Just to prepare you for when you ask, “Who are those guys?” Tonight the guys dressed in blue and white playing Chestnut Ridge will be the Allegany Campers. Tomorrow afternoon the guys dressed in red and white coming down the steps to play Southern (also red and white) will be the Fort Hill Sentinels.
Unless you joined their respective road shows, you haven’t seen either one of them in awhile, as the Campers haven’t played in Greenway Avenue Stadium since Sept. 20 and Fort Hill since Sept. 21.
Remember the days when either or both had at least a seven-game home schedule every year? “Look for it only in books, for it is no more than a dream remembered, a Civilization gone with the wind ...”
Of course, this is not an exclusive situation. Mountain Ridge began the season with three straight road games, the third being at Greenway when the Miners beat Allegany on Sept. 20. Southern, in fact, will be in Stage 2 of its three-game road swing, while Keyser just completed its second stretch of two road games in a row to cap off a five-game stretch with one home game and its opening seven-game stretch with two home games.
Having played road games at Wheeling Park, Fort Hill and Bridgeport, though, the Golden Tornado should be accustomed to the rigors of playing on the road once the West Virginia playoffs begin. Fort Hill, too, as after tomorrow’s game with Southern, the Sentinels will follow with games at Chestnut Ridge and Mountain Ridge and will have played their five road games in six weeks.
It would be one thing, of course, if the area sports conference that was created for the purpose of having an area football league hadn’t crumbled quicker than George O’Leary’s era as the Notre Dame head football coach. At least that way, teams would be staying in the area for most of their road games, which would produce and save more revenue all at once for all involved. But to paraphrase the great Yogi Berra, if some schools don’t want to play other schools nobody can stop them.
Of course, when you have the state playoff system that Maryland has, you’re going to have this because some teams are going to regulate their schedules to reach their ultimate goal of making the playoffs. Conversely, West Virginia’s system allows, even encourages, a team to schedule more quality opponents (see Keyser) as a means to prepare for the playoffs. The problem is the Maryland system works in every region and in every class in the state other than the Maryland 1A West, specifically Western Maryland, because teams in all other regions actually play each other during the season.
What a concept, huh? Of the 10 teams in the 1A West Region, Northern plays four, Allegany and Southern play three and Fort Hill plays two. How can you have legitimate playoff seedings amidst a situation like that? Well, again, this is the only region in which the situation exists. The MPSSAA cannot make a school leave its local league to join its region, nor can it make a team not in a league play another team in its own region. Thus Fort Hill, the team that currently leads the Maryland 1A West Region, must schedule teams from such western Maryland-area locales as Keymar, Md., Erie, Pa., Pittsburgh, Pa., Martinsburg, Pa., Bethesda and New Paris, Pa.
For Allegany it’s Baltimore, Ridgeway, Pa., Prince Frederick, New Paris, Pa. and Towson; and for Mountain Ridge, which plays in the Maryland 2A West, it’s Shenandoah Junction, W.Va., Hedgesville, W.Va. and Monessen, Pa.
And guess what? It’s not going to get any better, nor will it become any less expensive for schools, which is what the MPSSAA tries to do by using a regional playoff format. Yet it’s powerless, or not interested, in implementing regular-season regional schedules.
It’s a sad situation all the way around, but what are you going to do? Well, if you’re going to continue to have a high school football program, difficult as it is, you can only do what the situation forces you to do and not concern yourself with the illogical and petty reasoning of others. As Lou Holtz once said about having problems, “Twenty percent of the people don’t care and the other 80 percent are glad you have them.”
Sounds as though he’s passed through these parts.
Mike Burke is sports editor of the Cumberland Times-News. Write to him at email@example.com