Craig Walker and Bill Rumbaugh formed a close bond while working together for several years as coaches at North Carroll. Now, as each leads his own fledgling athletic program into the Carroll County fray, the two again find themselves striving toward identical goals.
Community acceptance public notoriety. Oh, and a few wins wouldn't hurt, either.
Following a year of junior varsity competition, Walker's Century program is set to begin play for real today, as its varsity field hockey team debuts at North Carroll. Meanwhile, Rumbaugh's Winters MiII program, in its inaugural year of existence, is scheduled to field six teams today in junior varsity and freshman competition.
"Whether people want to admit or not, athletics is, often times, the most visible and most highly publicized aspect of a school," Rumbaugh said. "So the good strong programs that are highly respected can go a long way toward developing a community's sense of pride in their school."
Century attained that to a certain degree last year with the success of both its girls cross country and track and field teams, but now must try to replicate those feats on the larger stages of football and soccer. Walker, however, said there's no pressure to win.
"The hard part is getting everybody to understand that we're still on a two-year program, because we only have juniors," said Walker, whose program won't include seniors until next school year. "The kids are so excited about making things happen this year, but I don't want them to get discouraged if things don't go their way. I want to make sure that if success doesn't come right away, it doesn't discourage too many of the coaches, players and parents from what we're trying to work toward."
Rumbaugh, the former athletic director at North Carroll, has spoken extensively with Walker, as well as with Ken Klock, the athletic director of Howard County's Reservoir, another first-year school.
"We've just tried to compare notes so that we can avoid other people's mistakes and learn some things," said Rumbaugh, adding that his veteran staff, considered a who's who list of county coaches, has helped make the transition a smooth one.
Walker, who a year ago was simply trying to get to know his coaches and athletes, said there's plenty of anticipation in the Knights' program, which he said is "so much further along" than last year, since the teams have had a year to gel.
Century's football team will make its varsity debut at Liberty tomorrow night, in a game that has dual meaning since many of the Knights players came out of Liberty's pipeline. Winters Mill, meanwhile, will make its junior varsity gridiron debut tonight at Thomas Johnson, where former Liberty coach Ken Johnson will try to lead the Falcons to a winning start.
With the equipment in place and the fields again green after recent rains, the only thing left to do is play ball.
"There's really a sense of opportunity to see the first games and contests at the school," Rumbaugh said. "That's kind of neat."
Fresh face at Liberty
Liberty girls soccer coach Lee Kestler says he isn't fond of putting freshmen on the varsity, and likes starting them even less.
After inserting ninth-graders into the starting lineup no more than about five times in his 15 years, however, Kestler said that he will expand that short list this season with center midfielder Shannon Cassatt. An Olympic Development Program player, Cassatt caught the coach's eye in preseason workouts, and will start when the Lions open their season today at Mount Hebron.
"She's a very heads-up player, and her strength is her defensive side," Kestler said. "She's tough and reads the entire field well."
Kestler said that he would've left Cassatt on the JV if he didn't feel she would play at least one half per game.
Jeff Seidel contributed to this article.