This week has been called a lot of things by a lot of people for a lot of years, but since this is a family newspaper, we’ll just call it Homecoming Week. Which means, for the 86th time, Allegany and Fort Hill will play a football game, provided, of course, anything is left standing in the wake of the biggest storm to ever hit the East Coast.
Why can’t this ever be easy? And let me just say here and now, if there is snow on the field, my mother and her Pep Club are not available.
Both the Campers and the Sentinels are 7-2, which is not unusual; and, depending on what happens with them and with Boonsboro and Brunswick, they could soon be meeting for the 87th time, which, fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your point of view, is no longer unusual either.
The Campers? In the immortal words of Dennis Green, “they are who we thought they were!” Everybody expected this Allegany team to be good, and it is. As head coach Tom Preaskorn said in August, “I think we have all the pieces of the puzzle; we just have to put that puzzle together. Our slogan this year is, ‘Make It Personal” because the last two years weren’t the best seasons at Allegany. The kids need to take it on their shoulder and take it personal, and take it to every down and every game and compete and finish. They won’t be handed anything.
“Winning is contagious and so is losing. If the senior leadership comes through, we can have a great season.”
The senior leadership has come through, and so has a very talented junior class. The Campers can run it, they can throw it, they have speed, they have depth and versatility, and they have the big hairy guys up front and on their front seven.
Their wins have been convincing; their losses have come to two teams, St. Albans and Calvert, who are as good as any team any area team has faced this year.
Then there is Fort Hill. Did you really believe the Sentinels would be 7-2 coming into this game? Don’t lie; you did not. Nobody gave them a chance to win seven games this year, with every expert preseason analysis ending with, “5-5 would be a good season for this team.”
Oh, and they heard you, Jerry.
“I don’t believe in the word rebuilding as far as a football team is concerned,” Fort Hill head coach Todd Appel said in August. “We work with kids who are there and who want to play football. I think we have enough talent to compete. We have good coaches showing kids how to compete and I think we can be competitive and win a lot of games. It’s just how much the kids are receptive to coaching and how hard they’re willing to work.
“These kids are not being told they’re great; they’re being told just the opposite. There’s a lot of perspective out there and a lot of it is twisted. If we win a lot of games, the same people who said we were no good will say, ‘I told you they’d be good.’ We plan to work as hard as we can, execute and win games.
“Rebuilding? We’re practicing.”
And they’ve practiced well, gaining experience and improving each week. They started out 2-2, with lopsided losses to Keyser and North Hagerstown (see St. Albans-Calvert comment), and the 5-5 looked kind. But the Sentinels have taken that 5 and stuck it where the sun does shine and enter the Homecoming Game on a five-game winning streak.
They are far from conventional in their ways. They’re opportunistic and, as football coaches are prone to say ad nauseam, they overcome adversity — some of which they create for themselves.
Certainly, Allegany will enter as the prohibitive favorite, but that won’t matter much to either team.
Last year’s 50-7 Fort Hill win? Look for it only in the record books if you’re on the Fort Hill side of town, for it is no more than game remembered. It’s a completely different team. However, since it is not a completely different team on the Allegany side of town, it will be remembered and mentioned often, and qualifies as something the Campers are apt to take very personally.
But what if they meet for a second time the following week? How does that affect things?
Please. Let’s just get through this week. And I mean that literally. Then we can worry about the first time they meet.
Mike Burke is sports editor of the Cumberland Times-News. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org