When boys soccer practice started two weeks ago, Joey Brauer and his Carroll Christian teammates heard their share of remarks from drivers who were traveling adjacent to the Patriots’ practice field.
There weren’t too many well-wishes, either.
Brauer and Carroll coach Josh Belcher said the Patriots were heckled most days while they prepared to start a season unlike any other ― the Maryland Association of Christian Schools Athletic Conference recently agreed to go forward with outdoor sports in the fall season amid the coronavirus pandemic.
With the rest of Carroll County’s high school sports teams barred from playing as a result of recent rulings from the state’s athletics governing bodies, Carroll Christian and most of its MACSAC rivals surged ahead.
The Patriots opened their season Friday with a non-conference home game against Cumberland Valley, and while they fell 3-2 Carroll said the event symbolized some much-needed normalcy.
“It’s one of those things where you’re incredibly excited, but at the same time you’re incredibly nervous,” Belcher said. “It can be a distraction. Every time we practice it seems like somebody drives by and yells at us. Instead of focusing on soccer, we’re always focusing on, ‘Get your mask on, get your mask on. Stay apart.’ That kind of stuff. It’s just an adjustment for the boys.”
Belcher said the Patriots weren’t about to use any of that as a reason for what he felt wasn’t their best effort. Practice began Aug. 3, and Carroll, along with the rest of the MACSAC, had to be prepared for everything to come crashing down at any moment.
MACSAC president Cheri Lefever, who is athletic director at Harford Christian School, said via email the league recently released a statement explaining its decision to play this fall for schools that chose to participate.
The MACSAC’s leadership team “will continue to reassess this decision as the season progresses,” according to the statement. The MACSAC statement also said the league’s mission was to “return student-athletes to play as safely as possible while following local and national guidance.”
Close to 100 spectators took in Friday’s game on Carroll’s home field. Not all of them sported face coverings, but they did their best to remain socially distant and adhere to rules that were posted around the field’s perimeter.
The crowd saw an even first half before Cumberland Valley stretched its lead to 3-1 behind two goals from striker Mario Wiesman. Brauer got Carroll closer in the final minutes when he used a pass from Joe Matthews and headed it in from close range. But the Patriots couldn’t net the equalizer.
Cumberland Valley, from Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, won its league crown last fall, and the Blazers added a National Association of Christian Athletes Division 3 championship as well.
Jonathan Badorf scored Carroll Christian’s first goal Friday, with an assist from Cam Wooden, that tied the score 1-1 in the first half. The Patriots return some talent from last year’s team that posted a 17-4 record, and Belcher is looking for the 2020 edition to jell quickly.
If for no other reason than the uncertainty that surrounds this fall.
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“It was a good feeling to get out and start playing again, get the guys together and try to come out with the win,” Brauer said. “Hopefully in the future we’ll do better and work better as a team.”