Atholton football coach Chuck Fales received a pleasant surprise when he held his first practice Aug. 14: a gymnasium packed with 120 players.
"I thought we would have more kids come out for our team this year, but I never expected that many. I was shocked," Fales said. "We've never had close to having that many players before."
The increase was largely because the school's boundaries have been redrawn to include neighborhoods surrounding Howard County General Hospital. In the past, that area had been part of Wilde Lake's district. The result was about 30 additional freshmen at Atholton tryouts.
Fales said he had to cut players for the first time, even though some decided on their own not to try out after the first day. He took 45 students for the junior varsity squad and put 35 players on varsity, 13 more than last year.
"This year, we're going to knock on the door, and we're going to be better, and people are going to have to work hard to beat us on varsity," said Fales, whose team finished 3-7 the last two seasons. "But when our players on junior varsity move up to varsity next year, we are going to knock the door down and be right up there with anyone in the county."
Even with the redistricting, Wilde Lake had 87 players show up for the first day of practice, about the same as last year, Coach Doug DuVall said.
"The neighborhoods that now go to Atholton have given us some good football players in the past," DuVall said. "But there's nothing we can do about it because [schools' districts] are made by the county."
Senior David Howard, widely considered one of the top offensive linemen in the state, has transferred from Oakland Mills to Springbrook, to play for a team that he thinks will give him a better chance of earning a college scholarship.
Howard lives in Columbia, but his father is a guidance counselor at Springbrook, in Silver Spring. His family will pay approximately $11,000 in tuition to attend the Montgomery County School.
"If I play for a better team, then my name will get out there more, and I can get better looks from colleges and get as many [offers for] scholarships as I can," said Howard, who has been offered scholarships from Michigan State and Temple. "I'll also be going against better competition because Montgomery County 4A football is the best in the state."
Howard, an All-County lineman last fall, said he decided to make the move during the summer because the coaching situation at Oakland Mills was unclear.
Ken Hovet was removed from his coaching duties in November, and the school did not name a new coach until July. Dick Hendershott was hired six weeks before the start of the practice.
"We didn't know what was going on at Oakland Mills," said Robert Howard, the player's father. "So we decided it was in David's best interest to play somewhere else."
Long Reach baseball players Scott Peddicord, Robbie O'Brien and Jereme Scott have been selected for the school's new Baseball Hall of Fame.
Coach Tim O'Brien said players who led the team in at least one offensive category and were selected to an All-County team will be eligible, with O'Brien and his staff making the selections.
"Our school has been open for nine years now, so we need to do something like this to honor some of the great players we've had," O'Brien said. "It's also a good way to get some of our former players involved with our program."
Scott, an outfielder who hit .395 with 27 runs, will play next season at Saint Joseph's University. Peddicord, a first baseman who hit .317, will play at University of Maryland Baltimore County, and O'Brien, a shortstop who hit .468, will play at Catholic University.
"I think it's great that we're having one and that I got in, because it's a way for me to be remembered," Scott said. "We've had a lot of good players at Long Reach, so this is something we needed."