Bayside teams share their hopes during media day
CAMBRIDGE — With fall sports tryouts set to start Wednesday, Bayside Conference football teams assembled Monday afternoon for the third annual Media Day at the Dorchester Career and Technology Center.
And while most players and coaches looked forward to the fun of a new season, the word most commonly heard was “work.”
“We’ve got to work hard and never stop if we want to get back on top,” said Parkside High lineman Felix Paradis, whose team missed the playoffs last year at 6-4, a Week 10 loss to James M. Bennett essentially knocking the Rams out of the postseason. “I feel like we have a good squad this year.”
Rams head coach Brendan Riley agreed, but remained cautious in his optimism, despite his team opening with Snow Hill (0-10 in 2015) and Easton (2-8).
“The way we do it, we want to, we have to take it one game at a time this year,” Riley said. “You can never just write somebody off, because when you do, you’ll lose . ... You have to approach each game as its own thing, never look ahead, and try to play your best game each night.”
North Caroline certainly put together a string of good nights last year, compiling a school-record 12-1 slate that included winning its first regional championship.
But though 16-year head coach James McCormick might begin the year with the Bayside’s top top-ranked team, he said the play on the field has to match the high hopes created by last season.
“It’s moving up there,” McCormick said of the level of expectations many have for his Bulldogs. “It’s getting high obviously; last year was a very good year. But that was last year. We’ve got to try to get that focus and get back to where we were last year.”
The Bulldogs open on Sept. 2 at 6:30 p.m. at Easton. The Warriors bookend their regular season against their two most notable rivals, Caroline and Cambridge-South Dorchester.
Sixth-year head coach Matt Griffith said playing four quarters, something Easton struggled with last year, will be key.
“We want to be able to put ourselves in a position, late in every game, where we have the opportunity to win,” Griffith said. “That’s where we want to be.”
Cambridge-SD head coach Jake Coleman, whose Vikings made the regional finals or beyond in each of the last five seasons, felt the same.
Losing to North Caroline in Week 2 last year by one score, and on a late touchdown in the 1A East championship to Havre de Grace, Coleman wants his team to control its destiny on every play, not just for most of each game. And that begins with strength conditioning.
“We felt like, with that call or without that call, they [Havre de Grace] were beating us up at the point of attack,” Coleman said. “And so, this year, we wanted to make sure we gave this our best effort to get as strong as we possibly could.
Weight room time has been heavy for the Vikings, like several other teams, Coleman said, adding, “I feel like we’re coming in one of the stronger teams that we’ve had.
“We have a lot of speed coming back,” Coleman said. “The old saying is ‘Don’t leave it in the hands of the officials.’ Well, a couple times last year we left it in the hands of the officials, and this year we don’t want that to happen.”
The return of tailback Tre’ Lake, who rushed for over 1,600 yards last year — more than 450 coming in Weeks 10 and 11 — should
help give the Vikings plenty of punch. Junior Tyler Harding takes over at quarterback.
Colonel Richardson, hoping to crack the 1A East playoff field for the first time since 2004, features strongarmed junior Jake Zebron calling the plays for the double-wing offense. With only nine games on the schedule right now, things will mean a little bit more every week, said assistant Neil Lambert.
In 2015, the Colonels blew out Reginald Lewis of Baltimore in Week 8. This year, Reginald Lewis gets a new coach, Elwood Townsend, who led Douglass to the state finals in 2013 and 2014.
Townsend dropped Colonel from this year’s schedule, thus creating an open date in Week 8 for the Colonels. The extra week’s rest might be useful for the stretch run, as Colonel tries to be one of four playoff contenders, in a 1A East field pared to seven teams.
“I think it can hurt you in terms of getting points, but it can help you in terms of [how] that open date is right in the grind... in mid-October,” said Lambert, who served as head coach in 2004, the last year Colonel made the postseason. “I think you can get some fresh legs under you, and kind of make a push.”
One of the biggest obstacles Colonel might face in 1A this year is Kent County.
Though the Trojans went 6-4 and made the 1A East semifinals last year, they lost to C-SD. The Vikings haven’t lost to the Trojans since early in the 1995 season.
This year, they’ll have to try to break that 24-game streak without the services of Stevie Curran. The alltime leading passer in Bayside history, Curran graduated in May — but an able replacement, junior Tyson Johnson, looks to be ready to step in, according to head coach Brendon Ireton.
“Any time you lose a player like Stevie Curran, it’s going to be a big hole to fill,” Ireton said. “Fortunately, we have a lot of kids coming up who have a lot of experience. He knows what it’s like to be in the spotlight, and he’s really stepped up in the offseason . ... I’m really confident that these guys are gonna be OK . ... Tyson is going to be one of the hidden gems in the Bayside this year.”
He’ll be joined by fouryear star Marc Quan Greene and a large cast of returning players with plenty of varsity experience. The Trojans open Sept. 2 at Queen Anne’s County.
Once a Class 4A school, since it enrolled every high school student in the county until the fall of 1999, Queen Anne’s broke into two schools, with Kent Island opening its doors that year.
The Buccaneers, a 2A now like their cross-county counterparts, are hoping to return to the playoffs. Kent Island went 9-2 last year, losing to Elkton in the first round of the East Region playoffs.
Head coach Damian Ferragamo knows what his team needs to see the second season again.
“We’re as hungry as we are every year,” Ferragamo said. “[We] came up a little short in the first round of the playoffs. You always want to stretch the season out as long as possible . ... We’re trying to stay focused and get ready for our Week 1 opponent.”
Michael Scott, a senior this year, pointed out where a lot of the hunger gets fed: in the weight room during the offseason, where the team has been working together for months.
“We’ve all been working hard in the weight room,” Scott said, “and everyone’s working together... it’s like a brotherhood.”
Lineman Justin Johnson agreed, saying, “It’s a lot of team stuff, I mean, we’re all just working hard, trying to get ready as a team.”
In the South Bayside, Bennett, which went 7-3 and made the 3A East playoffs, hopes to stay atop the divisional standings, while Stephen Decatur (4-6), hopes to make its mark despite the transfer of stars, Tyree Henry and Darion McKenzie, to St. Frances Academy in Baltimore.
Class 1As Washington (19) and Snow Hill hope to build after rough 2015 campaigns.
Tim Richo, now in his second year in charge at Snow Hill, is hoping, like Decatur head coach Bob Knox, that the injury bug doesn’t bite like last year.
“We had a lot of freshmen and sophomores playing,” Richo said. “And it gives you some experience in the next year, but ... at the end of last season, we were only dressing about 21 kids. So it can be tough to keep the team going.
“We’re hoping to get one win this year,” Richo said. “When we had our player meeting, we were talking about hoping to make the playoffs, but one of the players said, ‘We always want to make the playoffs, but let’s look at getting one win this year.’ And so that’s what we’re doing. We get the first win, then we’ll look at the second win, and so on, and then maybe start thinking playoffs.”
Greg Lasinski, in his second season at Washington, was of like mind. “When you go 1-9, you don’t really think playoffs much at all the next year. You just want to try to improve. If we can make a run toward the playoffs great, but we just want to improve.”
Knox, whose team had back-to-back losing seasons in 2014 and 2015, expressed his hopes for Decatur’s health, and its importance as a springboard.
“I think one thing we’ll be better at, hopefully, is not getting injured,” Knox said. “Last year, we had 11 kids hurt, including ... nine starters. And they were all focused on one or two positions. We went through four running backs last year — and we only began the season with three.”
Wicomico (2-8) sees the only coaching change in the conference this season, with Brian Hanson taking over. In addition to hard play, he said accountability was his focus.
“You want your players to be responsible, and to lead, to be accountable and know they’re working for, working with, their teammates,” Hanson said. “We’re hoping to work on accountability, and teamwork.”
The Indians open at C-SD, at 7 p.m. on Sept. 2.
Follow me on Twitter: @Davetalkssports.
Cambridge-South Dorchester’s Curtis Stanton (55) celebrates with Tre’ Lake (31) after Lake scored a rushing touchdown in the 1A East Region Final at Havre de Grace last November.
Cambridge-South Dorchester’s Tre’ Lake sprints through a hole for a second-quarter touchdown against Nandua on Oct. 6, 2015. Lake finished the day with three rushing touchdowns.