Five Years in the Making: The Decline of Centennial Football

Words: Caleb McClatchey

It all began on a chilly November evening five years ago. Students filed out of Angelo Fortunato Memorial Stadium, celebrating Centennial’s 59-13 win over Hammond to close out the regular season. Seniors on the team like Chase Conley couldn’t help but feel bittersweet despite the blowout win; it was the last time they would put on a uniform and take the field as Eagles. They would finish their careers as members of one of the best Centennial football teams in recent memory, finishing with a 7-3 record for a program that managed only four wins total the previous two years. For the seniors, it was the end of something great. For the Centennial program, it was the beginning of something quite the opposite.

Half a decade has passed since that day. During that span, the Varsity football team has played in 39 games. Of those 39 games they have won exactly one; an away game, quite ironically, also against Hammond. The fact that they have not won a single home game in that span is baffling. How could a program go from being in playoff contention one year to having the worst record in the county over the next five years? There is obviously no clear answer to that question, but what is clear is that the story behind it is very unique.

A combination of depth, experience, and health were all key reasons for Centennial’s strong 2013 campaign. However, a senior-laden team meant that the lineup looked very different in 2014. In addition, two key returning players, Patrick McKinnis and Austin Kraisser, did not play. The Eagles had only four returning starters as a result, fewer than any other team in the county. This dramatic roster turnover did not bode well for Centennial. They were shutout in six games and outscored 452-44 on their way to a 0-10 record. Quickly, it became clear that the team’s hopes laid in its future, not its present. At a certain point, said McKinnis, “our team accepted the 2014 season as a re-development year for all the young talent from JV.”

Mason Smith, a sophomore on Varsity in 2014, was an example of the young talent McKinnis spoke of. In his sophomore year, player turnout was an issue due to the number of seniors on the team previously. To make matters worse, a dismal season only exacerbated the problem in 2015. Most students at Centennial did not have high expectations for the next year and were not interested or willing to try out for a team that had just played one of its worst seasons ever.  Although the players’ motivation to win didn’t decline, said Smith, interest in the team certainly did.

Unsurprisingly, the Eagles did not fare much better that year. Led by new head coach Carlos Dunmoodie, the team finished 0-10 for the second year in a row. The season played out very similarly to 2014, with injuries depleting an already small depth chart. Although it certainly did not reflect in the win column and was of no consolation to the players, it was evident that the talented young core from 2014 was gaining experience and beginning to develop. After being outscored by an average of 40.8 points per game in 2014, the Eagles cut that number to only 26.6 in 2015.

Despite the Eagles’ slight improvement, it was still clear that they were not a good football team. Over the past two seasons, the program had developed a reputation for being the worst team in the county, whether justified or not. As a result, attendance at home games dropped dramatically in 2014 and 2015. By the time the 2016 season came around, the team was not only on a mission to win their first game since 2013, but to win the respect of their peers, too.

The Eagles began the 2016 season with a 20 game losing streak hanging over their heads. It had been over 1,000 days- nearly three years-since that senior night win in 2013. However, the Eagles finally put their notorious streak to rest with a 30-21 season opening win over Hammond.

Eli Ross, a senior on the team, credited their improvement to the dedication of his fellow seniors. “We all had the same mindset, to work harder in every way” he said. According to Smith, what the team truly wanted was not to win one game or even ten, but to “bring back the tradition of a thriving football team” to Centennial.

In a sense, the team did exactly that. Centennial did not win any more games in 2016, finishing 1-9, but there was still something special about the 2016 season. Almost all of the Eagles’ games were relatively close; they only lost three games by more than 20 points. In addition to the team being more competitive than it had been in 2014 and 2015, the opening win generated a renewed level of excitement among students that remained strong throughout the season. Smith remembers how, even in a game against undefeated Howard, the stands were full of Centennial students.

Unfortunately, the energy and excitement from the 2016 season did not, or more accurately, could not, carry into 2017. In late August 2017, just one day before the Eagles were scheduled to play their first scrimmage, the Howard County Public School System announced that Centennial’s varsity football team had been disbanded for the year. The school system deemed that a lack of players- less than 20 showed up for the first few days of tryouts- posed a significant safety risk for the players who had come out.

The announcement made plenty of local, even national, headlines. It was the first time that a Howard County high school was without a football team – ever. The news hit most players hard, particularly seniors. Although the county allowed juniors to play on junior varsity given the extenuating circumstances, seniors ended up losing their entire season as a result of the disbandment.

Centennial’s lost 2017 season was the culmination of a downward trend in turnout that began in 2014. Ever since 2013, when the varsity team had 40-50 players on the team, the Eagle’s roster has been continually shrinking. By 2016, that number was down to 20-25. The Eagles, well aware of this disadvantage, had fought hard over the past three years to overcome it. Nevertheless, they often found out that no amount of heart and passion adequately substituted for the depth they lacked.

“Most of our players played the whole game,” Ross remembered, “ by the end … they were just gassed out.” Finally in 2017, with less than 20 players on the team, the Eagles’ depth was too small to overcome.

Heading into 2018, Centennial students wanted to make sure 2017 stayed an anomaly and didn’t become the norm. In February, Centennial hired Billy Martin as head coach of the varsity team, replacing Coach Dunmoodie. Returning players, combined with some new faces eager to revive the program, gave the Eagles just enough players for a team. Their roster, albeit only around 21 players, was bigger than it would have been in 2017. However, playing on such a small team made players prone to injuries. At one point, recalled junior Sam Baeq, “we had as low as 14 players capable of playing.” In fact, Centennial was forced to forfeit a game against Howard because too many players were injured.

In the games which the Eagles had enough healthy players this season, the results were completely lopsided. Centennial gave up a remarkable 50.7 points per game and didn’t score a single point all season. For the program, which hasn’t seen a winning season since 2013, it was a new low.

Now, five years after its last winning season, there are two ways to look at the Centennial football program. It is either rebuilding, slowly yet resiliently bringing back a competitive varsity team from nothing, or dying, valiantly fighting till its last breath in a battle which has already been lost. The latter view, while bleak, is one that must be at least considered.

There is no denying the heart of those who come out for the Centennial football team every year. Perhaps no other team in the county faces the level of adversity that they do. However, in a sport where depth is critical, there is no amount of effort and dedication which can overcome a lack of participation. Due to a large senior class, participation fell off after the 2013 season. Consequently, the team’s performance declined drastically, and with it, student interest as well. Ever since then, the team’s overall poor performance and low student interest have fed off each other. A bad season leads to lower turnout, which leads to another bad season, and so forth. While it is certainly possible that the program is able to break this cycle and become competitive again, there is also a distinct possibility that it does not. Ultimately, Centennial students, both current and future, will be the ones to decide how the story ends.

For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.

Behind the Curtain: The Unseen Stars of the Show

Words: Sasha Allen

People go to plays to watch the onstage action, but they don’t always appreciate or even know about how much effort goes on behind the scenes. Lights, sound, sets, props, and costumes wouldn’t be a part of a play without one specific group of people: the tech crew. Without these crucial members of the show who make sure that the whole production runs smoothly, productions of plays and musicals would be less enjoyable for the audience. With this year’s production of Clue coming up, both actors and tech crew are getting ready for an exciting play.

The members of tech crew for Centennial’s production of Clue have started working already, meeting about every other week. About two weeks before the date of the play, they start meeting every day up to opening night on November 15, to assure the play runs as planned.

Tech crew is a huge commitment, and the members are working hard to get ready. Stage manager Emily Dahlgren said that the crew is busy organizing the props and the set to allow for steady scene changes. The crew also went through the script and figured out what props are needed for which scene. This, however, is not easy, and it takes a lot of research because the props need to look a certain way to reflect the setting and era of the play. “For this show specifically, the props are all very intricate,” said Dahlgren. “The main prop pieces are the weapons found in the actual game, and we’re trying to make them as close to the real game as possible.”

Dahlgren is in charge of overseeing each aspect behind the scenes to make sure everything is in order. She has been a part of theater before she started high school, but to her, it is more than just a commitment. She loves watching two different aspects of the show come together after so much hard work.

Dahlgren puts a huge amount of her time into theater, from the first rehearsals to the last show. She attends every rehearsal for the actors, every set build, and every technical rehearsal to check that everyone and everything is in the right place.

While most of the members have a specialized job, working on sound, set, lighting, or props and costumes, Dahlgren oversees all of that and more. She helps build sets, organize the props, and manages what goes on behind the scenes. The crew has a huge amount of respect for her and everything she does.

During the show, the cast doesn’t get a break. “A lot of theater is thinking on your feet,” said Dahlgren. But she isn’t just talking about the actors. There is a lot of preparation, and on the night of the show each tech crew member has to be at a certain place at a certain time, much like acting.

Kai Daley, an actor in the upcoming show, appreciates all of the hard work that the crew puts in. She says that they will help an actor whenever they need it by fixing a mic or trading in a prop, and she believes that they deserve more attention for all of the work that they put in.

“Tech crew is the last thing that brings a show together and makes it believable to the audience,” said Daley. “Nothing would be the same without [them].”

Everyone who is a part of the Clue production puts in so much time and effort whether they are an actor or a part of the crew, and they all care about making the production reach its full potential. Even though they all have different jobs, everyone who is a part of theater has one thing in common: their passion for what they are doing and the work they put in.

Clue will be running here at Centennial from November 15-17 at 7pm and on November 18 at 2pm. The tickets can be purchased for $12 online or $15 at the door. Be sure to come out and support the whole Centennial theater program!

For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.

Centennial Wins Cross Country State Meet

Words: Sarah Paz

On Saturday, November 10, the Centennial Boys’ and Girls’ Cross Country teams raced in MPSSAA 3A State Cross Country Championships.

The Centennial Boys’ Cross Country team won first place, ending with a score of 87, which is determined by adding the places of the first five runners. They crushed the second place team, Linganore High School by 39 points and the third place team Towson High School by 52 points.

Senior Justin Ziegler crossed the finish line in 17:21, earning 12th place. Just three seconds later, sophomore Jacob Cole earned 14th place, followed by seniors Chris Bieberich, David Riina, Jason Kraisser, Zachary Deming and Ryan Erle. Ziegler, Cole, Bieberich, Riina and Kraisser won a medal signifying that they placed in the top twenty five.

The Centennial Girls’ Cross Country team won third place, dominating other Howard County schools such as Atholton High School and Mount Hebron High School. Northern Calvert High School won first place.

The team consisted of seniors Alison Betler, Cora Blount, Christina Stavlas, Caroline Shimeall, junior Apoorva Ajith and sophomores Katerina Talanova and Michelle Weaver.

The Centennial Girls’ Cross Country team ran around 10am, while the Centennial boys ran around 11am. The race was on a sunny but cool morning, which is often considered as the ideal weather for running a successful race. Though Hereford’s course is known for being extremely difficult, all runners persevered and contributed to the success of both teams.

For the seniors, many are sad that this is their last cross country race and they celebrated their successes at the cross country banquet that occurred on November 12.

For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.

A Freshman Perspective

Words: Xander Mauer

Freshman year is a time of great change and uncertainty for many people. Most upperclassmen are well adjusted to the high school experience and often forget how strange it all was on their first day of high school. It is important to understand the perspective of current freshmen in order to properly empathize with them and help them feel welcome.

Many freshmen were quite surprised by the lack of space in the halls, due to Centennial’s student body reaching 1,614 students in total this year. Comparing this to middle schools, which usually have less than one thousand students, it’s no surprise that the newest class is a little overwhelmed.

High school seems to be more similar to middle school than most would think. Most freshmen said that the biggest and most noticeable difference is simply that lockers are not used as much.

Freshman Ahmed Hussin’s transition has been almost seamless.

“[The biggest difference so far has been] carrying our backpacks all day,” Hussin observed.

Something many students may recall is the anticipation during the summer between eighth and ninth grade. In middle school, teachers always stressed that everything assigned was in preparation for high school, which is just preparation for college. This constant reminder of the future can make it seem like a scary unknown, but it turns out that is not the case.

Freshman Sean May has found that high school is less intimidating than he thought. “The middle school [I went to] over-hyped high school,” stated May.

This seems to be a common occurrence, as Hussin agreed. “Middle school teachers made [high school] sound way harder [than it is].”

Although some freshmen find high school to be the standard schooling experience they have gotten used to, others have not been so lucky. The majority of students lamented over the increased homework. Freshman Ian MacIver noticed the difference in the way classes are taught.

“[There is] less time spent on each topic in classes,” MacIver noted.

The class of 2022 manages to hold onto hope in the face of these struggles, finding solace in extracurriculars. Almost every single freshman surveyed said that their biggest anticipation in school is actually an out-of-school experience.

Some freshmen aspire to make a contribution to the school sports teams, while others find enjoyment in joining clubs to be with friends after school. Regardless of what one considers their preferred activity, there is a place for them somewhere among the many extracurriculars at Centennial.

Freshmen often feel ostracized from the other classes, but it is important to remember that all students have been in their shoes. Each and every student can get overwhelmed, especially when immersed in an unfamiliar situation. Freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior: in the end, they are all just students who want to make the most out of their high school experience.

For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.

Centennial Football Has a Hopeful Banquet to Conclude Their Season

Words: Ellie Zoller-Gritz

Photos: Noelle Deal

The Centennial Football teams finished their season on Friday, November 9 with a hopeful banquet and potluck dinner.

As family, friends, and players gathered for a night filled with reflection, they were greeted with good food and a heartfelt speech from Varsity head coach Billy Martin.

Martin congratulated both teams for all of their hard work and dedication to the team. He also thanked the parents who have helped the team, from coming out to support to hosting team pasta parties.

Leaving his speech on a cheerful note, Martin shared some words of hope for next season.

After Martin’s speech, he called JV coach Chris Smith to the front to present certificates to all JV players. Coach Smith called each player up, saying a few words about each player and how they helped make the team better.

As JV players finished receiving awards, Martin returned to present varsity players with their varsity letter, participation pin, and a special captains pin for Junior Captain, Malik Chester.

Every player was greeted with sentimental words from Martin and a handshake from every coach, along with their awards.

Once every player had received their awards, the players went up to the front to present the coaches with awards. They thanked their coaches for helping them through the season.

The night was filled with lots of laughs as people shared jokes and memories to close the season.

For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.

Centennial Boys’ Soccer Falls to James M. Bennett in the Regional Final

Words: Joey Sedlacko

On Wednesday, November 7, the Centennial Boys’ Soccer team’s season ended with a tough loss against James M. Bennett High School in the 3A East Regional Final. JM Bennett edged out a 3-2 victory on penalty kicks to defeat Centennial.

It was a defensive battle throughout the whole match as the two teams could not find a way to get the ball into the back of the net, and the game would go into overtime tied at 0-0.

In overtime, senior defender for Centennial Joe Brown thought he had propelled his team to the state semifinals with a goal as the final seconds of the game ticked off the clock. However, the referee called Brown offsides. The game then went into two sudden death overtimes, but neither team could score. Penalty kicks then decided the game.

Unfortunately for Centennial, their season would come to an end as JM Bennett would beat the Eagles in penalty kicks 3-2.

For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.