Playoffs are the final destination, but weekly stages lead the way

The trip.

For many years, ‘trip’ was an adjective used by coaches to replace ‘season’.

“The season is not a sprint. It’s a marathon. It’s a trip,” was the context. In other words, it’s a long process.

It’s not that season is a bad word, but it doesn’t have the same connotation as travel.

The season feels like a boring, hair-raising grind that seems to go on forever. It’s the image of working in the same position in the same place for 35 and a half years.

But travel is adventurous and romantic. We go places. We see things. We are Fam-a-lee.

In sports, “the journey” was the roadmap leading to the final destination: the playoffs.

Washington County Football Week 6:Hubs last longer than Williamsport in 2OT; Leopards, Rebels and Warriors also win

Each game was considered a checkpoint. The main goals were to improve and win to earn points in order to qualify for the playoffs. Victories add value to learning, experience, and gaining knowledge.

These days it’s different. As discussed earlier, no one has to work to earn the right to play in the playoffs.

It is no longer a deserved privilege. It has become a birthright.

So what is this trip we are talking about now? What did he become ?

Perhaps it has now become more of a “connecting the dots project” to create a bigger picture.

Suddenly, every game, every situation, and even every single play has truly become a roadblock or an express bye to the playoffs.

Along the same lines, it’s not life or death. It’s not like that would stop anyone from playing for a state championship.

The coaches are always looking to improve, but it doesn’t seem to have the same urgency. There is a time when everyone knows the difference between teams that aspire to the championship and those that are just happy to be involved.

Wins are more about getting players in the right frame of mind to actually enjoy this so-called journey.

One play, resulting in injury, may have changed the fortunes of Williamsport and North Hagerstown, allowing the Hubs to catch the Wildcats.  Mahamane Toure of North grabs Corry Nelson of Williamsport, who has been pressed to become a quarterback.

An example was Week 6 of Washington County Football. Other sports have similar situations, but football is my assigned petri dish.

On the surface, this week was the big equalizer.

Williamsport and Saint James lost, each dropping back into the peloton.

North Hagerstown, South Hagerstown, Boonsboro, and Smithsburg each won, creating this welcome pack.

Suddenly, the Hubs, Rebels, Warriors and Leopards all feel pretty good about themselves. The playoffs are more appealing.

The Wildcats could be in trouble. And the Saints, they’re not in the Maryland State playoff hunt, but their hopes of repeating themselves as Mid-Atlantic Conference champions have taken a serious hit.

It’s four optimistic teams, two doubting and two more – Clear Spring and Hancock – looking for joy at 0-6.

Fortunes, for some, changed with a snap of the bullet.

At Callas Stadium, the trip took a detour when Williamsport quarterback Eli Fleming left the game with an injury.

Williamsport, which still holds the county’s best record at 4-2, and North, which is just shy of 3-3, seemingly reversed the pedigrees of top dog and underdog on Friday with the tiebreaker.

Smithsburg’s formula for finding the playoff route was to cut to the chase against Clear Spring. Running between the tackles gave the Leopards instant confidence in a 20-0 victory.

Boonsboro found his running game, a mark that had been lacking for most of this trip, in a win over Towson. The Warriors were in a similar position last year and used Towson to turn everything into a springboard for the playoffs.

South played their most complete game of the year in a victory over Thomas Johnson, a school that has struggled all season. The Rebels will have a better disposition heading into the final third of Journey 2022 in the rugged Class 3A West.

The road ahead for each of these teams could change in the blink of an eye. A game, an error, an injury or a delay in execution have already been enough to change the situation.

The coaches, thanks in part to the updated one-season goal, still keep their team’s eyes on the horizon.

The playoffs are always the destination.

But these days, events that occur in week 6, 7, or 8 of a season may well change all expectations in the bark of an audible.

Every small step becomes vital to a satisfying ending to “The Journey.”

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