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Baltimore football championship seasons have always started in Westminster … so should we be worried?

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Many Carroll County residents are getting a case of nostalgic Super Bowl fever as they look forward to Sunday's AFC championship contest between the Baltimore Ravens and the New England Patriots.

For more than 120 years — since football debuted at then-Western Maryland College on Oct. 31, 1891 — football has been a part of the history of Carroll County.

Not to be overlooked is the fact that since July 1949, Baltimore football teams have held summer practice in Westminster. Names like Raymond Berry, Jim Parker, Art Donovan, Gino Marchetti, Lenny Moore, Eugene (Big Daddy) Lipscomb, Alan Ameche, and Wilbur (Weeb) Ewbank, just to mention a few, have become an important part of our Carroll County cultural history.

And yes, there is also that quarterback that was cut by the Pittsburg Steelers in 1956.

What was his name? Oh yeah, right. Johnny Unitas.

Unbelievable. According to an old history of the Baltimore Colts in my files, "Unitas was cut by Pittsburgh and was playing for $6 a game for the Bloomfield Rams. He was originally signed as a backup to George Shaw, but became a starter four games into the 1956 season when Shaw went down with an injury."

Of course, if you ask me, summer training in the fresh air of Westminster is probably why the Baltimore Colts won its first National Football League division title in 1958, with a 9-3 record, and went on to win the NFL championship — long before there was a Super Bowl — on Dec. 28, 1958, in what historians still call "the greatest game ever played."

That day, the Colts defeated the New York Giants, in Yankee Stadium, by a score of 23-17. The Colts had tied the game at 17-17 with seven seconds on the clock and then went on to win it in overtime with a one-yard run by Ameche.

History accounts note that it was the first NFL championship decided in overtime. It was also the first game before a national television audience, and many credit the start of football's rise in popularity to that telecast.

Fast forward to the 1968 season when the Colts racked-up a 13-1 record in the regular season. That year, the Colts went on to play the New York Jets in Super Bowl III on Jan. 12, 1969. A game that is, to this day, not mentioned in polite company. Look it up. All I'm going to say is that the Jets won, 16-7 in Miami.

After a successful 1970 season, the Colts went on to win Super Bowl V on Jan. 17, 1971, with a 16-13 victory over the Dallas Cowboys — in the Orange Bowl in Miami Florida.

It would be 20-years before a Baltimore football team would make it back to the big game — Super Bowl XXXV when the Baltimore Ravens beat the New York Giants, 34-7 in Tampa, Florida on January 28, 2001.

Now, what do all of those Baltimore football championship seasons have in common? Well, let's just say they all started here in Westminster.

Next up in history is Super Bowl XLVI, to be held Feb. 5 in Indianapolis. Baltimore may have to overcome the fact that this year didn't begin in Carroll County. But, the team has maintained a healthy connection here, and as evidenced by rallies and such over the past two weeks, county residents certainly count the Ravens as the "home team." Let's hope it's enough.

I'm just saying. Go Ravens.

When he not watching Baltimore Ravens football, Kevin Dayhoff may be reached at kevindayhoff@gmail.com.

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