I said it a few weeks ago in one of these columns, but handing over the coverage of field hockey to Aegis Sports Editor Randy McRoberts has been a bit weird.
Some of the coaches still have me on their e mail contact list, and when I see the game recaps starting to hit my inbox early in the evening, I'll start to write that night's field hockey story in my head, which is my normal routine for all the sports that I cover. Then, it hits me that I'm off the field hockey beat, and that it's boys soccer, golf and boys volleyball that I should be concerned with.
In any case, with field hockey still in my peripheral vision, I saw on Monday that Fallston, the mighty Cougars, who have won 13 state titles, four of which came during the five seasons that I was covering field hockey, lost to the North East Indians, 2-1. I was stunned. I thought that I had seen some kind of typo, and that it was a different North East team that had beaten Fallston (maybe Northeast-Anne Arundel, though that wouldn't make much sense, as that would have been just as big an upset).
Now, the North East team that actually did defeat the Cougars, 2-1, on Monday afternoon, the squad from Cecil County that plays in the UCBAC, is no slouch when it comes to field hockey. The Indians have won 11 regional titles over the last 34 years, they have been to the state finals three times (1986, 1995, 1996), and they won the UCBAC crown in 2004, beating Susquehanna (lower) Division champ Bo Manor in the conference championship game.
I know that the most recent of those achievements is eight years distant, but I'm throwing out all those facts to show that North East is not some new jack team just now making a name for itself by beating one of the most successful programs in state history. The Indians have been a quality program since the beginning of state-wide, organized field hockey in Maryland. In fact, of the 15 UCBAC field hockey teams, only Fallston, Elkton and Rising Sun have won more regional titles than North East (and I'm always gushing about the quality of field hockey just in Harford County, when there's great programs all over the conference).
Still, as I said before, it was a shock to see that North East, which is playing in the Susquehanna Division this season, had knocked off Fallston. Lower-division teams beating Chesapeake (upper) Division squads is not all that unusual. It seems to happen every season, usually early on when the teams are still shuffling lineups and working out the kinks. For some reason, one that sticks out in my head is the Havre de Grace baseball team (Susquehanna Division) opening its 2010 campaign with a 7-4 victory over North Harford (Chesapeake Division). That was a big enough upset that I remember it more than two years later, but it doesn't really stack up to Monday's result, which was the first case in UCBAC history of a lower-division team beating Fallston in field hockey. The only game I can think of right now that presented as big an upset was the 2011 UCBAC boys basketball title game, when the Susquehanna Division champ North Harford came back from a halftime deficit to beat Chesapeake Division champ Havre de Grace (I was at that game, and though the end result was a shock, it was a very dull affair).
I think the main reason I was so dumbfounded by the Cougars' loss to North East was that, having covered field hockey during one of the Fallston's most fruitful periods, I put them on a pedestal. Monday's game just proved that they are not untouchable, and as somebody who writes a lot about loving upsets and underdogs, my hat goes off to North East field hockey.