The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) waived the rule requiring that teams play nine regular season games to qualify for the post-season tournament after the MPSSAA did not allow Montgomery and Prince George's counties to make up postponed regular season games.
All Blair varsity teams were eligible for state playoffs when outdoor athletics resumed Oct 25 in Montgomery County after play had been suspended for three weeks due to the sniper shootings. Both boys' and girls' soccer teams entered the post-season ranked first in the 4A West division.
According to Athletic Director Dale Miller, the cancellation of athletic events hit Blair harder than other MCPS schools because of the Blazers' success this season. "For us it's terrible. It has cost us big time," he said. He estimated that Blair lost more than $8,000 in ticket sales.
Miller noted that the football team, without enjoying much preparation, now faces "quality opponents" in the remainder of the regular season. Both the girls' and boys' soccer teams, however, benefitted from an easy schedule at the beginning of their season, enabling them each to earn the top seed in the division. "It's hard to tell whether it's been an advantage or a disadvantage. The best thing is, we're back playing," he said.
The MCPS Department of Athletics rescheduled the field hockey, girls' soccer and boys' soccer tournaments to accommodate security concerns. All three of Blair's teams affected by this change had a bye in the first round of playoffs, giving them an extra week of practice before the quarterfinals.
According to MCPS Athletic Coordinator William Beattie, Montgomery County officials were prepared to bus athletes to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) for secured outdoor practices if the sniper was not formally charged by the morning of Oct 25.
The Superintendent also planned to hold practices on Sunday if necessary so that all 23 MCPS football, soccer and field hockey teams could practice that weekend on the 12 fields at NIST, the location of which was undisclosed even to school officials, said Miller. Once the sniper was caught on Oct 25, all Blair athletic teams held outdoor practices at their normal locations.
Before practices and games resumed, Blair coaches and athletes worried that they might not play again this season. Several varsity athletes and their parents complained that the cancellation of games jeopardized students' chances of being noticed by college scouts. "Some people were banking on a full athletic scholarship," explained senior varsity football wide receiver Avon Jackson. "Coaches want to see the tapes. You can't have the tapes if you haven't played the game."
Many varsity teams continued to practice indoors despite unpredictable schedules, hoping to finish the season or prepare for playoffs. The football team practiced in the gym, but according to Jackson, many players lost focus and did not come to practice. "[Coach James] Short is telling us, ‘You have to be ready to practice like a light switch.' People are saying, ‘What's the point?'"
Girls' soccer coach Bob Gibb said that his team had not given up on their season despite the postponement of numerous games. "This is the best season that Blair girls' soccer has ever had. We want to play everyone. We want to play the best teams," he said.
Montgomery County junior varsity teams were not granted indoor practice time, and all junior varsity seasons will end without another game this fall. Blair's junior varsity football team was able to play a last game on Nov 2.
Lily Hamburger. Lily Hamburger, managing sports editor, is a proud senior and back for another year on <i>Chips</i>. Lily is a sports fan, a singer, and a softball player. Her favorite food is macaroni and cheese, favorite ice cream flavor is mint chocolate chip and favorite ninja … More »