Cumberland Times-News

September 15, 2012

It is what it is; time to come to grips with it

Mike Burke
Cumberland Times-News

— No, the view hasn’t been pretty, as just three weeks and 18 games into the season involving the six Western Maryland high school football teams, we’ve seen seven games end with the 35-point running clock rule in effect. There has been one game when the winning team scored 70 points, one when the winner scored at least 60, four when the winner scored at least 50 and six when the winner scored at least 40.

Remember when a team scored over 30 points once or twice a season and it raised eyebrows concerning the perceived offensive potency of one team, or the perceived weakness of the other one? Okay, that’s really going back. Let’s just say 40 used to be considered a scoring milestone not that long ago, and a team scoring in the 50s was really an exception. Well, those days are long gone. They went the route of the larger enrollments that moved out of the area about the same time over-selective scheduling moved in.

Repeat after me. This is not the 1950s, the ’60s or the early ’70s when smokestack industry carried the day. It’s not the ’80s, or even the ’90s when there was Maryland 2A representation in the area. This is the 21st century and all of the high schools in the area — Maryland and West Virginia alike — are small schools. Like it or not, we aren’t who we think we are. More accurately, we aren’t what we used to be, which is to say a larger size, and it’s maddening when fans out there refuse to realize it’s making a huge difference in the level of play we see today.

Combine this with the refusal of some area schools to play some others since the local high school all-sports conference deep-sixed one of the “driving” reasons for its formation in 2007 — an area football conference — and we’re going to see the likes of MATHS and Silver Oak on a couple of local schedules. But don’t forget. A couple of area teams have also been on the short end of that running clock this season as well.

“We’ve always wanted to have area competition in all of our sports,” the first president of the Appalachian Mountain Athletic Conference Tom Woods said at the time, “and now that we’re all relatively the same size, the timing just seemed perfect. So we will compete against one another in all sports sponsored by both West Virginia and Maryland.”

Woods, who was the principal at Southern Garrett at the time, said it was hoped the formation of the AMAC would serve as a boost to the schools’ travel budgets, but that, “One of the driving forces of the league was to get football into an area conference. The WMIL (Western Maryland Interscholastic League) doesn’t have football.”

Well, neither does the AMAC, but we’re not here to fight that battle anymore because it is what it is — a losing battle.

Which brings us in a roundabout way to a pair of area teams that do continue to play each other — every year since 1926, as a matter of fact, Allegany and Keyser. At this time of the season, the eye test easily tells us they are currently the two best teams in the area, both being undefeated and both readying to meet for the biggest game of the season thus far, Friday night at Greenway Avenue Stadium.

The Campers have played three games and have won them all by the 35-point rule — with 50, 35 and 58-point differentials. Keyser is 3-0 as well, and if West Virginia had the 35-point rule that Maryland has, the Golden Tornado would have just one full game under its belt, having won its games by 48, 29 and 40.

Friday’s match-up should bring a packed house to Greenway, although anymore the term “packed house” is relative to the reason for declining school enrollments. Nonetheless, it proves to be a dandy, as the Campers, while always establishing the fullback, play with a great deal of offensive diversity, while the Golden Tornado appear to be a team intent on grinding up yardage with a physical running game.

It should be a great area high school football game, which, based on the barking we’ve been hearing about the games we’ve seen so far this season, is what area fans like to see. Too bad there won’t be more, but, to paraphrase the old adage about the weather, everybody complains about the schedule, but nobody does anything about it, leaving those who have tried to do what they have to do.

Mike Burke is sports editor of the Cumberland Times-News. Write to him at mburke@times-news.com