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!