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Two Mountain Ridge Teams Earn MPSSAA State Tournament Sportsmanship Awards

December 22nd, 2021 by WCBC Radio

The fall sports season was a pretty good one for the Mountain Ridge Miners. Both the volleyball team and the varsity football team were the recipients of MPSSAA State Tournament Sportsmanship Awards this year, an award that is presented to one team per sport. All classifications are eligible for the award, not just those in Class 1A. The Sportsmanship Award is presented to teams based on respect displayed by players, coaches, administrators, and fans. Winners are decided by vote by the MPSSAA tournament committees for each sport.

              The Sportsmanship Award stems from the MPSSAA’s “Respect the Game” initiative, which states, “The ultimate indicator of the value of school athletic programs must be the level of citizenship displayed by those who participate. Hence, teaching and exhibiting good sportsmanship is the fundamental objective of our program.”

              The Lady Miners volleyball team, coached by Valery Broadwater, finished their regular season 9-6. They defeated Northern in the regional semi-finals and then defeated Fort Hill to win the regional championship. The Lady Miners went on to defeat North Dorchester and Bohemian Manor to ultimately advance to the state championship game against Williamsport.

              “We had a good run at the end, and I really think that the game against Fort Hill was the turning point for us. It’s always competitive when we play them,” said Coach Broadwater. “We try to improve every game. It was hard this year with COVID, because there were four games during the season where we didn’t have our regular lineup. We just ended up peaking at the right time.”

              Junior Lady Miner, Kendall Kirkwood, said “At the beginning of the season, I wouldn’t have expected us to make it to the state championship. But after we started winning, I realized that we could actually do this.”

              Her teammate, Emilee Ritchie, echoed these sentiments. “I was doubting us at the beginning of the season because we didn’t have any seniors on our team this year. But that actually made a lot of us really step up to lead the team. We also had some freshman on the team, and I think people didn’t really expect us to do as well. So, it was really nice to be able to prove to everyone what we could do as a team.”

              “I think everyone doubted us at the beginning of the season,” said junior Ella Snyder. “But going to the state championship this year made history for Mountain Ridge.” She continued, “Even though we lost, getting the Sportsmanship Award really showed a lot about our team and how we composed ourselves to build each other up to be gracious runners-up.”

              “We were very thankful to be able to have a close-to-normal season,” said Coach Broadwater. “We try to improve every day when we come to practice and hopefully, they are a better player when they leave practice, and I just think that we improved all throughout the season, especially the younger team members.” She continued, “We always try to be competitive, and we play some really good teams in this area. Western Maryland has some really great volleyball teams.”

              “I think we earned this award simply for doing the things that we always do throughout the year, such as being respectful to our opponents, the officials, fans, other coaches, and really anyone involved in the game itself,” said Coach Broadwater. “We always try to be open-minded and fair in dealing with any obstacles that come our way, not just during the game, but wearing our masks properly and following all of the rules.” She noted that her girls do these things all the time anyway, not just during state championship matches.

              “We teach our girls respect from the get go. There is an expectation in our program that you are representing Mountain Ridge volleyball, and if you are going to wear that uniform, then you have to represent the team and the school well,” said Coach Broadwater. She went on to say, “These girls are also outstanding students in school. Every girl on our varsity team has received a Minds in Motion award and have a good GPA. They are exemplary student-athletes, and I am very proud of that. They are role models for a lot of people.”

              “We have great support from the community and our parents. Local businesses provided us with pre-game dinners, and everyone just really pulled together to support us. We also had a great send off from our student body too, which really gives us a sense of family and community.” Coach Broadwater just finished her 30th season as the Lady Miners head coach and was successful in celebrating her 300th win this season as well.

              Ryan Patterson finished his sixth season as the Miners head football coach. The team ended their regular season 8-1 and ultimately advanced to the state championship game against fellow Allegany County Public School football team, the Fort Hill Sentinels.

              “We knew we had a good football team. We’ve been through a lot with COVID, and as hard as it was, I think it really helped to build our team chemistry and our success on the field. The team trusted the staff and we trusted them. It just really ended up all coming together for us,” said Coach Patterson. “You could see the confidence building in our kids, and obviously outside of the two losses to Fort Hill, we had a really successful season, and I think we continued to get better throughout the playoffs.” Mountain Ridge had a first round bye in the playoffs, and then defeated Allegany in the second round of the playoffs. They went on to defeat Forest Park in the state quarterfinals and then Perryville in the state semifinals to advance to the state championship game against Fort Hill.  

              “Our fan base continued to grow, even outside of our school. I can’t tell you the number of former players and alumni that reached out to me to wish us good luck. I was just blown away by our fan base and just felt so much love from the community in general,” said Coach Patterson.

              The week of the state championship game, several local restaurants, including LG’s, Giuseppe’s, and the Toasted Goat, all hosted the football team for meals, and many local storefronts decorated in support of the Miners. “It was overwhelming, and perhaps my favorite part of the entire week was receiving good luck cards from the students in our feeder schools,” said Coach Patterson. “We also have a great parent organization who helped to host a team dinner prior to the game, and that is where our players were given the cards.”

              He continued, “Between that and the sendoff before we left, it was just really overwhelming and left me speechless. We were blessed as a team, and it really helped to lift our spirits all week long.”  Coach Patterson noted that he’s had a number of kids at school come to him about wanting to play for him next year. “Obviously the game didn’t go the way we wanted it to, but nonetheless, we have some really great things going on here.”

              Senior player and quarterback, Bryce Snyder, “It just felt really good to flip our program around the way we did and just set a new standard for everyone in Frostburg and kids that will come through.” He continued, “The whole community supported us throughout the whole season, not just before the championship game. You could really see it growing after every win. Even after our first loss, everyone was still there supporting us.”

              “That was a big topic when myself and our athletic director, Dave Hobel, and Fort Hill’s coach and AD met prior to the game to discuss the particulars, there was a general sense you got from the Director of the MPSSAA who just seemed in awe of how well we all get along. It’s really great what we have in Allegany County,” said Coach Patterson.

              “It was just such a fun season,” said Coach Patterson. We’ve had seasons when kids don’t always buy into what you’re doing, but it was hard to think back on this season and find a time where I even had to really discipline the kids for anything. They were just such good kids and were so ready to learn what I had to teach them.”

              “I’m just thankful for the positions that all of our coaches put us in this year, especially Coach P,” said Bryce. “It’s been pretty hard over the past two years, and it seems like we’ve been playing football nonstop, but we just kept putting our noses down and grinding away, and it paid off.”

              “I have come to the conclusion that we received the sportsmanship award for our strong fan base and community support. In the entire time that I’ve been coaching at Mountain Ridge, never did I see support like I saw from our first game. The school just came together so strongly for us,” said Coach Patterson. “Kids were just so excited and knew we had a pretty good football team, so that was an awesome way to start the season.” He said this excitement and support continued throughout the season.

            “The fall athletic season for Allegany County Public Schools was a tremendous success,” said ACPS Supervisor of Health, PE, and Athletics, Tracey Leonard.  “In addition to the Fort Hill football teams' 1A State Championship, Mountain Ridge girls’ and Allegany boys’ soccer teams were represented at the state semifinals, and both the Mountain Ridge volleyball team and the football team played in the state finals and were awarded the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) Sportsmanship Award.”

Mrs. Leonard went on to say, “While we are proud of all of our athletes, being recognized at the state level is always an honor. The challenges of the last year, as we navigated COVID-19, make this recognition an even greater accomplishment. The hard work, dedication and sheer resilience of our student athletes and coaches has truly been inspiring.  In addition, I would like to thank the parents, schools, community businesses and fans that support our athletes and cheer on our teams – their support is what makes athletics in Allegany County special and second to none."