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Big Chill should still thrill South

November 25, 2002|by MARK KELLER

South Hagerstown can literally say that they were frozen out of the Class 1A football state championship game.

The Rebels certainly have nothing to hang their heads about, given all that they've accomplished this season - accomplishments no other South team can claim.

A second-place finish in the Monocacy Valley Athletic League. A trip to the state playoffs. A win in a playoff game.

All those accomplishments won't lessen the sting of the Rebels' 34-12 loss to Beall in the 1A semifinals Friday night in Frostburg, Md. - at least for now.

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"It's really hard right now, being a senior and feeling like we've come all this way to lose," said running back Mike Campbell. "I don't like to think of it that way, but right now we really don't have a choice."

Tempers flared often on the South sideline Friday night. Most could be attributed to fighting what was quickly becoming a losing battle.

It couldn't have been easy for a team like the Rebels, who played with a swagger that grew as the season went along, to have their season come to an end in such sudden fashion.

But once the frozen tears melt away from their faces, the players will rightfully be able to look back at what they did this year - and the previous two years - with great pride.

"We wanted to make a mark on the program, and I think we did that," said senior defensive back Mike Moyseenko. "We stuck together for four years and worked hard. I'm really proud of what we accomplished. We've shown the way for the players coming up."

"This was their reward for their hard work, getting to this point," South coach Greg Kellick said. "We had a good season. We wanted seven wins and we got it. We wanted to get into the playoffs and we did it. We played into the 12th week. That's something to be proud of."

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For most South fans in attendance, they had to have felt like they were in Frostbite instead of Frostburg.

Those who were on the Rebels' side of the field felt the full brunt of the storm that blew through Western Maryland. The snow that fell throughout the game and left about one inch of powder on the field was blown right into the faces of the South players and their fans by 30 mph winds.

Our photographer, Ric Dugan, said it was at least 10 degrees warmer on the Beall sideline because much of the wind was blocked by the grandstand and press box on that side of the field.

One thing's for sure: I'll be more apt to believe Lou Scally now when he says there were blizzard-like conditions in the mountains when Hagerstown got just a dusting of snow.

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My two cents on a couple of issues:

n The MPSSAA should take a cue from West Virginia and make its football playoffs a 16-team-per-class affair.

It could happen as soon as next year. There are two proposals on the table for discussion at the state Board of Control meeting in December, including a plan that would place the top four teams in each region of each class into the playoffs.

The other plan would divide the schools into six divisions instead of the current four-class system and still only qualify eight teams per class. Let's not even talk about that one.

Under the 16-team plan, the first two rounds would be played within the region, with region champions advancing to the state semifinals.

I'm not crazy about that setup. I'd rather see them put the top 16 into the field, period.

Let the higher seed host games throughout the playoffs until the state final, just as is done in West Virginia.

However, if this is the only way they are going to expand and add a week to the season,

I'll take it.

n I was beginning to write that the MPSSAA should take a cue from West Virginia, Pennsylvania and other states when it comes to schools hosting playoff football games, but in thinking more about that, I've reconsidered my stance.

In West Virginia, stadiums and fields must meet certain standards in order for a school to host postseason games. Otherwise, the game is moved to the nearest school with a stadium that qualifies.

While that sounds logical - figuring in a perceived raised level in play and reduced threat of injury - it's really not fair to the school that earned the right to play their games at home to make them play somewhere else.

Beall earned the right to play at home Friday night against South. To make them drive 12 miles to Cumberland to play on a foreign field in a "home" game is not the right thing to do.

Part of participating in sports is having to deal with the elements. It's why teams have so much trouble winning in Green Bay in December and January.

A home-field advantage really does mean something, even at the high school level. Maybe the MPSSAA should look at that and reconsider the ludicrous way they award home games in the open playoff system for soccer, basketball and other sports.

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