Mike Chavez and Bobby Humphries once competed at a high level for proud high school football programs, with Chavez playing wide receiver and linebacker at Linganore and Humphries lining up at running back and linebacker for Thomas Johnson.
So while making the decision to not compete isn’t part of their DNA, it became a necessary course of action for a Patriots varsity football team with low participation numbers.
TJ announced on Wednesday during Frederick County Public Schools’ monthly athletic directors meeting that it will forfeit Saturday afternoon’s varsity football game against Tuscarora.
Now the Patriots’ athletic director, Chavez said 22 players dressed for last week’s road game at Middletown but it was determined that only 14 would be available to play on Saturday. Chavez attributed the decrease in available players to injuries and “other various reasons.”
“We’re both former athletes, and we’re both competitors,” Chavez said, referring to himself and Humphries, the Patriots football coach. “It’s heavy on my heart to make this decision, but ultimately I have to do what’s best for our student-athletes and our program.”
Chavez, Humphries and TJ principal Dan Lippy, Chavez said, made “a joint decision” on Tuesday to forfeit their upcoming game before making an official announcement on Wednesday.
FCPS principals also attended Wednesday’s meeting, which took place at TJ.
Notifying his players, many of whom he praised profusely for the effort they put forth in TJ’s Week 1 loss to Middletown, may have been the task that ate at Humphries the most. Humphries said nine of his athletes played on both sides of the ball throughout the entire game.
“The question [they asked] was, ‘Why? Coach, I want to play. Why? Why can’t we go play?’” Humphries said. “Every one, that’s what they said.”
Chavez said he doesn’t necessarily set a minimum for the total number of players he’d like for the Patriots to dress for each game. Having enough players properly trained for each position takes on more meaning for Chavez, who said safety issues arise when teams do not have any sort of depth at any one particular position.
“It’s dangerous to have a student play a position he’s unfamiliar with,” said Chavez, who struggled to recall the last instance where a lack of available players led to a forfeit.
Humphries said the Patriots are particularly shorthanded on the offensive line.
“It all starts with linemen,” Humphries said. “You can have as many skill guys as you want. And if you don’t have a line group that’s protecting them, then you can’t have success.”
Chavez said he and Humphries will re-evaluate the team’s situation early next week and determine if the Patriots can play their next game, a home contest against Oakdale on Sept. 20.
TJ’s junior varsity team has approximately 35 players, and Chavez called moving some of those athletes to the varsity team a possibility. However, he said many of the JV players are freshmen and sophomores who have no more than a year of experience playing organized football.
That lack of experience touches on the biggest problem TJ’s football program faces.
While youth athletic programs such as the Catoctin Youth Association (CYA), the Glade Valley Athletic Association (GVAA), the Linganore Oakdale Urbana Youth Athletic Association (LOUYAA) and the Middletown Valley Athletic Association funnel future high school football players into the districts of other public high schools, the Patriots do not have a feeder program.
Humphries said about a third of the Patriots’ players who competed in Wednesday’s JV game against Tuscarora played in their first football game.
“If I say, ‘A gap, B gap,’ those might be JV terms that my JV players don’t have yet,” Humphries said. “So I’m teaching them basic football, and I have to do that on top of teaching them to hit, be hit and be safe.”
However, Humphries doesn’t want to use the feeder system disadvantage as an excuse.
“We’re trying to not let that define us,” Humphries said. “We can’t be defined by the fact that we don’t have a youth program.
“It just means that we have to work harder. The guys that I have right now in the program know that they have to start working harder than anybody else to right this ship.”