High school athletes liken the first day of fall sports practice in August to a national holiday, knowing quite well the real celebrations don’t take place until the games begin.
So when Westminster football player Tavian Montgomery this week compared the feeling of preparing for the Owls’ season opener to Christmas, it’s a good bet his teammates and coaches — and fellow Carroll competitors — didn’t argue.
The season for beating opponents kicks off Friday, and five county squads are playing home games to begin their 2018 campaigns.
Westminster, the reigning Carroll County Athletic League champion, reached the Class 3A West Region final last fall. Another run toward the playoffs starts Friday at Ruby Field with a home matchup against Urbana. The Owls defeated their Frederick County foe in last year’s opener, the first of Westminster’s 10 wins.
The end came in the regional title game at home against Linganore, the eventual 3A state champs, in a 16-14 heartbreaker.
The Owls didn’t lose to a Carroll opponent last season but lost the reigning Times Player of the Year to graduation in wide receiver Zane Lewis, among other key contributors. They do return their share of talent, however.
One first-team all-county returner is senior quarterback Christian Etchison, who threw for more than 1,800 yards and tossed 24 touchdown passes in 2017.
Carroll’s other playoff team from a year ago was Liberty, and the Lions host private-school opponent Boys’ Latin in their first game.
Liberty went 8-3 (5-1 in the county) and reached the 2A West playoffs for the third time in four seasons. The Lions bring in a new quarterback in junior Nate Kent, who transferred from Westminster, and return a few all-county selections from 2017.
Crosstown rival Century hosts John Carroll, another private school, in Eldersburg. The Knights are coming off a 4-6 season but won three games in a row before losing the season finale to Liberty.
Winters Mill enjoyed a non-losing season last fall for the first time in several years, and the Falcons want to build off their 5-5 record. It begins with a home game Friday night against Joppatowne, which WM defeated last fall as part of its 2-0 start.
Two teams play their first games with new coaches Friday — Manchester Valley, led by Bernie Koontz, hosts Williamsport, while Mike Kraus guides South Carroll in its opener at Edmondson.
The Mavericks posted a 4-6 record last season but lost three games by one score or less. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers are trying to bounce back after going 2-8 a year ago.
Francis Scott Key hits the road for Week 1 when the Eagles visit North East (Cecil). Key started last fall with a 3-0 mark and finished 6-3, its first winning season in 11 years, powered by all-county running back Nate Imes.