Under normal conditions, outdoor grass athletic fields at county high schools aren’t used during the winter months.
With winter sports moving inside to gymnasiums and pools, it gives the fields time to recover so they’ll be ready once spring rolls around.
But these aren’t normal conditions.
The fall sports season was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Frederick County Public Schools officials decided to move the fall sports into a compact six-week stretch that begins in early March. Even though athletic fields haven’t been used since 2019, the prospect of holding fall events on grass fields during the winter months would subject them to extensive wear and tear.
Lacrosse, another sport that subjects fields to a lot of use, begins after the delayed fall season. Rather than overburden the natural fields, all football games will be played on the county’s turf fields.
“FCPS athletic directors met, and the group decided to play all football games on artificial turf fields,” Kevin Kendro, supervisor of athletics and extracurricular activities for FCPS, said in an email.
FCPS is in a position to do this because five schools — Frederick, Linganore, Middletown, Oakdale and Urbana — have stadiums with turf fields. It’s a luxury few school systems in the state possess. Oakdale also has a second lighted turf field, which is used exclusively for practices and can serve as a backup venue, if needed.
Soccer and field hockey games are slated to remain at their original locations, in many cases being played on grass fields. But changes could be made, depending on weather and field conditions.
“We at Tuscarora are excited about the possibility of getting these games in on a safe surface,” said Tuscarora athletic director Howie Putterman, whose football program will use Urbana and Linganore for home games.
Brunswick has its home games slated for Middletown. Catoctin will use Frederick, Oakdale and Middletown for its home games. Walkersville has home games lined up at Urbana, Oakdale and Linganore.
TJ will play home games at Frederick, Oakdale and Urbana.
“At the end of the day, we’re just glad to be able to get a chance to play,” TJ coach Bobby Humphries said. “I think moving these games to turf fields was a smart decision.”
The Patriots have had a longer football layoff than most schools.
TJ shut down its varsity program in 2019 after just one week. Lacking a sufficient number of experienced players, school officials had little choice but to pull the plug on the varsity team.
Since then, Humphries and his staff have re-started the program. A total of 65 players, 40 varsity, 22 junior varsity, are in the TJ football program.
Each county school will play six games, all against in-county opponents. There are no playoffs this year.