with Michael Betteridge
Comfort Is The Enemy Of Greatness
Our hometown Catoctin Cougars’ fall sports season began on August 9 at 7:00 a.m. at Catoctin High School, when our guys and gals came streaming through the doors of the school, carrying their gym bags, equipment, and hopes and dreams for the fall 2023 high school sports season. Football, soccer, cross country, field hockey, volleyball, and golf are in full swing with everyone returning to practice exactly two weeks before the first day of school on August 23.
One of the biggest changes at Catoctin is the new artificial turf field, installed throughout the month of August. Some athletes like the artificial surface because it is faster, and some prefer natural grass because it is more forgiving. The one undeniable thing is that you can play on the artificial surface no matter what the weather and that is precisely why Frederick County has upgraded the final four high schools in the county that had natural grass fields: Brunswick, Catoctin, Tuscarora, and Walkersville. Money was allocated by the Frederick County Council in the form of a $10 million Maryland state grant, specifically to upgrade those four schools. And that didn’t sit well with the boosters at Governor Thomas Johnson High School, who raised $200,000 to fund their new turf field in 2021, which took years to raise. Had they waited two years, that money could have been used to benefit the student-athletes because the county and state would have paid for the field. Timing is everything!
There are those who think Catoctin won the lottery with its new field and others who think turf fields harm the environment, cause more injuries, and cost more in the long run with an 8- to 10-year life cycle. Like it or not, Catoctin football, soccer, and lacrosse will be played on an artificial turf field from now on.
But, new fields are not the only change in the fall sports season. Early in August, the Central Maryland Conference (CMC) announced a complete realignment of all the teams in the CMC. Clear Spring was added. The CMC now has 16 schools in the league and has been broken down into two divisions: a small school division with 1A and 2A schools and a large school division with 3A and 4A schools. The small school division will consist of the Antietam and Gambrill subdivisions, and the large school division will consist of the Potomac and Spires subdivisions. Catoctin has been placed in the small school Antietam division, along with Clear Spring, Boonsboro, and Smithsburg. Catoctin football will not be affected by these changes in the CMC since there is no CMC championship for football. The football postseason is guided by the Maryland Public School Student Athletic Association (MPSSAA). For sports other than football, there will now be two CMC championship trophies awarded: one to a small division school and one to a large division school.
Every year at the start of the football season, I like to hang around the Catoctin practice fields, workout areas, and sports classrooms to prepare myself for play-by-play coverage on the radio. I have been doing play-by-play on WTHU here in Frederick County now for 15 years. Just like high school sports, preparation is everything. I also attend the Catoctin football chalk talks and scrimmages, but what I really enjoy is learning from the Catoctin coaches.
Recently, while attending a Catoctin football practice session, Head Football Coach Mike Rich said something to his players that was timeless. I was moved by the words of advice he gave his players. He told them that “comfort is the enemy of greatness.” He is right! Getting up at 5:00 a.m. to make a 7:00 a.m. football practice is uncomfortable. He reminded his players that at that very moment, their classmates were still on vacation and probably in bed asleep. He challenged them with the notion that not everybody belonged in that room. Showing up is easy, but putting in the hard work every day is what will make them Catoctin football players. After Coach Rich was done, I wanted to put on a helmet and pads and suit up to play myself.
Coach Rich, now in his fourth season at Catoctin, is highly motivational. He is building something special on Sabillasville Road, and it’s starting to pay off. Coach Rich keeps pounding his mantra into players over and over again. He calls it the three B’s: Be consistent! Be relentless! Be accountable! Excellent advice for teenage athletes.
Senior Haydn Matthews and Shamus Stull will share time at quarterback this season, surrounded by a very large offensive line. Haydn has matured from last year. He is big and strong and has a cannon for an arm. Stull is a player to watch this season. He ran with teammate and track star Brody Buffington in the 4×100 relay track team. This kid is a burner! With Matthews’ size, arm, and athleticism and Stull’s speed, defenses will go nuts trying to figure out how to adjust to that QB tandem. Robeson and Watkins are huge on the offensive line, with teammates Randy Hall and Braydon Bagent, this could be one of the best o-lines since 2019. At wide receiver, they have real legitimate speed in Charlie Dougherty and Vince Reaver. One of the biggest surprises last year was Logan Malachowski. Logan is a big, strong target with good instincts and a deep threat to take the ball away in a crowd, which he did several times last year in the end zone. The most amazing thing about Logan is that he has only played football for one year. This is his second year ever playing organized football. Logan was also a big part of the Cougars 2023 baseball team, playing centerfield and pitching in relief. I am really excited about this wide receiver corps!
Speaking of baseball, somehow coaches convinced Eddy Titchom, who helped Coach Franklin with the baseball team last spring as a manager, to suit up and play football. He is huge! The biggest guy on the team. He will make an immediate impact on this team. And, finally, junior running back Jake Bell looks bigger and stronger than ever and will carry the load in the backfield behind the wall up front with his teammate running back Wayne Ferson, a thunder and lightning tandem.
The defense is anchored by one of the strongest defensive backfields in recent history. Charlie Dougherty will play both ways, but according to coaches, he is one of the best safeties they have seen in a long time. Charlie will call the plays for the defense. Expect big things from Charlie this season, sticking his nose in there and busting up the opponent’s offense and reading the quarterback’s eyes in the backfield. Pound for pound, the defense is special and the time spent in the weight room this year shows. These guys are big, strong, and athletic. Offense is fun, but defense wins games!
This team is on board with Coach Rich’s three B’s, and with a new turf field to add to the excitement, this Cougars football team will consistently and relentlessly pound their opponents all the way into November.
I predict a very special season for the 2023 Catoctin Cougars football team. On Friday, September 1, the season began at Catoctin High School on their brand new “field of dreams.” Come on out to the new field and cheer our Catoctin Cougars football team to victory. Catoctin can’t win without its twelfth man. That’s you!