with Michael Betteridge

Prediction: Christmas Will Come Early This Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas just might come three weeks early this year!

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