For the first time in several years, I haven't had to cover a boys basketball region championship playoff game, and that's good news for my stomach.

Not that I don't like the food served by the various booster clubs at county high school sporting events.

To the contrary, I just had a couple of awesome hot dogs at Tuesday's North Carroll- Liberty girls basketball playoff. One was piled high with sauerkraut, the other loaded with chili (albeit a bit mild for my taste).

No, the problem is that boys region title games always fall on Friday nights. In Lent.

And I'm Catholic.

So I can'teat meat.

Now, some of the concession stands in the county sell pizza and some don't. And I've often wound up visiting the ones that don't on Fridays in Lent.

Which means I have one of two choices -- grab a bite on the road before the game, or starve until I get home around 11 p.m.

Now we Catholics believe in self-denial during Lent,but we're not crazy. So, I've usually opted to pick up my meal before the game.

A few years ago, in fact, I stopped by a Westminster deli and grabbed a couple of shrimp salad sandwiches to take to a South Carroll game (I had one of those buy-one, get-one-free coupons).

But that caused some problems.

First, it costs more. Even gettingone free, I dropped $4.50 for the sandwiches (they were good, though) and some more for the soda and chips. At the aforementioned Libertygame, I got the two dogs and a drink for $2.50, and even if I had added chips, it still would have come in under $3.

Heck, it's the least I can do, since I get into the games for free.

Now I realize tailoring a menu for Catholic sports fans in Lent may not be a big priority in Carroll, which has a relatively small Catholic community. (If abstinence from meat was a Methodist tradition, I'll bet you'd see plenty of meat-free alternatives at local high schools.)

But this hungry sportswriter has a couple of suggested menu additions for Friday night games during Lent.

For starters, how about soft crab sandwiches on toast, with lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise?

Steamed shrimp would be a crowd-pleaser, too, though all those shells could get messy. Come to think of it, shrimp salad sandwiches might not be bad.

First, it costs more. Even getting one free, I dropped $4.50 for the sandwiches (they were good, though) and some more for the soda andchips. At the aforementioned Liberty game, I got the two dogs and a drink for $2.50, and even if I had added chips, it still would have come in under $3.

Second, South Carroll athletic director Fred Baker kept pestering me for a bite of shrimp salad all night long.

Third, I like buying food from the concession stands. It's very good (the soups, chili and barbecue are usually homemade) and it helps the school.

For schools that like to serve soup at their concession stand, such as Francis Scott Key, crab soup -- either traditional or creamed -- would hit the spot.

Raw oysters or oysters Rockefeller would work, too, though finding someone to shuck them might be tough.

Steamed mussels, either with a garlic-lemon-butter sauce or marinara sauce, might be pleasing to the palate, as well.

Of course, we maybe getting a bit out of hand here.

Some of these foods are a little difficult to prepare on a table outside the gymnasium, they're somewhat messy and they cost a bit more than the usual high school sports fare.

But heck, I'll settle for pizza, a tuna sandwich or even apiece of fried fish.

Just remember us poor folks who can't eat meat on several Friday nights during the winter sports season.

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