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Maryland high school sports haven’t been the same amid COVID pandemic. The fall season begins with renewed hope.

At 6:30 sharp Wednesday morning, a familiar sound was heard on the Franklin football field.

It came from the whistle of 20-year coach Anthony Burgos, and was welcomed by his enthusiastic group of players.

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The same excitement took place throughout the Baltimore region Wednesday, the first day of public school fall sports practice. After more than a year of uncertainty because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which canceled or limited seasons the past school year and beyond, there’s a semblance of normalcy as touchdown passes are thrown, goals are scored, volleyballs are spiked and miles are ran.

While some pandemic guidelines remain in place — at Franklin’s football practice, the players were responsible for their own water and there was social distancing when Burgos had them take a knee for his final words of practice — the feeling of simply having a hot day of practice was satisfying.

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“I couldn’t wait to get out here,” Franklin senior quarterback Quentin Demery said. “Couldn’t sleep — stayed up about the whole night thinking about this day. I love it out here.”

For Towson boys soccer coach Randy Dase, who has been at the post for 34 years with a couple different stints covering the past five decades, the first day of practice might seem like old hat. This season, with the Generals in a “reconstruction period” after graduating a senior class that made it to four Baltimore County championship games, the veteran coach is eager to start something new.

“When you come back and it’s a whole new group and you have to work pretty hard to reconstruct things, that’s pretty fun to teach and, at the same time, it’s fun to see how they progress as the season goes on,” Dase said. “And I’ve been very fortunate to have the opportunity — we call it the ‘Towson Soccer Experience’ — to work with outstanding soccer players and we’ve had some great parents, so it’s a real family type of situation. It’s a neat experience that’s more than soccer.”

Milford Mill head coach Reggie White gives a speech to his team during the first day of practice Wednesday.
Milford Mill head coach Reggie White gives a speech to his team during the first day of practice Wednesday. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Sun)

By Tuesday, Milford Mill football coach Reggie White had all the tedious paperwork necessary for the pandemic completed and the guidelines looked over thoroughly. Compared with other years, the Millers weren’t able to get in the weight room as much during the offseason and White wasn’t able to get an ideal assessment of his younger players coming in. Still, there was excitement as Wednesday afternoon approached for the team’s first practice.

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“I’m going to yell just to yell — for no reason,” White said. “Once we get in the 100 by 53 [field], it’s kind of normal and that’s what we’re trying to get back to.”

The Broadneck girls soccer team is a perennial power in Anne Arundel County, and after a 4-0-1 mark in a condensed season this spring, the Bruins are primed for a big year.

Milford Mill's Cameron Jefferson runs a drill during the first day of practice Wednesday.
Milford Mill's Cameron Jefferson runs a drill during the first day of practice Wednesday. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Sun)

Wednesday’s first-day routine gratefully remains intact for Bruins coach John Camm entering his 18th year.

It starts with a brief talk before the hard work begins.

“Every year, I tell them we’ve got high expectations, that everybody needs to compete as hard as they can every single day, playing time is going to be at a premium and we’re looking to get back to the same performance we have in past years,” said Camm, who has guided the Bruins to two state titles. “It feels great to be back. We got a good group and the kids are excited to be out there, so we’re looking forward to a great season.”

Back at Franklin, the Indians do their final sprints with an assistant coach preaching the importance of giving 100% and how anything less is unacceptable. For senior offensive tackle/defensive end Stirling Fiorenza, the drills, sprints, barking coaches and camaraderie with teammates made it a special day.

Milford Mill's Sean Curtis runs a drill during the first day of practice Wednesday.
Milford Mill's Sean Curtis runs a drill during the first day of practice Wednesday. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Sun)

“Normally, it’s kind of like a dread to come out for the first day of tryouts and stuff, do a lot of work. But I was really excited and could barely sleep last night because it’s finally getting back to normal and we really haven’t been able to get out like this in a couple years,” he said.

Shortly after the sprints were finished, coach Burgos gathered his team and immediately had their undivided attention.

“For the seniors, this is your last first day of football in your high school career …” he said.

He then urged them to be responsible, push each other and keep moving forward. There’s budding excitement at the Reisterstown school. The talk was about a talented senior class that is poised to lead; a daunting early schedule that includes national power St. Frances; and the chance — once the hard work is put in — to make a run at another state title.

The team welcomed it.

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