Thursday, July 9, 2020
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Citing safety, Centennial disbands varsity football

The varsity football team at Centennial High School in Ellicott City, Maryland, has been disbanded for the 2017 season, according to a news release from the Howard County Public School System. Based on that release, we can assume that the low participation rate on the varsity squad made it impossible for the school to field a team that could compete safely.

Centennial varsity football, 2016 season (Shalini Malhotra / student newspaper)

Press release:

After careful consideration and extensive discussions with coaches, players, parents and school administration, Centennial High School leadership has recommended that the Howard County Public School System disband the Centennial High School varsity football team for the 2017–2018 season. The lack of sufficient players and concern for student safety made this a necessary decision.

Centennial High School will continue to have a football program, and will use the upcoming season as a rebuilding year for the varsity team. The current juniors on the varsity team will be allowed to participate at the junior varsity level. This practice has been implemented in other sports and in other counties throughout the state. Staff will look at leadership opportunities so current seniors can be actively involved in the Centennial football program or other extracurricular activities.

As part of the varsity team rebuilding effort, and to strengthen school spirit and support the junior varsity football team, home junior varsity football games will be played at 7 PM with marching band and cheerleader performances. In addition, varsity soccer games will move from Thursdays to Fridays at 5 PM. School leadership will also work with Centennial athletics staff and student leaders to ensure a successful Homecoming Week.

HCPSS leadership is working with high school principals to minimize the impact of this decision on all high schools.


Hats off to the Centennial athletic staff and other leadership, as well as to the Howard County Public Schools, for protecting student safety!

Having a low number of students on the football team would have made it necessary for too many players to remain on the field for both offense and defense. Maybe for some players, that would work, but if this happens with too many players, who then don’t have an opportunity to rest when needed, the risk of injury goes up substantially.

Major rule changes from the National Federation of State High School Associations this year also seek to improve player safety.

Not only did the NFHS refine the definition of “defenseless player” when it comes to penalties for hard hits, but it also made a certain type of onside kick illegal. This is the style where the kicker drives the ball first into the ground so it pops up, the Denver Post reports.

“If [the ball] goes high enough, that’s where you get injuries, because you can’t tell who did what to whom,” the paper quoted Dennis Hall, commissioner of the Northern Virginia Football Officials Association, as saying.

The penalty for making a “pop-up” kick will be only 5 yards, but the other team will automatically get the ball right there.

Other changes come this year for pass interference penalties, ball specification, uniforms, penalty time clock management, and prosthetic limbs.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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