Laurel is not playing any games at their school this season, but its "home" field has provided plenty of excitement. Because of problems renovating their field, the Spartans are playing their home games at High Point. Although that means getting on a bus and lugging their equipment a few miles south on Interstate 95 for home games, it also means a chance to play under the lights.
"It's totally different under the lights," wide receiver Justin Campbell said. "I like the atmosphere."
Friday, on homecoming, the atmosphere was rich. Campbell and Josh Bridges caught touchdown passes from Kevin Hill, leading Laurel to a 14-7 victory over Largo, ending the Spartans' 13-game losing streak.
"People definitely were happy," first-year coach Jamar Hicks said. "I can't really fully grasp what they're feeling because I haven't been with a program that was 0-10 before. But they're excited and I'm happy for them."
It was part of changing the atmosphere around the program that led Laurel to move its home games this season. When Hicks was hired, he said he looked at the stadium field and "it was in terrible condition. Number one, I was concerned about safety. Number two, I wanted a first-class appearance. I want a first-class program."
So Hicks and his assistants researched different types of grass. He hired a company to spray the field and kill weeds. Hicks and assistant Anthony Jones, with the help of players, then seeded the field with Bermuda grass. Just before practice started, however, Hicks learned the field was not playable. Laurel Athletic Director Terry Parfitt said the field was not smooth and that tubing between sprinkler heads had been severed so that it was not possible to water the field properly.
The field was taken up, the irrigation system fixed and then grass was planted again, Parfitt said, with county officials helping to finish the project.
On the Road Again
Laurel is not the only team without a home field. After spending the past four years at a temporary facility in Bowie while a new school was built, Bladensburg also anticipated being able to play home games this season. Irrigation problems, however, have forced the Mustangs to play a fifth consecutive season without a true home field. Bladensburg's first "home" game was this past Saturday, a 55-0 loss to Suitland, at Suitland.
"We want to play on the field, but it comes down to safety and we just can't," Bladensburg Athletic Director Ivan Johnson said, adding that only about half of the equipment for the school's weight room is in place. "Everyday they're out there working, that's a good thing. They're trying to fix and alleviate the problem." . . .
Laurel also was not alone in ending a long losing streak. DuVal also won its first game since 2003, beating Central, 48-6, as running back Dwayne Henderson rushed 11 times for 200 yards and four touchdowns.
Potomac Turns It Up
Potomac has the Washington area's longest winning streak at 17, but the Maryland 2A defending champions have received little attention when it comes time to talk about the county's top teams after having many key players complete their eligibility last season. Linebacker Adrian McLeod, the team's defensive leader, has been slowed by a high ankle sprain. And it has taken time to fill gaps on the offensive and defensive lines.
"At first, I think a lot of [our players] were thinking, 'We're Potomac. We're state champs and we're going to roll our helmet out and go back to M&T Bank Stadium [for the state finals] because we've been there two years in a row,' " Coach Eric Knight said, explaining that he had some work to do getting his players prepared for the season.
After a 35-8 victory over Surrattsville, Knight said, things are starting to come together. Running back Antonial Coles, who began last season at Eleanor Roosevelt before transferring back to Potomac, rushed for 163 yards and four touchdowns. Junior Shawn Hunter played well at offensive guard after moving from defense. Twins Steve and Stephan Stanback continue to play well, Steve at linebacker and Stephon at defensive end.
Knight also thinks that kicker Kemar Scarlett gives his team an advantage. Scarlett has put most of his kickoffs in the end zone. "He's making everybody go 80 yards on us," Knight said. "And every time they've had to go 80, they've punted."
A Tough Start
Coming off its first playoff appearance since 1996, things seemed upbeat for Oxon Hill. The Clippers, however, are 0-3 and one of two winless teams in the Prince George's 4A league -- though that might have more to do with their opponents than anything else. Oxon Hill opened its season by playing the other three teams that qualified for the Maryland 4A South Region playoffs last season.
"That's the toughest schedule I've ever seen to begin a season," Clippers Coach Randolph Warren said. "But we just have to play what's dealt to us."
Oxon Hill catches a break this week when it plays the league's other winless team, Bladensburg, which has been outscored 143-34 in its three losses.
Oxon Hill is coming off a 21-12 loss to C.H. Flowers, a result that indicates the Clippers could be around come playoff time. Of their seven remaining opponents, only two have winning records.
The players "are all aware that we made the playoffs last year being 5-5, I've reminded them of that," Warren said. "We've got seven games left, so a lot of good things can still happen for us. We're not going to see teams better than the three of them [until playing Douglass on Nov. 5]. But we're not trying to overlook anybody."
Senior Kenny Turner made 20 tackles and forced a fumble as a free safety, and on offense he turned a screen pass into a 65-yard touchdown and threw a 60-yard touchdown pass against Flowers, but it was not enough to get the Clippers their first victory.
"I know they're sick of me saying, 'Well, we played a close game and we could have won this one,' " Warren said. "We're not trying to hear that kind of speech after games. We're trying to hear, 'Good job, win another one.' They're sick of hearing it and I don't want to say it."