Big or small, Hancock earned its playoff spot

November 11, 2003|by TIM KOELBLE

Let's give some love to the Hancock football team.

Here come the naysayers with comments that Hancock played a "soft schedule" to enhance any opportunity of reaching the playoffs for the second time in school history. The first was in 1986, in which the Panthers lost 44-14 to eventual state champion Havre De Grace.

There are some critics indicting Hancock for putting together a schedule condusive to making the postseason. And nobody else does?

My goodness, give the kids a break. Hancock's opposition finished the year 37-59, but that is not the worst opponent's combined record of all the teams that qualified this season (that's another story).

Every coach and every player has a goal of reaching the playoffs and Hancock has met that goal. You've still got to get out there between the lines and play the game.


"Our kids, all 22, put forth an effort that gets them an 11th game," Hancock coach Bill Sterner said. "We're ecstatic to be here. It's icing on the cake and for fun, no matter what happens.

"We didn't attempt to back in (to the playoffs), and the schools that had under 250 students we beat."

I can speak from experience - I played high school football at a school even smaller than Hancock. I went to Dover St. Joseph (about 25 miles south of Canton, Ohio) and in my freshman year of 1965 we had 51 boys in the four high school grades and 45 of us played football. Hancock has 75 boys and is the smallest public school in Maryland.

No doubt we were at the time a small, rinky-dink Class A school and we did not hesitate to take on all-comers, including Class AA and AAA schools.

Sometimes I wondered what my dad was thinking about, since he combined with the head coach to compile our schedules.

Well, we went out and won the state championship that year. We might have had one or two schools that were even smaller than ours on the schedule which we probably should not have played (one which we won, 82-20). But we did beat the "big boys" and most everyone still said we didn't belong.

Just as the critics are now saying about Hancock.

Chances are at least 50-50 Hancock won't beat Catoctin in the 1A West semifinals Friday. They'll be the decided underdog and will need a gargantuan effort. Catoctin has played five teams that qualified for the postseason and they've knocked off two of them.

No matter the outcome, Hancock can take pride that under a state playoff formula that is the same for all schools, it qualified for the postseason tournament.

A week of numbers

1 - The city of Hagerstown is still looking for its first state football championship. Could this be the year for No. 1? Yeah, we know everyone at Fort Hill says it's over for the Hubs on Friday.

2 - Who would have thought that the loss column for Virginia Tech and Miami (Fla.) each would equal Penn State's victories at this point in the season?

3 - The number of Mid-American Conference teams in the Top 25 college football polls this week. The MAC has always cried about a lack of recognition, but this is a little incredulous.

4 - Pretty poor when we're midway in November and my Cleveland Browns and Notre Dame Fighting Irish each are in search of that victory number.

8 - Number of Maryland state football records set by Keith Ricca and Max Morris of St. John's at Prospect Hall last Friday. Ricca threw 'em and Morris caught 'em.

9 - I know they've never been a juggernaut, but somewhere along the line I would have thought Minnesota's college football team might have snuck in a 9-win season somewhere in the modern era ... but the last time the Golden Gophers did was in 1905.

10 - Congratulations to North Hagerstown for its first 10-win season, not necessarily expected. Ditto to Martinsburg for its usual success, but it certainly was expected.

25 - The Top 25 poll: Oklahoma is No. 1 and all the other inferiors should be tied for 25th. That includes TCU. C'mon now, you really don't think TCU can beat most of the ranked teams?

80 - A whopping 80 percent correct picks ... can you believe that Big Sydney character? I think I'm going to give him a ring and see if I can't get him out to Charles Town some night.

81 - You thought Texas A&M felt bad against Oklahoma? How about Hiram (Ohio) College, which lost to Wabash, 81-0?

104 - Stat man nightmare of the week is last Saturday's game between Central Oklahoma (62) and Northeastern Oklahoma (42).

1,594 - For a minute, I thought that was the number of homers Eddie Murray (Baltimore Orioles) hit (not really). It's actually how many points Eddie Murray (kicker, Detroit Lions) scored.

Tim Koelble is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. His column appears every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2311, or by e-mail at

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