Just two weeks into the fall season, the lush green grass at South Carroll's stadium field has turned into something better resembling a mud pit following a weekend band competition.
"Essentially what happened is that our grass was just marched away," said athletic director Jim Horn. "From about the 40-yard line to the 40-yard line, and from midfield over to our sideline, we have very little grass left, so it's just dirt."
A similar situation occurred last fall at Westminster High, drawing complaints from coaches and athletes.
"Anytime it rains from now through the end of the year, we're going to be playing in mud," said Horn. "That increases the risk of injury to these kids, because once you get mud there, it's so much easier for a cleat to get sucked into that mud, and the kids can't make the cuts they need. Plus, when it dries, it gets so much harder, so a kid is now hitting dirt instead of the grass."
Horn said that the problem most likely won't be addressed until after the spring season.
"You're looking at the fall season not ending until November - well, you can't plant grass seed then," he said. "By the time you can plant grass seed, in March or April, well, then you're starting lacrosse, and that would tear anything up."
Looking for 3-0
Two county football teams, No. 12 Francis Scott Key and No. 13 South Carroll, are off to 2-0 starts, but each will face stiff tests in the days ahead.
South Carroll will play host to Linganore, a 2-0 team that boasts one of the stingiest defenses in the state. Cavaliers quarterback T.J. Swanson, who has showed off one of the strongest arms in the metro area in his team's first two games, is expected to play despite a sprained wrist in his non-throwing arm that forced him into a soft cast earlier this week.
Coach Gene Brown said that he may wear a wrist protector during the game.
Key will travel to nearby Westminster, a team hungry to prove itself following blowout losses to South Carroll and Martinsburg (W.Va.). The Eagles are led by the potent rushing of Josh Rutter and Layton Hersh.
"I'm happy with our improvement each week," said Key coach John Baugher.
Westminster, however, things aren't likely to get easier after an 0-2 start. The Owls are scheduled to play host to Francis Scott Key tomorrow night, then follow with another tough game against Frederick. Later this season, they travel back-to-back to unbeaten Linganore and Urbana.
Getting it done in goal
Liberty boys soccer coach Ed DeVincent said he's hoping junior goalie Brandon Chopper gives the Lions big things this season. So far, Chopper hasn't let his coach down.
Chopper has looked solid in helping No. 13 Liberty to a 2-1-1 start. He made nine saves in Tuesday's 2-2 tie with Century, and a solid performance helped the Lions beat Glenelg in the final of last Saturday's Lions Classic tournament.
DeVincent said Liberty will need Chopper to be strong in goal throughout the season. An acrobatic, athletic keeper, Chopper made a dazzling save in the Glenelg game by stopping a shot with a foot - much like a hockey goalie would - and moments later, a diving save.
Chopper's stops helped the Lions battle to a 2-2 tie in that game. Both coaches then agreed to go right to penalty kicks because of the muddy field - and Chopper stopped one penalty kick that proved crucial as the Liberty won.
"Brandon's stepped up big for us so far," DeVincent said. "When he's focused, I think he's [potentially] one of the best keepers around."
He also seems to stay cool under pressure. After helping the Lions to the penalty kick win against Glenelg, Chopper just smiled when asked if he was nervous.
"I was prepared for the penalty kicks," he said. "It's pretty exciting ... and it was good to come out there against a quality team and get a win."
Jeff Seidel contributed to this article.