Starting next week we begin running All-Gazette teams for Frederick, Montgomery and Prince George's counties. Every year I get calls asking how we select these teams (usually followed by 'Why wasn't my grandson or granddaughter on it?').
Feel free to call me about your grandson or granddaughter, but here's how we do it.
In football, we have a pizza party where I invite all seven members of my staff and the freelance reporters who have covered games for us this year. We look over nominations from coaches, season stats, team records, etc. The Gazette covered all 68 high schools in the three counties at least once this year. The better teams we probably saw four to six times. On Saturday I sent an email to all 68 head coaches, asking for their input and recommendations, not only for their own teams, but other schools.
There are three main criteria we use while we're yelling, kicking and finding interesting names to call each other during our meeting.
1. Performance during the season, usually based on stats.
2. Value to team. A little harder to determine. Basically, a player who helps a team win but contributes in ways that don't show up in stats. For example, a shut-down cornerback who is so good opponents rarely throw in his direction.
3. Future prospects. We do take into consideration if a player has a scholarship offer from a major college or is being labeled a 'can't-miss future NFL player.' For example, Stefon Diggs last season had two great games to open the year, but Good Counsel didn't really need him after that, because the Falcons were so strong and the competition was down. Diggs' stats suffered as a result. Still, no one would argue that Diggs wasn't one of the top players in Montgomery County in 2011.
Even with that criteria, there will be differences of opinion. A lot of this is subjective and despite how hard we work at it, there may be great players who don't make it. Do you choose the quarterback who threw for 2,000 yards and 25 touchdowns, but he had double the attempts as most passers? Or the QB who had half the yards passing, but didn't turn the ball over and completed 75 percent of his throws?
One question I usually get is why do we include private school players. In many cases, public school coaches do a great job selecting an all-county team that excludes the privates, so there's not a need for another one.
Did you know that 27 of the 50 athletes listed on Good Counsel's football roster are from Montgomery County? They also grew up reading The Gazette and possibly dreaming of the day they made the team. I feel it would be unfair to exclude them.
I think it adds to the prestige of making the team for the public school athletes selected if they are there with players from DeMatha or Good Counsel.
I'm a firm believer that our team should look like a team. Yes, we could select five running backs and four receivers, because there are certainly enough quality players. But you can't send a team with five running backs and four receivers out to play. So our football team is limited to 24 players, 11 on offense, 11 on defense and two special team performers. The maximum number of running backs I allow (this is usually when the yelling and kicking starts) is three, but it means no tight end.
We do the same with the other sports, limiting the people selected to the number of starters.
On the other sports, the beat reporter reaches out to coaches in all three counties and seeks their input. He or she does the research and puts together a list of recommendations and brings them to Assistant Sports Editor Kent Zakour and I.
In all cases, I have the final say on who makes the team. If you disagree and feel the need to vent, please call me.
One last note, we are not going to run girls tennis in Montgomery or golf in all three counties until the spring. I want to remain consistent and it wouldn't be fair to private school golf teams to announce an All-Gazette team before they have started their season; or to do the girls tennis team before state championship matches are played.
This is an imperfect process and more people will be upset with our choices than approve of them. What I want our readers to know is that we take this seriously and work hard to get it right.
Ken Sain is the sports editor for The Gazette in Frederick, Montgomery and Prince George's counties.
Frederick Montgomery Prince George's
Nov. 14-15 Cross country Cross country
Nov. 21-22 Field hockey Field hockey Cross country
Nov. 28-29 Boys and girls soccer Boys and girls soccer Boys and girls soccer
Dec. 12-13 Football and volleyball Football and volleyball Football and volleyball