With snow and ice blanketing fields two weeks before the start of the season, Frederick County Public Schools had decided the first week of the football games will consist only of scrimmages.
The decision was made Friday during a meeting of FCPS athletic directors, and coaches were still in the process of learning and digesting the information by the time evening rolled around. Some had not yet told their players.
Kevin Kendro, the FCPS supervisor of athletics and extracurricular activities, said the decision was made with player safety in mind.
FCPS football teams were scheduled to have their first full-contact practice Saturday in preparation for a season that begins March 5. Snow canceled school and wiped away any chance for teams to practice Thursday and Friday when full contact would have been allowed for the first time.
“We haven’t had contact since . Some kids have not put on pads since last football season,” Kendro said. “So, this is just to give teams just a little bit more time to prepare.”
Some county football coaches did not react favorably to this news.
“I’m furious,” Linganore coach Rick Conner said. “I can’t believe they took a game away from our kids without even starting.”
Conner’s Lancers will open the season March 5 against Tuscarora in a game that will now be a scrimmage, meaning the result will not count toward a team’s overall record.
Both schools are of comparable size and play in the same region, the Class 3A West. So, Conner said it shouldn’t be viewed as a lopsided matchup, and that all schools are dealing with the weather delays and the shortened preparation time.
“Let our kids play,” Conner said. “Let our kids play the game they love. For us personally, we are playing a 3A West region team. There is no reason that should be a scrimmage. ... It’s even competition.”
Frederick County football seasons typically take place during the fall over the span of nine to 14 weeks, depending on if teams qualify for the playoffs and how far they advance.
The coronavirus pandemic has pushed the start of the season to March and shortened the duration of the season to seven weeks.
The 10 Frederick County schools have been divided into two divisions. Linganore, Oakdale, Urbana, Walkersville and Middletown comprise one. Catoctin, Frederick, Thomas Johnson, Tuscarora and Brunswick comprise the other.
The opening week will feature scrimmages between teams from opposing divisions. Then, every team will play each team in its division and one cross-division opponent during the five-week regular season.
The seventh and final week will consist of cross-division games based on record. The teams with the best record in each division will play, with the winner being crowned the de facto county champion. The teams with the second-best records will play, and so on.
Wins and losses do not carry the same weight as they do during a typical season since there are no regional or state playoffs.
That’s another reason why some county coaches were disheartened to see the first week of games turned into scrimmages. The outcome was of little consequence anyway, they say.
“Everybody is in the same boat, you know, and I feel as though it is taking away an opportunity for kids to compete,” said Jerry Smith, the football coach at the smallest school in the county, Brunswick.
Kendro said that coaches will have wide latitude in how the opening-week scrimmages are conducted. They can play out exactly like a regular game would or they could be something less formal with starts and stops and other adaptations.
“We felt like this was a safer approach,” Kendro said, speaking on behalf of the FCPS athletic directors and citing the weather interruptions and the shortened practice window for players to get used to hitting and tackling.