Coaches: New league would boost county football

September 09, 1994|By Bill Free | Bill Free,Sun Staff Writer

High school football in Carroll County is at a crossroads.

North Carroll and Liberty are overmatched in the Central Maryland Conference.

Francis Scott Key is soundly beaten each season by the top two or three teams in the Monocacy Valley Athletic League. Also, the Eagles are locked into a nine-game schedule against league opponents and have no flexibility to play any Carroll County teams except North Carroll. A Key-Liberty matchup would be a good one.

Westminster and South Carroll are worn down each season by rugged nonleague schedules and have trouble competing with powers Thomas Johnson and Linganore for the Central Maryland Conference championship.

The five Carroll high schools have combined for 12 wins in each of the past three seasons.

Four of the five head coaches agree something should be done. New Westminster coach Tim Ebersole said he didn't know enough about the area teams to comment.

Liberty's Ken Johnson, North Carroll's Bill Rumbaugh, South Carroll's Gene Brown and Key's Mike Coons are intrigued by a proposal from Tom Dickman, athletic director and basketball coach at Thomas Johnson.

Dickman's plan calls for the seven-team CMC and the 10-team MVAL to merge and expand into a three-division league of 21 teams with alignment based on how strong a school is in a sport instead of how large the school is.

That philosophy is the same one the now-defunct Maryland Scholastic Association used successfully for many years.

As in the MSA, schools could petition to change divisions every two years if their programs got stronger or weaker in a sport.

Dickman said schools would be playing in different divisions in different sports.

For instance, North Carroll and Key would be in the toughest division in wrestling and weaker division in football and basketball.

Liberty's Johnson has been a proponent for a change in the CMC football alignment since last season, his first at the school.

"Teams in Carroll County are playing far too strong a schedule," said Johnson. "We can't build up the confidence you need at the high school level. Tom Dickman's plan is a good one. It would give us the flexibility to play more games against schools similar in size and ability. But I hear his proposal is meeting with a tremendous amount of resistance."

Dickman acknowledged some opposition.

"All the principals have to sit down and talk about it," he said. "It hasn't been sold to the principals yet. I see the most opposition coming from the MVAL principals. They have grown kind of accustomed to their cozy 10-team league."

Key's Coons said: "No matter what you propose, you're always going to generate some opposition. I see pluses and disadvantages to the new league.

"I love our MVAL but it would be nice for our school to play more Carroll County opponents in all sports."

Dickman already has placed the CMC and MVAL schools in what he considers the fairest divisions in 14 major sports. Only girls lacrosse and swimming are excluded because all the schools involved do not compete in those sports.

"It didn't take very long to come up with three equal divisions in all the sports," said Dickman, whose basketball team dominates the CMC year in and year out. "It's all become rather obvious over the past several years. I don't want to put anybody down but it doesn't help our team to play North Carroll and Liberty in basketball and I'm sure they don't enjoy it."

Dickman said the three divisions would be called National, American and Central, with seven schools in each.

Because only 17 schools are in the CMC and MVAL, four schools would have to be added.

One of those schools (Urbana in Frederick County) is being built, and there is speculation that a new school is going to be constructed in the Gamber area in Carroll County.

Dickman said possibilities for the final two schools are Poolesville in Montgomery County and Hancock and Clear Spring from Washington County.

So just how close is this league to becoming a reality?

Dickman said he believes MVAL principals at Key, Brunswick and Catoctin should be ready for a change because those three schools "never win a boys basketball championship."

North Carroll's Rumbaugh is sold on the proposal:

"The competition would be better for us. It would put us in one of the biggest and most respected leagues in the state."

South Carroll's Brown agreed, "I love Tom Dickman's idea. It would even a lot of things out for everybody in a lot of sports."

The seven teams in the CMC are Westminster, South Carroll, North Carroll, Liberty, Frederick, Thomas Johnson and Linganore.

The 10 teams in the MVAL are Francis Scott Key, Brunswick, Catoctin, Middletown, Walkersville, Boonsboro, North Hagerstown, South Hagerstown, Williamsport and Smithsburg.

Walkersville and Middletown traditionally have been strong in football and basketball in the MVAL and most likely would be aligned with Thomas Johnson, Frederick, Linganore, South Carroll and Westminster in the strongest seven-team football and basketball divisions in the proposed league.

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