteville State tossed their highest set of the weekend against MSMU, but a 962 from MSMU proved as being too much to overcome. Leal Uribe (225) and Wells (212) ensured the upset bid from FSU had no chance, according to the Mount.

After winning game one, costly opens at the wrong time gave the Hawks a 2-1 lead after three. The Mount rallied to take the next two with a 192 and 187, but after failing to capitalize on a mediocre 188 from UMES, the ladies were put away by a 246-218 in a decisive game seven.

Once again, costly losses early would prove as being too much to overcome despite better scores from The Mount later on. A nice 211 game six attempt to even the series at three apiece was spoiled by the setup and anchor bowlers for Morgan, capped off by a slow rolling messenger strike on the ten-pin to keep the Mount in fourth place to end the day.

Mountaineers Head Coach Kenneth DeGraaf said, “Today will take 24-48 hours for the pain to go away,” adding, “In both our best-of-seven matches, there were just too many games where we were that one shot away.”

“Whenever we needed the big shot to closeout our opponent, we could not.” He said, further commenting, “And being the good teams both UMES and Morgan are, they found ways to string strikes at the end of every game and capitalize.”

DeGraaf further stated that, on paper, “We actually averaged higher than the past two days. Scoring-wise, this was our best outing in a while. Yet, we failed to turn that into wins when it felt like we should have. We thought this would be our first healthy weekend since October and, unfortunately, that ended up not being the case. Fingers-crossed two weeks from now in Buffalo, we are there with a fully healthy squad and learn from our mistakes this past weekend.”

Maryland Eastern Shore would go on to defeat North Carolina A&T State in the championship match four games to one.

The Mount will be back in action February 25-26 for the Medaille Brunswick Classic in Buffalo, New York.

MSMU Mountaineers women’s bowling team.

Aaron Meekins

Courtesy Photo

CYA Wrestling Team performs stretching exercises, one part of the team’s hour warmup.

With an orangish tint painting the sun setting early in the evening sky, kids from the ages of 4-14 can be seen getting out of cars in the Catoctin High School parking lot. With the vapor of their breath leading the way in the cold winter Thurmont nights, they head inside the school and upstairs past the locker rooms into Catoctin High’s team wrestling room. The ceilings are low, but the energy in the room is high. Cold, wintry temperatures are replaced with the heat only given off by bodies continually hard at work, the smell of sweat lingering as the high schoolers exit the room, welcoming a new generation of grapplers. The young wrestlers are met by a number of enthusiastic coaches, led by longtime CYA Wrestling coach, Cory Bell. Coach Cory has led CYA wrestling for 14 years. Assisting Cory in leading this year’s group are his dedicated fellow coaches: Brandon Rivera, Steve Byington, Garrett Baer, Billy Jenkins, Ethan Fuss, Charlie Perilla III, Charlie “Chas” Perilla IV, Shawn Smith, and Dennis Pittinger.

After the young wrestlers have worked up a sweat, jogging around the mats, doing bear crawls, front rolls, cartwheels, and other calisthenics, they are split up based on age and weight to begin their wrestling-specific workouts and training, each group led by a caring and knowledgeable coach. When this aspect of training is over, the group comes together for a group challenge or game. Meant to build team spirit, Cory and his team of coaches use these group challenges or games to instill a spirit of teamwork in a sport that can be seen as an individualistic endeavor to a casual fan. After the young wrestlers have been thoroughly warmed up, struggled through head locks, been taken down in a myriad of ways, and finally completed a series of sprints, they come together as a group and on a count of three, yell, “Family.”

This season, CYA Wrestling has 42 members of this “Family.” They are not only led by their coaches, but by a group of eighth graders looking to leave a mark in their final youth season: Jacob Thibadeau, Ashton Thompson, Kamerin Jenkins, Beau Andrew, and Seamus Riddle. For these eighth graders, this is their final year in the youth program before they have the opportunity to wrestle at the high school level. Moving on to the high school arena will not be completely unfamiliar territory to them, as many of the high school wrestlers were also part of Cory’s CYA “Family” and continue to come out and give support at the youth matches.

On February 4, at noon, wrestlers from Thurmont, Hagerstown, and Boonsboro will leave their cars, bundled in winter coats, making their way into the Catoctin High School gymnasium. Mats will cover the court, scoreboards and match trees will be on tables next to the three individual fields of action. They will warm up for an hour—a mix of cardio, calisthenics, and wrestling moves. By 1:00 p.m., the gym will be packed with wrestlers, parents, and families to cheer them on.

Intense action follows, one-minute round after one-minute round. Heard from afar are coaches yelling directions and parents and fans cheering their wrestlers on. After their match, one wrestler has their hand raised by the referee. All those cold winter nights, sweaty gym sessions, bruised bodies, and bloody lips are now contradicted by smiles, friendly competition, camaraderie, and the encouraging “Family” atmosphere. It has all now come to fruition. All the kids will have won because they had the courage to go out there and try in a very intense, physical atmosphere.

Last season, CYA Wrestling represented itself well at the Mid-Maryland Wrestling League (MMWL) Championships, which included teams from Washington, Frederick, and Carroll counties, and also a club from Germantown. While many wrestled valiantly but came up a little short, wrestlers Brody Bell (1st place), Grayson Stroble (2nd Place), Grayson Baer (4th place), Xavier Meekins (3rd place), and Liam Jenkins (4th place) all placed and found themselves on the podium in their respective weight classes.

This season, CYA will host wrestling tournaments on February 4 at 1:00 p.m. and February 26 at 8:00 a.m. at Catoctin High School. They have eight competitions during their season to prepare for their culminating tournament, the MMWL Championships on March 5. If you are interested in seeing CYA Wrestling in action, please come to one of the meets and cheer on our kids! Food and refreshments are available at the concession stand. Admission is free.

Ryan Tokar, Thurmont Little League  

It’s been a fairly mild winter thus far, yet it’s still hard to believe that the spring season will begin in just a few short weeks. The registration period for our Thurmont Little League (TLL) baseball and softball programs will close on February 11. A special in-person registration and fundraising night will take place at Roy Rogers on Wednesday, February 1, from 5:00-8:00 p.m., with 25 percent of proceeds from all orders going to the league. Come on out for a great meal to support TLL and get your players registered.

Speaking of fundraisers, we are once again selling discount cards, which are always a popular item. For $20.00 you can purchase a card for unlimited usage at many of your favorite local businesses, everything from a free drink to 10 percent off your order. Please contact the league on Facebook or by email at thetllnetwork@gmail.com for more information. You may also pick one up at several of the participating restaurants.

There is still a lot of other work to be done before the season starts. Evaluations for the Minor and Major divisions will be held at Catoctin High School on Sunday, February 12, from 8:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m., with a draft for each age group taking place the following weekend. After that, practices should start up in late February or early March, weather permitting. Plans are being made for our opening day celebration on April 1, which will, once again, be split into two ceremonies based on division level. There will be lots of fun activities, great prizes to be won, and maybe even appearances from a mascot or two! We have several food trucks tentatively lined up, with The Sauced Savage BBQ and Glamourview Dairy Bar returning as fan favorites. New this year will be Coco’s Grill serving up gyros, cheesesteaks, burgers, and other goodies. Fundraising efforts have already begun, with the league beginning to accept donations for the annual basket raffles.

As always, volunteers are welcomed and appreciated by the league. As most know, umpires and other officials are in short supply across the country. If you are interested in getting involved, MD District 2 Little League will be hosting an umpire clinic at Brunswick High School on February 19. The best part is that this is free for MD District 2 Umpires. Breakfast and lunch will be provided, and door prizes will be given away throughout the day. Please reach out to us on Facebook or by email if you are interested in learning more.

Be sure to check out next month’s issue for even more details about our opening day festivities and all the other events going on to kickstart our 2023 season!

Michael Betteridge

The Catoctin High School Cougars wrestling team, led by second-year coach, Rick Reeder, has 14 wrestlers on the roster. Two of them are females, and they come from different ends of the timeline. One of the wrestlers, Emma Taylor, is a seasoned veteran in her senior year. Jennie Anne Smith, a freshman in her first year of wrestling, has caught the attention of county wrestlers. This is Reeder’s second year working with female wrestlers. He is no stranger to coaching young women, but not in wrestling. He was head coach of the Baltimore Charm, an all-women’s lingerie league arena football team back around 2010.

Coach Reeder took over last year for former Cougars football and wrestling sensation, Colin Schildt. Schildt replaced the legendary 2009 Coach of the Year Ryan Green, whose 10-year tenure as the Cougars wrestling head coach amassed a 144-99 record. Coach Reeder’s first year in 2022 produced a winning season in spite of a limited roster that caused some unfortunate forfeitures. As a matter of fact, Coach Reeder and former Coach Green, now good friends, had a bit of a rivalry on the mat back in the day, when they competed against each other. Coach Reeder played for Frederick and Coach Green played for Linganore.

Coach Reeder prides himself on teaching his team to be physically and mentally tough and believes that those attributes in a wrestler will help them succeed in life as well.

Trying to sell your wrestlers on toughness is not hard when 8 of the 14 wrestlers on your team play football for the Cougars. One of the toughest of those football players is senior Nathan Kovalcik. Nathan is 25-2 this season on the mat and has been recently contacted by Frostburg and Messiah. Nathan plans to wrestle in college and to pursue an engineering degree. Nathan is a heck of a football player, too. He made All-County second team linebacker, along with wrestling teammate All-County honorable mention offensive lineman, Jacob Bell. Those two pounded their opponents at the line of scrimmage much the same way they punish their opponents on the wrestling mat. Sophomore Jacob Bell is 26-1. Coach Reeder is no stranger to football players, having coached football at many different levels, including semi pro ball.

Speaking of coaching at different levels, Coach Reeder has brought several of his wrestlers up through the FCMC Frederick County Mat Club, a youth wrestling club that he has been involved in that develops young wrestlers during the offseason.

This team is building for the future with four seniors and four freshmen and sandwiched in between are a couple of very special sophomores (two) and juniors (two). Sophomore Hunter Bradshaw is 24-3 and two of his wins have been against State finishers. Sophomore Jacob Bell is 26-1. The two freshmen, Dylan Gray and Caleb Wolf, came up through the local CYA system and are making big contributions to this Cougars wrestling team.

Coach Reeder, in his quest to instill toughness, recently added a new dimension to his training: Crossfit. He has the team doing an intense Crossfit workout, then immediately back to the mats to wrestle. The Cougars have a good, well-coached wrestling team that puts the focus on team dynamics in a one-on-one sport.

Stay tuned…Catoctin Cougars wrestling is making a mark!

Ryan Tokar, Thurmont Little League

While there is no true offseason at Thurmont Little League (TLL), December and January are perhaps the quietest months for our families, as the winter sports season is in full gear. Despite this, our board of directors remains hard at work planning for the upcoming spring. Our Facilities Manager, Alex Kline and his team of volunteers have also been hard at work prepping the fields so they will be in the best possible condition for our players for the upcoming year.

The registration period for our baseball and softball programs kicked off early this year, as we opened them up on Monday, December 5. An early bird discount was offered to anyone registering before Christmas. Registrations will remain open until February 11, 2023, at www.thurmontlittleleague.com. If you need information on the appropriate level of play for your child, you may view detailed descriptions on our website. You can also reach out to the league by email or on Facebook with any questions. Evaluations for our Minors and Majors levels are tentatively scheduled for Sunday, February 12; the location is still to be determined. Plans are also being made for our opening day celebration on Saturday, April 1. There will be lots of fun activities, delicious food to eat, and great prizes to be won.

We are once again selling our extremely popular discount cards. For $20.00, you can purchase a card for unlimited usage at many local businesses—everything from a free drink to 10 percent off your order. All your favorite local restaurants are back again this year, along with a new addition of Tuscany’s Pizzeria in Emmitsburg. Please contact the league on Facebook or by email at thetllnetwork@gmail.com for more information. You may also pick one up at several of the participating restaurants.

Be sure to check out next month’s Banner for even more details about the upcoming evaluations and all the other events going on to kick start our 2023 spring season!

Winter Bre

Thurmont Little League Facilities Manager Alex Kline works on field improvements.

Michael Betteridge

I was standing at courtside in the Xfinity Center on Thursday, March 10, 2021, on the campus of the University of Maryland with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat as I watched senior Emily Wivell in the middle of the court with a stunned look of utter disappointment on her face as the loss of the championship began to sink in. The Lady Cougars basketball team’s fourth quarter meltdown had resulted in the loss of the State Girls 1A Basketball Championship to Pikesville.

Just a year earlier, as I was preparing to broadcast our Catoctin boys basketball quarterfinal playoff at Lake Clifton, I found out my co-broadcaster had a family emergency, and I was left alone at courtside wondering what to do. The Lady Cougars basketball team had just arrived at this Baltimore City gym, and I spotted Emily Wivell and motioned her over to my table. I asked Emily to help me broadcast the game, figuring like most high school girls, she would be afraid and say no, but she smiled and said: “Sure!” She was amazing! She was a Lady Cougar through and through. She was confident, funny, and witty, and really enjoyed helping the fans understand the game and supporting her Catoctin boys team. She was a real team player and a joy to have on the radio with me.

The first thing I saw, as the buzzer sounded to end the Lady Cougar’s 2021 season, a year later, was the look on Emily’s face. It broke my heart, especially when I saw her and Emily Williams hugging Coach Amy and crying. I almost lost it right there!

But, there was an important lesson learned that day, and it seems to have taken its hold on several Lady Cougars who carry that legacy forward. No more so than the tough, gritty, athletic Taylor Smith, who was all over the court that day, recording five steals and a team high 19 points. Taylor was only a freshman. And, who wouldn’t remember the roar of the crowd when little freshman JV call-up Kayden Glotfelty came into the game and knocked down a sizzling three-pointer that stunned Pikesville to take the lead at the half.

Now those battle-tested freshmen are leaders on this 2022 team, and they are only sophomores. There are no senior starters on this team. This team is fast, relentless, and plays disciplined defense. They thrive on the turnover, and their speed leaves opponents confused and in disarray.

This is a fun basketball team to watch. Undefeated heading into the Christmas break, they have faced stiff competition at Oakdale and Middletown and never looked back. They are sitting atop first place in the CMC with a nice-looking schedule heading into January, and no real stiff competition until they face Linganore in late January…and did I mention they are young?

With a freshman, three sophomores, four juniors, and only two seniors, that’s a 10.7 average grade level for the team. Nine out of the ten players on this team were there for the 2021 State Championship last March. That is the very definition of playoff experience. One new freshman player reminds us of Taylor Smith last year: Brooke Williams is the youngest, tallest girl on the team, and the freshman plays tenacious defense.

Take some time this month to come out and support the Lady Cougars basketball team. If I was so emotionally changed by what I saw in College Park last March, imagine how nine of the girls on this team feel about their 2022 season, and how you will feel when you see them play.

blair garrett

Catoctin Cross Country has made huge strides in just a short time.

Since taking over just a season ago, head coach David Lillard has put together an impressive turnaround for a program that had been struggling to get runners on the field.

“Two years ago, we had just three runners,” Lillard said. “Now we have 12, and this team went from not being able to compete at states just two years ago to getting second place this year.”

Coach Lillard had a lot of help from senior star runner, Alex Contreras, who took on the role of captain this season. Contreras plays a huge part in getting the team prepared throughout practices, and his dedication has elevated his runs and his team to a new level this season. 

“Being captain is a lot of responsibility, but I do have fun with it,” Contreras said. “The guys are really good, so it’s not like I have to whip anyone into shape. They’re all out here to get better. It’s a fun job, and it’s been pretty great.”

Contreras’ efforts since joining the team have made a huge impact, and the rewards have paid off in a big way. Contreras placed first at the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) 1A State Championships on November 12, etching his name in the record books among Maryland championship runners.

“Getting first at states was something I’ve really been working toward since my freshman year of high school,” Contreras said. “I started in middle school, but I wasn’t very serious about it until my freshman year.”

The team took second overall, and each runner on the team gets to share the glory for how far Catocin’s cross country program has come.

“They’ve done the one thing I wanted them to do when I came here which was to make it their team,” Lillard said. “They take over the team, they control the team and do what they need to do to be a state contender, and they grabbed that with both hands and just went with it.”

Coach Lillard often finds that the players give themselves all the discipline and feedback they need to keep improving.

“They’re harder on themselves than I am on them,” he said. “I have to tell them it’s OK to be a second or two off in their training. Not every workout is going to be great, but their work ethic is top notch, and sometimes I’ve got to walk them off the ledge and say, ‘Hey, it’s OK not to be great today.’”

That attitude and accountability to get better each day has ignited this team, and the results speak for themselves. Fortunately for the Cougars, they have a leader with experience to lean on when things get tough.

“Alex is the captain, so he takes on a lot of that [leadership],” Lillard said. “A lot of times, the kids will go to Alex with issues, and with him being a senior, he’s gone through a lot of the things our younger runners have gone through.”

The benefits of having a talented leader and a coach who understands what each individual needs are immeasurable. There are a lot of good things to come for the Cougars, and a stand-out cross country season is only the beginning.

Coach David Lillard (far left) is shown with Catoctin’s Cross Country runners at the state competition in November. The team took second place overall. Team Captain Alex Contreras (center) earned a first-place finalist award.

CHS Sports Boosters Courtesy Photo

Thurmont Babe Ruth Baseball finished a successful fall season in the Frederick County Babe Ruth League. Their teams at all three age groups finished with winning records and made deep runs into their end-of-season playoff tournaments.

The 18U Thurmont Expos finished the regular season with a record of 8-6.  In the playoffs, the Expos upset the #1 seed Little Falls Varsity Battlers to reach the championship game, before falling to Frederick Post 11.

The 16U Thurmont Cougars finished their regular season in second place with an 11-6 record. The Cougars reached the semifinals of the playoffs, where they fell to Frederick Dirt Devils. 

The 14U Thurmont Thunder finished at the top of the league standings with a record of 15-3. They capped off the season by winning the playoff tournament and bringing home the championship banner.

16U Thurmont Cougars

14U Thurmont Thunder Courtesy Photos

Michael Betteridge

What is it that makes Christmas the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year?”  In my mind, it’s our search for that special gift that will light up the eyes of someone in our life.  It’s the anticipation of that wonderful morning when we awaken with our families with one dream….to make someone smile when they open our gift to them. It’s the peace and joy that we feel when their eyes light up.

My family had a tradition of opening one present on Christmas Eve. We sang “Silent Night” in church and held our candles firmly so that our parents would not worry. And as we walked out of church, that tingle inside became stronger and stronger knowing that soon we would select one present from under the tree before visions of sugar plums danced in our heads. We were allowed to pick the one gift only, and we were very purposeful in selecting the one that held the most promise. It was a skill we developed by carefully analyzing our past failures and successes. We knew exactly which present to choose. We had studied that tree all week long and when we had a moment when no one else was around, we even picked the gift up and gave it a little jiggle. We were certain this was the RIGHT ONE!

The Christmas family traditions of gift giving are modeled on the gift God gave us in His Son….the baby Jesus and we, as parents, pass these traditions down to our children to help them mature from selfish children to selfless adults.  They learn that the gift is in the giving not the getting, that the most cherished human value we can develop is to serve others, rather than ourselves.  These are the values that build families, football teams and communities!

Recently, I asked Coach Mike Rich of the Catoctin Cougars football team what early “gift under the tree” he received this year. His answer was as simple and plain as the manger on Christmas morning: “every day was a blast.”  Count it all joy! “We never had to coach,” said Coach Rich. He went on to explain that they knew they were building, but even so, they never quit for a second. They played like champions. When they beat South Hagerstown, they knew they could run with the “big boys.” Then, when they built a lead over Frederick, the No. 1 team in the county, they realized the hard work was paying off; then Middletown happened, and the Cougars came within one point of an upset. 

Coach Rich shared with me a story that reminded me of the moment when you realize you’ve taught your children well and in the Christmas Spirit. One of his players got into a bad car accident on a weeknight, and the accident was bad enough that the young man had to be taken to the hospital. Before the ambulance even came upon the scene to transport his player, the young man called Coach Rich and told him about the accident. Before Coach Rich could get in a word to ask for the details, the young man said: “Coach, I just wanted to let you know that I won’t be in to practice tomorrow.” In a traumatic moment in his young life, his first thought was his responsibility to the team, not his own welfare. That was the perfect gift that made the whole season worthwhile for Coach Rich. The lesson passed down was not in the wins and losses, but in putting others’ needs ahead of your own.

That young Catoctin Cougar understood the true meaning of Christmas…and the reason for the season….and why Jesus came into the World!

Blair Garrett

Mount St. Mary’s is making a splash in the water polo scene.

Entering the tail end of the team’s schedule, head coach Alyssa Diacono has her team dialed in and rolling through late stages of the season.

“We’re going on to season three, and this is only our second full season since COVID,” Diacono said. “We’ve had a really good sophomore and junior class, and we’ve brought in a freshman class that complements it, so it’s just been a fun season so far.”

Diacono’s men’s team has made waves so far this year, drastically improving on their successes from last season, with plenty of time left to solidify a solid 2022 campaign.

With the program being so young and having to navigate through seasons interrupted by issues with an international pandemic, growing pains are to be expected.

Diacono is now at the helm of both the men’s and women’s programs and is looking to keep improving with every game. 

“This is the first season that I’ve had a full roster,” she said. “We have 23 men and 21 women, so it’s definitely an adjustment, but I have an awesome assistant coach, Justin Vink, who has been a big help.”

Coaching and managing the ins and outs of a collegiate level team is a tough task, but Diacono seems to have found her calling since her days as a player.

“The men play in the fall, and the women play in the spring,” she said. “That allows us to focus on scouting and recruiting for the men now, and then we can switch over to preparing the women as the fall season finishes.”

Diacono and Vink splitting duties has helped the whole operation run much smoother, and it has allowed them the freedom to apply their expertise to the players as needed. The development of the program in the coming years will be, in huge part, due to the efforts the current coaching staff has put in.

“Both teams understand what they’ve gotten themselves into, and they’re both big supporters of each other’s programs, which as a coach helps me a lot,” Diacono said.

With water polo being such a niche sport still, the growth of the game is incredibly important to start at the youth level. Programs across the country have made a tremendous difference pulling young athletes from other sports to try water polo.

“USA Water Polo has done a really great job at building up the sport at the youth level,” Diacono said. “At the Mount, we run clinics and things like that. We’ve brought kids from the Waynesboro YMCA to watch our games.”

The game’s growth at the high school level has really taken off. High school leagues in water polo hotbeds like California, Texas, Michigan, and Pennsylvania have made a major impact on the future of the sport. A lot of water polo teams have to rely on pulling athletes from more traditional team sports, and that’s the same way Diacono got her start.

“I played any sport you can imagine growing up,” Diacono said. “I had a few injuries, and I met a friend who played water polo, so I juggled that and softball my freshman year of high school, and I just stuck to water polo. I got a late start to the sport, so I think that’s why I still love it so much and never got burned out.”

Diacono’s dedication to the game took her to the collegiate level and beyond, and now she brings her wealth of experience to the Mount with hopes of pursuing the same level of success. 

“I went and played at San Diego State, I played professionally in Australia, and then I started coaching at Mercyhurst in Erie, Pennsylvania, as a graduate assistant,” she said. “From there, the Mount opened the position for starting both programs and picked me.”

As a recent player, the transition to running a collegiate team is a daunting task, but Diacono and company have taken things in stride with no plans on looking back.  

“Coaching is exciting, but it’s just a different part of the game. I obviously loved playing but being able to implement what I’ve learned and even have a different perspective as a coach has been awesome,” Diacono said.

Despite the challenges the team dealt with throughout Mount St. Mary’s opening few seasons, Mount water polo is in good hands with Diacono steering the ship.

Head Coach Alyssa Diacono leads both the men’s and women’s squads through the 2022 season.

Photo by Blair Garrett

Michael Betteridge, WTHU

One of my favorite books growing up was the Little Engine that Could.  Written by a Hungarian immigrant, Arnold Munk in 1930, The Little Engine that Could was a generational, classic motivational story about optimism, believing in yourself, and the value of hard work. As I watched our Catoctin Cougars football team play Walkersville on a beautiful, mild October fall night recently, I couldn’t help but visualize that little train huffing and puffing its way up that huge mountain all over again.

Not terribly big in numbers or size this year, I am amazed at how the Catoctin Cougars, despite facing steep challenges from teams like Mountain Ridge, Frederick and Poolesville—all undefeated teams—never gave up and played always believing that they were just one play away from winning, despite the score. Catoctin still remains the only team that was able to score two touchdowns on the Miners this season and against the Frederick Cadets, the #1 team in Frederick County, the Cougars scared the Cadets by taking the lead against them in the second quarter, something no other team had been able to do this season. And then against Poolesville, they startled the Falcons by tying the game at the half. Our Cougars football team played three undefeated teams in six games and played like they were the team to beat!

What is it about this team that keeps them from giving up in the face of insurmountable odds? What are the intangibles that drive young men and their coaches to believe in themselves? One of the answers is legacy. Knowing that what you represent is bigger than your own personal abilities, being a part of a tradition of years of hard work and commitment, makes the effort much easier. Because it’s no longer about you.

Recently, the Cougars celebrated alumni night. At halftime, they brought former two-time state champion head coach Doug Williams and former defensive coordinator Coach Paul Dumars out at halftime to honor these two men. For 29 years, Coach Williams held that responsibility, and he did it with humility, style, and grace. His sidekick, Coach Dumars, was a rough, tough, wry humored shop teacher who always had a twinkle in his eye, and when he spoke, he made you laugh. Alongside these two Catoctin legends stood former players and alumni who rode the Cougars’ train. 

I was there in 2008 when Catoctin was crushed 48-12 by Dunbar in the state semi after a great season.…I think I can….I think I can….and when the 2009 season began….I think I can….I think I can….they had no idea that 14 games later on December 5, they would be standing on the field in a pro NFL football stadium in Baltimore playing for the first time ever for a Catoctin Cougars State football championship. Now, that’s a legacy to play for! 

But the Little Engine that Could found out the inevitable, that when you reach the top, everything is downhill from there. The next year, in 2010, the Cougars were an even better football team, destined to repeat a state title. With Nick Maxey as quarterback and the double threat Barber brothers on the field, the Cougars were the team to beat.  And, then, controversy struck! The Cougars were forced to forfeit their first three games over an ineligible player, and by the fourth game of the season, a big win over Boonsboro, they should have been 4-0 but they were 1-3…I think I can…..I think I can…. They battled through five straight wins in a row to face the eventual 2010 2A state champ runnerups, the Middletown Knights, for their next-to-the-last game of the 2010 season.

While covering a Knights game on the radio several weeks ago, I had a chance to hang out with the former 2010 Middletown football coach and now their athletic director, Kevin Lynott. Somehow, the subject of that wild game on October 29, 2010, came up, where QB Nick Maxey was injured and taken out of the game, and things got a little chippy, which ended up getting Eric Barbour, their star running back, ejected from the game. Coach Lynott admitted that this was the best Catoctin team he had ever faced. But without their star quarterback and running back, Catoctin’s five game win-streak was broken and any chance to overcome the early forfeitures was driven off the tracks. Catoctin finished the season with back-to-back losses to Middletown and Brunswick, and with the three game forfeits, found themselves eliminated from the playoffs altogether. The Little Train that Could was right back in the station, damaged, discouraged, and worn out a year after it was on top of the world. The Cougars would wait another decade to get back up that mountain. 

Ten years later, in 2019, which was Coach Williams last year as the engineer of the Catoctin Cougars football express, they were back on top again! And, after Coach Williams retirement, a new era….I think I can…I think I can… they were right back in the station facing a mountain that would prove taller and more difficult than any mountain the Cougars had ever faced, with a new coaching staff and a crazy three-year COVID derailment in 2020, 2021; and, even this year, Covid struck again recently at the Walkersville game. Coach Rich was forced to sit this one out and couldn’t be with his team. But the Little Train that Could never gives up.

And that is the legacy that keeps our Cougars repeating….I think I can…..I think I can….I think I can.

Ryan Tokar, Thurmont Little League

The 2022 Fall Ball season has come to an end at Thurmont Little League (TLL). Along with the typical rain cancelations and loss of daylight, this year brought some unusual challenges, as two of our main fields were closed for the bulk of the season due to maintenance. Without a lighted field, our schedulers had to get creative in order to get as many games in as possible, sometimes having to play more road games than usual. Despite that, our coaches persevered and continued to provide a positive playing experience for everyone involved. Players learned a lot and had a bunch of fun in the process.

In addition to a full slate of games, the league has kept its players, volunteers, and the community busy through a variety of other activities. In late September, TLL hosted its annual Family Movie Night. Over 150 people showed up on a beautiful fall evening to watch Angels in the Outfield…on the outfield grass! Free glowsticks were handed out to all of the children in attendance, courtesy of J&B Real Estate Agent Elle Smith, while the TLL concession stand served up free popcorn and other goodies.

Finally, TLL ended the season with some Halloween fun. On Sunday, October 23, the league held its second annual Trunk or Treat event. Over 20 vendors/families participated in this extremely fun event, decorating their spaces and handing out treats to the kids. It was a perfect fall evening, and the Thurmont community came out in full force. There were over 300 children in attendance, many with their parents, older siblings, and even grandparents. It was a great night for the whole family to enjoy!

TLL passed out free hot chocolate, cider, and cookies to the massive crowd. Throughout the evening, there was also a variety of guessing games and a costume parade that was held at the end to select winners for a variety of categories. Prizes were given out to the following participants: Cutest—Baby Octopus (Bristol Nash), Scariest—Joker Clown, Most Original—The King of Pop (Baylor Lewandowski), and Best Group Costume—Sea Creatures (The Little family). The award for best decorated trunk this year went to Heather Lawyer of Gateway Automotive for “Candy Corn Lane.”

As always, this event would not have been possible without the support of our amazing local businesses and community members. Head over to our Facebook page for all of the trunk photos and a listing of our participants.

The break between the fall and spring seasons is a very short one. Registrations will be opened in January, so be on the lookout! Be sure to check out our website for more information at www.thurmontlittleleague.com.

Voted best decorated trunk, “Candy Corn Lane” by Heather Lawyer of Gateway Automotive.

Ryan Tokar, Thurmont Little League

The days are getting shorter, and the evening air has started to gain a slight chill. Soon, the mountains around the Thurmont Little League (TLL) complex will be full of colorful leaves. It’s hard to believe that another fall ball season has already reached its mid-way point. On any given night this fall, you can see countless teams in game play, practicing, or utilizing the batting cages. There is always a flurry of activity going on at TLL.

The newly elected board of directors has been hard at work as well. During recent meetings, they have been working to update and amend the TLL bylaws in order to make sure everything is current, regarding game rules and regulations. This will help to ensure the best possible experience for all our players, coaches, and fans. Speaking of the game experience, as many know, our two main fields were recently renovated, with drainage added and other improvements made to the infield. Unfortunately, the weather has not been kind the past two years since this work was completed. The league has decided to shut down Nicholson and Leisner Fields beginning October 1 so that additional work can begin on getting them back in the pristine condition we have all come to expect. Hopefully, once the spring season comes, they will be ready for the players to take the field once again on Opening Day.

As always, in addition to baseball, the league has ongoing events and fun activities planned throughout the season. Next up, is the 2nd Annual Trunk or Treat, which will be held on Sunday, October 23, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Last year, this event was held for the first time, and it proved to be extremely popular, with over 30 local businesses and vendors participating. Lines of TLL players and other local youths paraded through the parking lot in their costumes and filled up their bags. The TLL concession stand handed out hot chocolate, cider, and other goodies. Prizes were also awarded to the winners in several categories. We are looking to make this year’s event even bigger. If you are interested in setting up again as a vendor, please reach out to the league today. For more information, please follow the league on Facebook or visit www.thurmontlittleleague.com.

Richard D. L. Fulton

Mount Saint Mary’s University (MSMU) announced on September 6 that Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Head Coach Todd Bowles had earned a bachelor’s degree from the Mount.

According to Donna Klinger, executive director of MSMU’s Communications Office of University Marketing & Communications, Coach Bowles earned his bachelor’s degree 37 years after he left college to pursue a professional football career, further noting that Bowles had completed the requirements for a Bachelor of Science degree in youth and community development.

Bowles began his “untraditional adult educational journey” in the summer of 2020, prior to the Buccaneers’ eventual Super Bowl championship season at the suggestion of Anthony Agnone, his longtime agent and 1975 Mount St. Mary’s alumni. Agnone recommended that he reach out to the Mount about completing his degree through the university’s Center for Accelerated and Adult Education which is highly experienced in adult learning and academic programming in nontraditional settings.

Working with Associate Provost David McCarthy, Bowles designed an interdisciplinary degree in youth and community development that will serve him well, especially in his community work, Klinger stated.

Bowles stated, “Completing my degree was something I had always wanted to do over the years because it was something I had promised my mother when I went to play in the NFL, and I wanted to follow through on that promise.”

He further said, “Over the years, as I became a father, it became something I wanted to do in order to set a proper example for my sons as they continue on their educational paths. I have also worked pretty extensively with children through my various community projects, and I felt it was important to show them they can achieve whatever they set their mind to.”

Director and Associate Professor of Human Services Dr. Timothy Wolfe stated, “Todd’s success in football, both on the field as a player and on the sidelines as a coach, is not at all surprising… given his work ethic and attention to detail. These same traits were evident in his assignments.”

“I am extremely appreciative of the faculty and the administration at Mount St. Mary’s for helping me navigate through what seemed like a daunting task when I started this journey,” said Bowles. “When I had questions or needed some guidance along the way, I always felt supported, and that played a large role in my ability to successfully complete the program.”  

Associate Provost McCarthy, professor for the required course Ethics and the Human Good, shared that in addition to completing assignments about the teachings of Plato and Aristotle, Bowles developed and presented his philosophy of coaching as well as strategies, struggles, and barriers in developing a team and individuals for the good—in both football and human sense. 

“We would laugh often about how well his years of coaching have brought him to the same place as classics in moral philosophy,” McCarthy said.

Bowles plans to attend the university’s commencement exercises in May 2023.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach Todd Bowles.

Michael Betteridge, WTHU

More and more these days, the opportunity for our football players to letter in more than one sport is decreasing. There are other interests drawing our athlete’s talents, including focused travel teams, other sports, extracurricular activities, and academic opportunities. Some may fear injury to kids on the football field—not just the bumps and bruises of regular athletics, but life-changing injuries from concussions, knee injuries, and permanent joint damage. There is an incorrect perception that football is more “dangerous” than other sports.

Indeed, the recent life-threatening incident on the field during a football game at St. John’s Catholic Prep in Buckeystown is about as scary as it gets. A Winters Mill junior football player’s heart stopped (cardiac arrest) in the middle of a game and had to be defibrillated (a procedure that electrically shocks the heart back to life) on the field and again on the way to the hospital. And everyone at Catoctin surely remembers the head injury to Cougar Colan Droneburg, who was put in an induced coma for several days with a brain injury at Shock Trauma in Baltimore, the result of a severe concussion during a scrimmage in the spring season of 2021. These two incidents would scare any athlete or parent.

We have the same concerns in my family. My grandson, a sophomore at Fairfield Area District School in Pennsylvania, is an excellent all-around athlete who was heavily recruited to play football. He is the starting fullback on the Knights, a position that takes a lot of guts and even more pounding. He is an even better baseball player who plays on the travel team during the football season! His family allows him to play two sports, simultaneously. Someday soon, they could potentially be faced with the dilemma of protecting possible college scholarships for the lefty pitcher or Knights fullback and be forced to choose one sport over the other. The risk of injury will be the dominant factor. 

Over the past decade, smaller schools are more impacted and find it difficult to fill their rosters as parents err on the side of caution. Fairfield had to forfeit their game on September 9 against Hamburg with only 14 players dressed out of a meager 19-player roster, due to injury. Catoctin, the smallest school in the 1A in Maryland (1A schools are the smallest in Maryland), has a very small roster by Frederick County standards with 29 athletes. Brunswick, Frederick County’s other 1A school, has 27. By contrast, Linganore and Oakdale, 3A schools, have rosters of 51 and 50, respectively, almost twice as many as Catoctin. Catoctin’s next-door neighbor, Walkersville, a 2A school, has 44 on their roster. Since it takes 22 players to field a team, offense and defense, you can see the challenge. Many players must play both ways on the smaller teams, increasing the risk of fatigue and injury. Families must weigh all the factors carefully in making sports participation decisions.

One of the most impressive advances in high school football safety has been USA Football’s “Heads Up Tackling” techniques that have been taught to coaches from college all the way down to the youth level. As a varsity youth football coach several years ago, I was required to attend these classes and maintain certification in order to coach at the youth level. The program teaches proper tackling techniques and avoidance of helmet-to-helmet contact in practice and on the field. Practice times and procedures have been modified significantly over the past several years to limit injury and maximize safety.  Changes in helmet technology, hydration, conditioning, and coordination with trained medical professionals who examine and treat athletes have improved drastically.  Rule changes on the field regarding blindside blocking and hits have made an enormous difference. Local and state concussion legislation, along with a minimum return to practice requirements for concussions at the local level, have made a difference as well. The biggest change in youth sports has been the understanding by coaching staff that injuries must be reported and treated. The days of “shake it off” and “get back in there” are over. Coaches now are trained to put the player’s health and well-being first.

Ironically, the most dangerous sport during practice, when it comes to concussions, is cheerleading! This, according to a study by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), results from poor practice methods and the reluctance to view cheerleading as a sport; therefore, injuries never get reported. Cheerleading has changed drastically over the past 30 years, from simple movements and chants to coordinated gymnastic feats that used to be seen only at events in a gymnasium on padded mats. Now they perform triple forward and backward somersaults with aerial walkovers and a round-out to a standing position on concrete and hardwood floors. It makes me dizzy watching it.

According to the CDC, high school sports injuries have been cut in half over the past decade, and football is safer than ever.  The risk of injury is small when weighed against the benefits of learning teamwork, perseverance, discipline, and work ethics. These benefits have an immeasurable positive impact for young athletes, especially when we’re all getting heavier and lazier as technology makes us work and exercise less. We see it everywhere; athletics builds self-esteem, conditioning, and good lifestyle choices. As one of my favorite Catoctin coaches, Mike Franklin, puts it, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change!”

Ryan Tokar, Thurmont Little League

When we left off in last month’s edition of The Catoctin Banner, the Thurmont Little League (TLL) Minors All Stars were still fighting their way through the Emory Frye Tournament hosted by Brunswick Little League. After stringing together 3 straight victories, the team made it to the Championship game, where for the second year in a row, Thurmont Little League was victorious. They defeated South County in a come-from-behind 7-6 victory on a walk off RBI by Bryce Rickerd. Congratulations to all of the players and their coaches for making TLL proud.

It’s hard to believe it’s that time again, but TLL has just kicked off another fall season. This season saw 185 total registrations. The breakdown for this fall will be 4 t-ball, 5 Instructional (Coach Pitch), 4 Minors, 4 Majors, and 2 softball teams (Minors/Coach Pitch). It is wonderful to see more and more children from the surrounding community coming out to participate and learn the game of baseball. The more relaxed nature of the fall season is the perfect time for new players to get started or existing players to move up to a new level to improve their skills.

Along with a new season, came the election of a new Board of Directors for 2022-2023. TLL would like to welcome Ashley Balsley as the new Vice President of the Softball Division. Ashley spent the last year working as the softball Player Agent and was integral to the successful first year of the program. Other newly elected board members include Hillary Inocencio-Concessions Manager, Carrie Laird and Nicole Tyler-Player Agents, Alex Kline-Field Maintenance, Richard Balsley-Safety Officer, Ryan Tokar-Vice President Majors/Information Officer, Dana Duvall-Vice President Coach Pitch, Rachel Workman-Team Mom Coordinator, Kathy Rickerd-Secretary, and Jessica Kline-Member at Large.

As the new members settle into their roles, we cannot forget to thank our outgoing board members who made so many wonderful contributions to the league over the years. Brandon McQuay, served as a manager as well as Vice President of Majors for several years, he also frequently volunteered his time to umpire behind the plate. Jenn Cregger spent many years as player agent and also helped out with opening day and various other league activities. Jon Barton will be greatly missed as Concessions Manager; he was integral in bringing in favorites such as the Goldrush chicken sandwich and the new popcorn machine. Other outgoing members include Melissa Stidom who served as Vice President of TLL Softball during its inaugural campaign, Mike Smith-Vice President of Intermediate, who was critical in keeping that age level running, Gregg Warner-Player Development, who did an awesome job organizing crucial programs such as our evaluations and various camps for our players, and Kyra Fry-Secretary who always took detailed notes during the often lengthy board meetings. The league is grateful to each of you for your years of service.

TLL has plenty of other events and fun activities planned throughout the fall. Back by popular demand will be the second annual movie night. The date and film have yet to be decided but will be determined based on availability. Players, families, and the community are invited to pull up a chair on the outfield grass and grab a bag of popcorn for a fun evening the whole family will enjoy. And, due to the tremendous success of last year’s event, plans are in the making for another Trunk or Treat at the ball fields. We will again be looking for vendors and businesses who would like to set up. This was an extremely fun event, and the turnout was way more than we could’ve ever imagined. Hopefully, this year’s event will be even bigger and better! For more information, please follow the league on Facebook or visit www.thurmontlittleleague.com.

Minors All-Stars win the Emory Frye Tournament in Brunswick.

After nearly two years of planning, and one trip lost due to COVID, the Potter Pirates baseball team finally made their way to Cooperstown, New York, to participate in the prestigious Dreams Park Tournament. With the help of Coach Jeff Potter, author and founder of the Potter Baseball Tour, the team was able to secure a spot to participate in this summer’s event from August 3-9. The team consisted of 12 players from the Thurmont and Emmitsburg area: Tucker Bryant, Chase Cregger, Brandon DeGrange, Mason Hewitt, Reed McCauley, Brody McQuay, Nate Morlan, Justice Myers, Brayden Rickerd, Graysen Strobel, Ethan Tokar, and Bracen Webb. Manager Keith Myers and assistant coaches, Brandon McQuay and Lane Strobel, accompanied the team to Cooperstown, along with Coach Potter.

The Thurmont community has partnered with Potter Baseball on several activities over the past few years, including a charity kickball tournament to benefit the Fuse Teen Center, a painting project on the exterior of the Thurmont Food Bank, and upgrades to the facade of the Thurmont Senior Center, as well as two attempts to play the “World’s Largest Game of Catch” to benefit CureSearch. This summer, the players and families helped with a “Day at the Ballpark” event in conjunction with the Thurmont Regional Library, cleaned up the Thurmont Trolley Trail, and freshened up the pavilions at the Thurmont Town Park. This type of community service is what Potter baseball is all about. “There are no “tryouts,” no bragging on Facebook about how many of the pitchers throw 70 mph, or how many home runs are hit in a game, or how we beat teams by 20 runs. “The talent level of your child is much further down the list than most parents would ever imagine,” said Coach Potter.

It was an exciting, yet tiring, week of baseball for everyone involved. Players and coaches got to stay on-site for a week, lodging at Baseball Village. They had the chance to spend quality time together, meeting players from all over the country and trading their team pins. In their downtime, they hung out in the barracks or were outside playing wiffle ball with their newly made friends. They were provided with daily meals and custom uniforms for the tournament. Each player received both blue and red uniforms, long- and short-sleeve practice shirts, a jacket, and a commemorative tournament T-shirt featuring all 88 teams. At the end of the week, each player also received their very own tournament ring. In addition to that, the team was able to fundraise in order to purchase each player a custom Cooperstown bat with the team members and logo on it.

On the first day, the teams participated in an opening ceremony, where everyone marched into “Little Majors Stadium” carrying their team banners. Several parents got in on the action by dancing the can-can and YMCA to fire up the crowd. Next up were various skills competitions, with Justice Myers participating in the home run derby, Chase Cregger in the fastest player contest, and Nate Morlan in the golden arm accuracy challenge. The rest of the team were involved in a speed and fielding challenge known as “Around the Horn+.” After that, it was nonstop baseball for the next three days. Due to a rainout on the first day, the Pirates ended up playing three games back-to-back on the second day in the unseasonably warm 90-plus degree heat in New York. The team was exhausted but continued battling over the next few days in order to improve their seeding in the single-elimination tournament. When tournament day finally came, they battled valiantly, winning in the first two rounds. Ultimately, they would fall in the third round to an extremely tough Powerbats NJ team. The week was full of memories, as several players homered, everyone got a chance to pitch, and the team celebrated two walk-offs.

Once the baseball games were over, everyone had a chance to let loose and enjoy themselves a bit. Players and families got to spend time going out to local restaurants, having ice cream, fishing, visiting the various wineries and breweries, and exploring other local attractions and shops. But, the best part of all was visiting the Baseball Hall of Fame and seeing all of the amazing players that paved the way and helped make the game what it is today.

On the final day, a closing ceremony was held and players were presented with their official tournament rings. Afterwards, there was a patriotic fireworks display, and everyone settled in to watch the Championship game between SoCal Truth and BP San Diego. The Truth proved to be too much and won the game in four innings to take the title. All in all, it was a wonderful experience for the players and families. They came away with memories that will last a lifetime, new friendships, amazing photos, and souvenirs that will never let them forget the wonderful experience they had at Cooperstown Dreams Park.

Coach Jeff Potter stands with the Potter Pirates baseball team, as they show off their tournament rings they each received at the Dreams Park Tournament.

The 2022 youth cross country season is open for signups for the Catoctin Youth Association for youth ages 6 through 15 (8th grade). Practices began August 15 at Woodsboro Park in Woodsboro, from 6:15 to 7:30 p.m.

If you are interested in joining, you may register at www.cyatrackandfield.com. Please contact Coach John Steiner at 240-422-7996 or email at steindawg@msn.com.

Michael Betteridge

There is a distinct sound this time of year that can be heard up against our beautiful Catoctin Mountains, off in the distance, when the wind blows just right. You can hear whistles blowing and coaches yelling on the practice field. When we hear that distant sound, we smile and we know that Catoctin Football is back! 

There are many things that define our community, just as there are many things that define the time of the year. Catoctin football does both. No one will soon forget those two epic state championships in 2009 and 2019 and what they did to electrify and unite our community. 

Those were enormous wins for the Cougars and Northern Frederick County, but there is one game that will stand out in history above all the rest…..November 29, 2019: Catoctin versus Fort Hill in the second round of the playoffs. The Cougars were overwhelmed in 2018 by the Sentinels 55-6 at Cumberland, and the sting of that loss, which ended their season, was burned into their minds and their consciences. When 2019 began, they took it out on five straight teams, with wins starting against Boonsboro. In the sixth game, they suffered their only loss of the season against Walkersville by a meager field goal in overtime, which brought them to new territory: playing perennial state powerhouse Fort Hill once again, but unbelievably, here in Thurmont.

Fort Hill had never played a road game in a 1A playoff. There was complaining and grousing all over social media by Fort Hill fans, and they seemed a bit put off by the very idea that their “elite” large stadium fan base and program would have to lower themselves to play in tiny Catoctin stadium. There were suggestions that it would be impossible for our community to serve the massive Fort Hill crowd.  That our facilities, traffic, and resources would be overwhelmed, and that, perhaps, the game should, after all, be played in Cumberland, to be fair to the fans. The state said: “No,” we play in Thurmont.

Then something very special happened. Signs popped up all over town…. Cougars will crush Fort Hill. Townsfolk stepped forward and volunteered to help out. Businesses mobilized. The mayor and town councils in both Thurmont and Emmitsburg got involved. The Catoctin High School administration shifted into high gear. Everywhere you went, there was this BUZZ. The excitement was palpable. On game day, busloads of Fort Hill fans poured into the streets and parking lots in Thurmont dressed in red….cocky…arrogant…. boastful, while Cougars fans just smiled because they knew. And when all the shouting, cheering, and hoarse voices faded out against those beautiful mountains that rise above the playing field, the scoreboard seemed to have grown in size with a simple message to Fort Hill: You scored ZERO points; we scored 41. Get on your buses and go back to Cumberland because tonight everyone in Thurmont is a winner.

That was the day we really learned what Catoctin Cougars football means to our community.

And now, that sound rises up again in the distance. You can feel the excitement building. The past several years have been surreal.  Football canceled? A spring football season? Do we play? Are the fans allowed in the stadium? But this year feels different. All of that seems like a bad dream. Everything is coming together. The Cougars recognize that their story is special, and they need to preserve that legacy. Cougars offensive and defensive lines stand out from the 2009 state championship team, Brady Ridenour is one of several of Coach Mike Rich’s new talented coaching staff, linking past to present. They’ve added 2015 Urbana QB sensation, Donovan Pannell, to the coaching staff, who will help refine junior Catoctin quarterback Haydn Mathews into a lethal threat.

But, the real change you can see at Catoctin High School takes us back to the community. Recently, during practice, Coach Rich challenged his team by reminding them that they are part of this team, an identity, a legacy. They are being watched closely. They are no longer kids from Thurmont or Emmitsburg. They ARE Catoctin Cougars football. He called on them to step it up, to hold each other accountable, to cover the next guy’s back by doing the simple things. He asked them to be the last to leave the cafeteria. To pick up any trash left behind. To straighten up the chairs and tables. To look after their school and set an example.

“You are Cougars….don’t forget it,” Coach Rich implored, adding, “If you work hard in the little things, the rest will take care of itself at Boonsboro.” 

So, the Cougars’ season and our story resume on Friday, September 2, at 7:00 p.m. in Boonsboro, just like it did three years ago.

Cougars scrimmage at North Hagerstown High School on August 20, 2022.