When I took the job as the new high school sports reporter with the Carroll County Times, I was basing the next few months on two positively awesome facts.
I get to cover football. And I get paid to do it.
Last fall, with the Howard County Times, I was on the girls soccer beat. While I gave it my full attention and even tried to add something new to its coverage, it wasn't football — the sport I loved to play when I was young, and continue to love to watch.
When sports editor Bob Blubaugh rattled off the list of responsibilities for this position, he lost me at covering football.
I'm a fan, and I was sold.
My first full season covering gridiron action was not one that will soon be forgotten. I watched a running back break a 16-year-old single-season rushing mark and go for more than 2,000 yards in the process — a record that could hold for longer than any Times staffers' employment with the paper.
I got to cover a player that took the term "put a team on his back" to a whole new level once he reached the playoffs. Not only did he score every offensive point during his club's two postseason games as a receiver, he also kicked a field goal and added a few extra points for good measure.
Then there was another receiver who broke a few records of his own — taking down marks for catches and receiving yards in a season, all the while doing it with a first-year junior quarterback.
I was also there for Carroll's best night of football ever.
While the potential for four teams to make it to postseason play was still intact before the regular-season finale, only three were able to advance.
No problem. Instead of rolling over like some may have expected, those three programs made history, as each won their opening-round playoff game. One of those teams even got revenge from an early-season loss to the same school. Another won its first postseason game in school history.
Then, two of those teams played for a regional title, which was another first for the county. The third traveled more than two hours away to a powerhouse program to end the season.
Though Carroll's last team standing wasn't able to make it out of the state semifinals with a win, it didn't matter. As I interviewed a few of those kids for the last time on a football field, I saw the redness in their eyes and heard the heaviness in their voices.
Sure, they were upset that the magical season came to an end, but those who I spoke to were just as happy that it even happened in the first place.
That emotion is important for us reporters, and it especially rang true with me. I was able to take part in this season with all eight teams, one way or another.
At times, I found myself getting excited for regular season games, or the possibility of records being broken.
Sure, there were no state champions from Carroll County, no broken state records, or even superstar recruits taking "signing day" to a new level.
Nope, just a bunch of kids going out on a few cold Friday nights and playing for pride, legacy, and fun. This was football in its purest form, untouched by outside influences that often tarnish the sport in college and the pros.
Though it was ultimately my job to cover these teams to the best of my ability, I can't help but be proud that I was having fun doing it.
Journalists aren't supposed to hold a bias for any team or individual they cover. That would be unethical. Still, is it OK for me to have been excited every time I set foot in a press box?
After all, I'm a fan, too.
Reach staff writer Matt Owings at 410-857-7893 or firstname.lastname@example.org.