The Centennial varsity football team will forfeit its home game against Howard on Friday night due to a lack of players, Howard County Public School System’s Coordinator of Athletics John Davis said on Wednesday.
Centennial, which disbanded last August for the 2017 season because of a “lack of sufficient players and concern for student safety,” according to a HCPSS news release, is not disbanding for the rest of this season, however. Davis said the plan is to forfeit its game against Howard and “get healthy” before playing the final three weeks of the season against Reservoir, Hammond and Oakland Mills.
“Everybody wants to move forward with the season, but they just don’t have enough healthy kids right now to line up this week,” Davis said. “The plan is this week they’re going to get healthy, get back and then play against Reservoir [on Oct. 19]. Whatever happens happens after that, but the plan is to play the last three games. ... I think they should be good going forward because they are getting a few kids back next week. They’ll be able to play next week.”
The decision to forfeit was made this week following a conversation between Davis, Centennial Athletics and Activities Manager Jeannie Prevosto and head varsity coach Billy Martin before the Eagles’ game at River Hill on Oct. 5. They had 16 players dressed and 15 played during their 56-0 road loss against the Hawks, Martin said, and seven players were out because of injury. The game had a running clock throughout.
Martin said that the team had 25 players on the varsity roster for the first game Aug. 31 against Glenelg, but have been seeing one or two players sustain injuries each week to create the current predicament.
“Just from the Long Reach game three weeks ago to the River Hill game on Friday we lost three guys that started both ways and were playing basically the whole game,” Martin said. “With limited numbers to begin with, it’s tough to sustain those kind of losses. So we started thinking about the big picture and, with three to six kids due back from injury over the next week, we feel like if we take a week off then we should be able to get healthy enough to compete the rest of the way.”
At practice on Wednesday, Martin said the team had just 13 varsity players medically cleared to participate.
“That’s just not enough, especially going up against a 4A team in Howard that’s got 70 kids on their team,” said Davis, who added that the decline of participants was a result of “everything.”
“There’s normal attrition. You’ve got kids that are not available due to injury, different disciplinary reasons, you’ve got kids that do quit and all that but it’s not a big portion.”
As a result of the forfeit, the Howard varsity football program will be awarded a victory. The junior varsity game between the two schools will be played Friday at 4 p.m. as scheduled, while Centennial and Mt. Hebron varsity girls soccer will now assume the 7 p.m. time slot at Centennial.
“Our kids are disappointed because they want to play football, as I’m certain their kids are as well,” said Howard Athletics and Activities Manager Michael Duffy, who added that Prevosto informed him of the forfeiting on Tuesday. “Kids on both teams are competitors — they want to play a game — but they understand it’s an unfortunate situation.”
Duffy added that upon hearing the news, the Lions’ coaches and players immediately turned their focus to their home game against Hammond on Oct. 19.
Martin said some of his Centennial players were initially surprised by the decision, but after meeting as a team he feels everyone is on board and committed to regrouping in order to finish out the schedule.
“I think it caught a few of them off guard a little bit … as competitors the last thing you want to do is forfeit a game. But sometimes your hand is forced by circumstances outside of your control,” Martin said. “There’s no question, though, that our intent is to get healthy and get back on the field to finish the season strong.”
Centennial, a Class 3A school in Ellicott City with an enrollment of 1,614 students in 2017-18, is 0-6 this season and has been outscored 292-0. It went 1-9 in 2016 and 0-10 in 2015 and 2014 after winning seven games in 2013. The Eagles made their only appearance at the state tournament in 1980 and finished as semifinalists.
Martin, who is in his first year as head coach, said in August that “it’s a new start, a fresh beginning” for the program. Fewer than 20 players attended tryouts on the first day in 2017, and the team disbanded less than two weeks later.
So even though tangible results have not been there this fall — and an inability to compete on the field this week is a setback — Martin feels that positive progress is being made in terms of rebuilding the program.
“This season was never about winning or losing, I knew that when I took over. Our goal was to start that process of building a positive culture again around the program and, while it might not look like it on the surface, I’m really pleased with what we’ve been able to accomplish,” Martin said. “It’s a complicated process and it doesn’t happen overnight. This decision to not play this week was not an easy one by any means, but I hope it doesn’t overshadow all the strides we’ve made.
“I really believe that we are still headed in the right direction and that this is just a bump in the road.”
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Howard County Times sports editor Brent Kennedy contributed to this story.
9:47 p.m.: This story has been updated with comments from Centennial varsity football coach Billy Martin.