The beginning of a new year in Maryland schools is nigh and around most high schools these days, you’re likely to hear the sounds of pads thumping against each other and grown men yelling at younger men in the relative chill of the morning or the blazing heat of the afternoon.
Yes, it’s nearly football season, and those sounds are in play universally across the region, save for one place.
There will be no thumping pads, screaming fans or any of the other attendant sounds or sights of football around Centennial High this season.
For the first time in the school’s 40-year history, there’ll be no lights or anything else on Friday nights at the Ellicott City school.
The varsity football team’s schedule has been cancelled for the 2017 season after the school couldn’t field a team.
Juniors at the school will be permitted to play on the junior varsity, which is usually restricted to sophomores and freshmen.
Seniors, meanwhile, are out of luck. And they aren’t the only ones negatively impacted. Centennial’s failure to scrounge together a team will make it tougher for fellow Howard County schools to advance to the state playoffs.
It’s no secret that the ranks of football players have thinned in recent years due to a number of factors. One of the largest is news of concussions and their post-career effects.
Just last month, a study from the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that all but one of 111 brains of deceased former NFL players had evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which has been linked to repeated blows to the head.
It’s studies like these and the bad publicity that comes with them, that has helped drive young men out of football at all levels, including high school.
But that doesn’t appear to be the thing that killed football at Centennial, or at least not the principal thing.
No, the grand gridiron game seems to have been torpedoed at Centennial by the numbers, namely 29, 1 and 19.
The 29 is the number of losses the Eagles suffered over the previous three seasons. The 1 is the total of wins accumulated over that time, while the 19 is the number of players left on the Centennial roster at the end of last season.
Senior Todd Hendrix, who played for three years before dropping football this season, told the Baltimore Sun he elected to come back after hearing that the team needed players.
But Hendrix hit on what may be the essential reason there’s no football at Centennial when he told the Sun that his school mates quote didn’t want to come out and get killed every Friday night unquote.
It’s possible that Centennial’s strength as a school lies in areas other than football.
For instance, the Eagles have won the Baltimore championship in the TV quiz show It’s Academic the last three straight years as well as four of the last five and five times since 2009. That’s nothing to sneer at.
But let’s hope brains and brawn can find a happy marriage at Centennial in time for 2018. A few wins wouldn’t hurt either.
And that’s how I see it for this week.