Matt Redinger lives in the town of Oakland, in his words, “about a 45-second commute” to Southern Garrett High School, where he serves as the athletic director of his alma mater.
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, which left up to 30 inches of snow, downed trees and power lines, and more than 15,000 Garrett County residents without power, Redinger says his neighborhood looks like a war zone.
“We just got our power back last night at 5 o’clock,” he said Thursday afternoon. “We are fortunate in that we have gas, hot water and such.
“Monday night was filled with howling wind, cracking trees, and transformer explosions. It was just crazy. I have lived here almost 40 years and this is the worst storm I have ever seen in Garrett County.”
What is a beat-head-against-wall hectic week every year for high school athletic directors in this state, this week flat-lined for three days because of the conditions that would not allow for anything other than survival to take place. And once the hurricane left, clearing athletic fields of nearly three feet of snow and making the facilities safe was not very high on the priority list.
Still, Northern’s and Southern's boys and girls playoff soccer games were played yesterday, and the Northern-Southern football game will be played Saturday at 1 p.m. All three games, in which Northern, Southern and Southern respectively were and will be the home team, were and will be played on the FieldTurf of Mountain Ridge High School Stadium in Frostburg, Allegany County.
Fortunately for the student-athletes at Southern and Northern Garrett high schools, Redinger and Northern athletic director and head football coach Phil Carr have some good connections in their work.
“The best way to answer your question,” Redinger said, “is you have some great people in Allegany County leading your athletic programs. I spoke with (Dr.) Ray Kiddy (Allegany County supervisor of athletics) last week about the potential snowfall we could get, and how bad it could be to our fields.
“Tuesday morning (Mountain Ridge athletic director) Gary Davis called and offered us his field as our ‘home away from home.’ Gary even built in a schedule to accommodate us and offered us a place to move our football game with Northern so that the kids could get that game in.”
Dr. Janet S. Wilson, superintendent of Garrett County Schools, and Paul Edwards, director of secondary education and athletics, gave the green light to both schools, and the games, at a time when our games can serve as a much-needed and important respite, would go on.
“So it really was not a big process,” Redinger said, “just someone very nice, who offered his time and facilities. We are very appreciative of Gary Davis.
“The AMAC has some faults, but I think (the league) has improved the camaraderie of the area, and there are some great people to work with. (Allegany High athletic director) Duane McMinn has done things to help us in the past, as has (Fort Hill athletic director) Paul Green. Whenever we have had a need all we have had to do is ask and they help us.
“I wish there was a way to repay them. However, with our weather, we may never be able to do that.”
Knowing Gary Davis, first as one of the greatest and most intense wrestling coaches anywhere, and now as one of the outstanding athletic directors that I, too, am fortunate to work with, seeing kids, regardless of the school they attend, being able to play these games that are so important to them and to their high school experience is repayment enough.
Thus, the Southern and Northern teams were afforded the chance to get away temporarily from their hurricane-battered Garrett County to play their state playoff soccer games and the most important football game of their season — in Frostburg, their home away from home.
But not really. For as this cooperative effort by two boards of education, and the extended hand of friendship by Mountain Ridge and Gary Davis prove, no matter where you are, as long as you’re in Western Maryland, you’re never away from home.
Mike Burke is sports editor of the Cumberland Times-News. Write to him at email@example.com.