MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports

It is now officially Homecoming Week, although, in truth, it became Homecoming Week the moments Allegany’s win over Northern on Friday and Fort Hill’s win over New Oxford on Saturday were in the books.

Saturday’s 12:30 p.m. match-up at Greenway will be the 100th in the history of the series, with Fort Hill holding a 63-32-4 advantage. It’s been a long time since Allegany has won one of these Homecoming games – 2007 to be exact; and it’s been a long time since the Campers have beaten the Sentinels at all – the 2009 playoffs; but the only thing that means is it has already happened, not that it’s going to happen.

Don’t get me wrong, Fort Hill may very well win the game again this year. Just alone on the merits of this year’s team, the Sentinels should be the favorite, as there are people around here who do that sort of thing with high school sports. Fort Hill is 7-1, has a very good team and has beaten some very good teams, so the pedigree is there and is quite capable as it has shown to this point.

Allegany, though, after a 1-2 start, has come back stronger each week and enters this week’s game on a five-game winning streak, which is always the sign of a good team. The Campers have shown resilience with some comeback and last-second wins, so without having seen them play that tells me they believe in themselves, which is half the battle.

Fort Hill and Allegany have four common wins this season and one common loss, Mountain Ridge. The Campers also have wins over Albert Gallatin and Keyser and a loss to Boonsboro, while the Sentinels have also defeated Old Mill, Oakdale and New Oxford.

While I have only seen Fort Hill play for a very brief period of time (while on a renovated Greenway fact-finding mission), the talent and the quick-score capability was evident.

Still, all things being equal, both teams have answered the bell against the same opponents and had difficulty with the same opponent. As one who has removed himself from the day-to-day of it all after nearly 36 years of living it, I just have a hunch we’re going to see a pretty good game on Saturday.

Hopefully, there will be a good crowd, and I suspect there will be, as both teams have earned the support from their fans and fellow students on what is annually the biggest and best sports day of the year around here. Most importantly, short of graduation, Homecoming marks the biggest day of the school year for the schools and their student bodies.

Sure, the playoffs changed a lot of things, particularly the more they were expanded and restructured, and in recent vintage they have certainly changed the exclusivity of an Allegany-Fort Hill football game, but not the oneness of the annual Allegany-Fort Hill football game.

Even if the Campers and the Sentinels meet again in the playoffs, which I suppose is a possibility, for each senior in each school to experience his and her senior-year Homecoming week, and all that comes with it, has a oneness all of its own. It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience because you don’t get two. It’s the one that everybody remembers for their entire lives, even an old guy like me.

And I just believe both teams will play to that on Saturday afternoon, and I believe they’re going to give us one heck of a Homecoming football game.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT