Since it was established more than a decade ago, the Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference has provided a solid format that enables public high school programs in Harford and Cecil counties to compete against each other in a bi-county league.
On the whole, the idea was, and remains a good one. Alone, neither Harford nor Cecil has enough high schools to make for a particularly competitive league, but together they do. Part of the reason a meaningful league can't be devised in, say, Harford County is because, though it has a dozen schools, they vary with regard to strength of program. For years, Aberdeen was the power in wrestling, even as its boys lacrosse teams were lackluster. Joppatowne is similarly weak in lacrosse, but its football program has generally been solid.
Thus, the Harford-Cecil league has two divisions in each sport, based on strength of program, rather than size of school. This makes for fairly competitive games when schools of similar ability are pitted against each other. It works great for the regular season.
Unfortunately, this reasonable division into an upper division (the Chesapeake) and a lower (the Susquehanna) falls apart at the end of each season when the championship games are played between winners of each division, except in football.
It's worth pointing out here something that is obvious, namely that the world championship baseball team is not determined by having the winner of the World Series play against the Triple A team with the best record. Nor does the winner of the Super Bowl go on to play the best of the Canadian Football League for all the marbles.
This applies, generally, on all levels of sport. The 18-U softball team from Hickory Fountain Green doesn't square off against the 9-10 squad to determine the local rec league champion.
It may apply generally, but it doesn't apply in the Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference.
The two-county champion team is determined by having the upper division team with the best record play against the lower division team with the best record. There are exceptions to the rule, but it doesn't take a Las Vegas bookie to predict the odds when the best of the best plays against the best of the rest.
The theory is that an improving lower division program has the opportunity to knock a poorly performing team out of the upper division and take its place by beating the top team in the upper division in the title game. This concept could be retained, however, simply by allowing for teams to move up or down each year depending on overall records.
There's nothing wrong with having two championship teams. Nor does it matter whether the champions are decided by their regular season performance, or by playoff games between the top two teams in each division.
And there's yet another alternative whose time may have come. Instead of playing a final upper vs. lower game, where the outcome is fairly predictable, it might be better for the Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference to take an idea from the program that doesn't have an upper vs. lower championship game, that being football.
Last Friday night, the all-stars from teams across the two counties gathered for a game that pitted the northern schools from Harford and Cecil counties against the all-stars from the southern parts of the counties.
Such a contest certainly is more of a climactic ending to a season, than playing a game whose outcome is easily predicted.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun