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The grass is always greener

Semifinal coaches see what awaits

Semifinal coaches see what awaits

November 20, 2002|by MARK KELLER

keller@herald-mail.com

BALTIMORE - Sixteen Maryland high school football coaches were given a tour of Ravens Stadium on Tuesday afternoon. For eight of those coaches, it will have been nothing more than a cruel tease of what could have been.

The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association held its annual football media luncheon in the Southwest lounge at the stadium, which will play host to the finals of the state tournament Nov. 29-30.

But in order to get to the big game at the big house, the teams have one more opponent to get through.

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For two of those teams - South Hagerstown and Beall - the lush green grass of Ravens Stadium will be a shocking change from the surface on which they've become accustomed to playing.

"Our field is muddy and murky, but I don't think it's much different from any other in the state right now," said Beall coach Roy DeVore, whose team welcomes the Rebels for a Class 1A semifinal game on Friday. "But that's what you have to live with in Western Maryland. With all the teams that play on the field during the year, it starts to show the wear."

South coach Greg Kellick can certainly relate. His team plays at School Stadium, which is shared not only with the Rebels soccer, JV and freshman football teams, but those from North Hagerstown, too.

"There's someone on the field every night," Kellick said. "Ours isn't in as bad shape as some of the others we've seen, but it's scarred up pretty badly."

Both teams played their quarterfinal games in muddy conditions and fared well. South beat Dunbar 42-0 in the mudpit that used to be the football field at Baltimore Polytechnic. Beall beat Elkton 33-6 at home, but not without some controversy.

In the fourth quarter, Elkton coach Bill Russell asked officials to check the length of the cleats two Beall players were wearing. The officials measured and found that the cleats were longer than the half-inch cleats permitted. Russell told officials he was playing the game under protest.

The players were made to change their shoes and DeVore was hit with two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, which resulted in his ejection from the game.

The result of the game was upheld, but because of the ejection, DeVore will not be allowed on the sideline for Friday's semifinal game. He can conduct practices and serve as the team's coach until one hour before the game. When the game ends, so does DeVore's suspension.

"It's going to be tough to only watch the game, but I have a lot of confidence in the kids and in our staff," DeVore said. "I'm not happy about it, but you have to adhere to the rules."

Consideration was given to moving the game to the artificial surface at Greenway Avenue Stadium in Cumberland, Md., but DeVore said "unless the powers that be overrule us, it will be played in Frostburg. We think the community deserves to see it played there."

That means South and Beall will have to prepare for another day in the mud bog, which Kellick said shouldn't make much of a difference to the players.

"The kids are used to it. They just want to go out and play," Kellick said. "It has more of an effect on us as far as calling the offense, but the kids don't care.

"But if we make it to the finals down here, we're going to have to teach the kids how to play on grass again."

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