(March 5, 2021) It may be winter going into spring, but the Maryland high school sports teams that play in the fall will finally be able to have a season, which kicks off today for Stephen Decatur.
“Everyone is excited to get back to sports and feel some sort of normalcy,” said Decatur Principal Tom Sites. “Sports has a big impact on students’ lives. Camaraderie, competition, sports teaches you so much about life. It’s also about a healthy lifestyle and being active.”
Teams that play in the winter had practices and inter-squad scrimmages, but they missed out on a competitive season because of covid.
Preseason opened on Feb. 13 for fall sports teams, which include football, golf, soccer, field hockey and volleyball. Teams will play a few less games than they would during a normal season and only compete against Bayside South opponents. At this time, there will be no playoffs.
The fall season will run until April 17, and then spring sports teams will begin their preseason.
Safety protocols and precautions are in place to help stop the spread of covid.
Athletes will have to wear masks while playing and social distance on the sidelines.
Each athlete will be allotted two family passes for spectators for the season, which are paid for in advance. Those passes must be used by the same person and will be scanned along with a QR code upon entry into the Decatur stadium or the gym. Passes can’t be purchased at the gate.
Spectators must also be 21 or older, wear masks and social distance in the stands.
“It’s all about accountability and contact tracing. We wish we could let more [spectators] in, but these are the guidelines [the county and conference] came up with,” Sites said. “It’s how we have to do it. It’s not ideal, but at least we’re getting our kids out there.”
Hand sanitizer stations will be set up and unfortunately, no concessions will be sold.
Sports fan can watch all of the home games live on the Stephen Decatur YouTube channel.
The boys’ soccer team will be the first to take the field. The Seahawks will host the James M. Bennett Clippers today, Friday, at 4 p.m. in Berlin.
Coach Jamie Greenwood said he and the players are glad to be competing.
“I have been praying on it all year since they canceled the fall season,” he said. “The kids needed it – not just the seniors, everybody needs it.”
Fall sports teams were able to do some practices back in November, but then covid cases began to rise so they got shut down.
“There was so much excitement for those few days. They couldn’t have been happier,” Greenwood said. “They’re definitely excited and taking advantage of it.”
The team will play 10 games, a few less than during a normal season.
“I’m just thrilled to be out there,” he said. “It’s different to be out there in parkas and beanies instead of T-shirts and shorts and dealing with the heat, but the good thing is they want to keep moving [to stay warm].”
There are 23 players on Greenwood’s roster, 11 of whom competed last fall when the team went 12-2. This year he has nine seniors, seven juniors, four sophomores and three freshmen.
“We have a combination of veteran returning players and newcomers. Many of the seniors this is their third year on varsity,” Greenwood said. “They know the system and what the expectations are. I feel we mesh really well.”
Senior center back Evan Kinsey, a four-year player, has been named team captain.
Greenwood said the goal is for the players to improve and to build toward next season. One advantage of playing in March and April is that the time is shorter until the next season, that is if they start back when preseason would normally begin for fall sports, in August.
“We can get the younger guys ready to fill the shoes of those graduating,” he said. “We’ll finish April 17, so we’ll have only four months off instead of eight or nine months, and hopefully build upon what we already have.”
The girls’ soccer team is also scheduled to play today. The Lady Seahawks will head to Snow Hill to face the Eagles at 5:30 p.m.
“The girls are happy to be out and playing soccer and be around each other,” Coach Steve Isett said.
The team will play 10 games instead of the normal 12 this season.
Isett said with only one senior, Morgan Davis, the squad is young. There are a few juniors, but the bulk of the team consists of sophomores.
He will have about 20 players on his roster, and some will float between varsity and JV. Five of the players competed last season.
Decatur finished last season 4-9. The goal this year is to go .500, which Isett said he knows will be a challenge.
He plans to pick captains after seeing who steps up as leaders in tonight’s competition.
“We have a good sophomore class that’s coming back and a few juniors that will help us,” he said. “We have three or four freshmen that will be starters. We’re definitely young, but the girls coming in are stronger soccer players.”
Isett said he wants to build a good, quality soccer program.
“I want the girls to play good soccer - good passing, moving the ball around and good movement off the ball. Good possession soccer,” he said.
The football team also begins its season tonight under the direction of Jake Coleman. The team will travel to Salisbury to battle the Parkside Rams at 6 p.m.
“Everyone is beyond excited. They’re chomping at the bit to get out there,” Coleman said. “It’s going outstanding so far. We’re not dealing with the heat [in August]. Fifty degrees is perfect for football. It’s all worth it to be out here with the kids. It’s an outlet they so desperately need.”
Decatur finished last season 3-6 under longtime Head Coach Bob Knox, who retired. Coleman was named the new head coach last February.
Coleman said practices have been fun and uptempo, with music playing.
“They kids are really enjoying practicing. It’s been awesome,” he said. “The kids are playing for the love of the game right now. They love having the opportunity to play. It’s about building relationships. We’re enjoying every single moment together because tomorrow is not promised.”
The team will play seven instead of nine games.
“We’re focusing on getting better and enjoying the game,” Coleman said.
There are about 74 athletes in the program, with about 30-plus on both the varsity and JV teams.
“We have a healthy mix of veterans and newcomers,” he said.
The field hockey team opens it season on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. in Salisbury against the James M. Bennett Clippers. The group will be lead by new Head Coach Katie Griffin.
She has been a high school field hockey official for 18 years and is looking forward to leading the Seahawk squad.
“We’re happy to be able to play even if it’s a shortened season. We’ll take what we can get,” she said.
There are 23 girls in the field hockey program, between varsity and JV. The team finished 3-10 last season. Griffin said she plans on choosing captains this week and added that the veterans are doing a good job assisting the younger players.
The squad will play 10 games, a few less then usual.
She worked with the players during a summer league, which was helpful, she said. Griffin has also been around the girls a few years as her daughter, Skylar, has been on the varsity team since she was a freshman.
“The girls are willing to learn, they’re listening and ready to absorb and improve,” Griffin added. “I can see the growth with every practice. They’re all developing and getting better. It’s a great blend of veterans and some brand new to the sport.”
Griffin said her goal is for the girls to be competitive, to want to play hard and improve each game.
The cross country team will have its first meet on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m.
While the runners are happy to have a season, they will only compete in tri-meets. During a typical season, the standard meet is about seven teams. There will also be no large, more competitive meets or invitationals this year.
Wearing masks while running 5Ks is also challenging, Coach Jody Stigler said.
“It definitely tests how good their cardiovascular endurance is,” he added. “All the kids are working hard. The season is shortened a bit, but we’re still getting in a decent amount of meets.”
There are seven girls and 10 boys participating. Most are veterans, either competing in cross county, indoor or outdoor track.
“We have a couple good runners on both sides,” Stigler said. “I hope they can continue to get better.”
He will look to senior Mary Mergott to lead the girls’ squad and juniors Tristan Dutton and Sam Woodley and senior Liam Foley to lead the boys’ team.
The volleyball team’s first match is Thursday, March 11 against the Parkside Rams at 4 p.m. in Berlin.
“We’re really excited to spend time with the girls and work on building our team. It’s nice to do something that’s somewhat normal,” said Coach Sara Patrick. “It’s a great group of girls. We have amazing senior leadership.”
The team started on Feb. 16. There were two days of tryouts before being broken up into varsity and JV. There are 12 on each team.
There are five seniors on the varsity team. Six of the 12 varsity players competed last year, when the team finished 10-6.
“We seem to start out a lot better every season skill-wise,” she said. “The girls are getting along and playing together. They come to practice happy to be there. We have 100 percent buy-in from all the players.”
The team will play 10 games, a few less than during a typical season.
Patrick said the team is heavy in the setter position – with four girls in that spot. She plans to move players around to see who fits best where.
“I’m excited how we look now and where we should start next season,” Patrick said. “We’re doing well with our passing, which is something we’ve focused on the last few years. We’re working on our jump serves, and we want to have a much stronger presence at the net, defensive-wise, covering and blocking.”
The golf team will get started on Tuesday, March 16 at 3:30 p.m. at Ocean City Golf Club. They will play eight matches this season, four less than usual. There will also be a Bayside Conference championship.
About 25 players have been on the golf course practicing for a few weeks, but tryouts for the team don’t begin until Tuesday.
“We’ll have a young team. Everyone is excited to play and be out on the golf course, even if it’s a compressed season,” Coach Dan Stearman said. “It’s a great group if kids. We’ve got some good talent for such a young team. I think we’re going to be very competitive as we have in the past.”
Stearman will count on his two captains – junior Abby Wesche and senior Katelyn Davis – to lead the group – they both competed in the state tournament last season – in addition to veteran junior Jacob Bauer.
The squad went undefeated, 11-0, during the regular season last year. The Seahawks came in second place in the Bayside Conference championship and in the District VIII tournament.
Stearman said the goal is to win the Bayside championship this season.
“We’ve lost the last two years. This is the year we want to change that,” he said. “I’m looking forward to working with the kids and getting to know them.”