Bayside football games to watch
CAMBRIDGE — Star Democrat sports writer David Insley previews some of the notable games for the upcoming 2016 high school football season in his “From the Bleachers” column.
Two things hit me when youth baseball season ends and football looms: the realization that my favorite season is over, and ... writer’s block.
Nothing drains the morale of a scribbler more than staring at a blank screen (or sheet of paper; I cut my teeth on a Smith-Corona manual typewriter).
What do you write about when the last season you covered is history, and the next thing won’t happen for nearly three weeks?
At the time I write this, no football team is even allowed to hit somebody yet. So, no scrimmages have happened yet locally, and the last few half-hearted gridiron runners who’ll drop out soon, but haven’t quite made up their minds to do so yet, are still with their respective teams. Previews of each program come a bit later, traditionally, as the season’s a step closer and teams have shed their dead weight — and many preseason misconceptions.
Papering over the gap with some trite recollection of memories of the baseball season just isn’t in the cards, but something needs to be said, the little voice in my head screams.
But then I look at the football schedule and, lo! Revelation!
I could make a list of the best, or most important, Bayside football games to watch!
There are definitely a bunch of games, usually a couple each week, worth pointing to, even in August when nobody knows anyone’s true talent level.
So let’s get right to it, shall we? As some weeks have multiple “A games,” I’ll break it down chronologically.
These contests are listed not because they’ll have necessarily the best teams, but because they have a combination of importance and enjoyability to watch. Every game is important to every team, but some simply won’t be competitive and, thus, probably won’t be mentioned.
Week 1: Key Indicators
North Caroline, of the 12-1 record last year and nice, big bull’s-eye on its back, visits Easton. The Bulldogs, of course, won last year to begin their amazing 12-0 start. While I’m leaning toward Caroline to win this, even a reputable showing by Easton might indicate the team has shrugged off its 2-8 showing in 2015.
Conversely, if the Bulldogs run the clock on Easton, talk might focus on whether the Bulldogs can have a hot start again. Kickoff for this game is 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 2 at Warrior Stadium.
Another watershed game is Kent County’s 7 p.m. trip that same night to Queen Anne’s County. The Trojans have won this game the last two years, after a 12-year drought, and as the teams’ fortunes went, so went this contest, for the most part.
Week 2: 1A-2A title rematch
Last year’s Week 2 big game was North Caroline at Cambridge-South Dorchester. A controversial touchdown call as the first half expired — I know our paper printed a photo, not of Bulldog player Rodney Thomas hauling in a pass from Cameron Byrd, but of C-SD’s Dre Greene trying to reel in an interception — proved the margin of victory.
However, it should be noted that C-SD had several lost fumbles and, generally, didn’t play well enough to win otherwise. This year’s rematch should be interesting. Kickoff is 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 9. Week 3: Harbingers Colonel Richardson, with only nine games this season, must make them all count even more than before. Sept. 16’s 6:30 p.m. visit to Kent County could decide which of the two teams will make the Class 1A East playoffs this November.
Colonel has a tougher hill to climb, though, on the road against a team it hasn’t beaten since 2010 — and surrendered 72 points against in 2015. (Colonel did score 41, though.)
Kent Island visits North Caroline at 7 p.m. that same night; after losing this game last year, the Buccaneers reeled off seven straight victories, but fell to Elkton in the first playoff round, denying these teams a muchhyped potential rematch in Week 12.
Week 4: Another Try
Kent County’s futility in its battles against C-SD is well-noted. Ahead by two scores entering the fourth quarter of their own homecoming last year, the Trojans lost the the Vikings for the 23rd straight time, then again in the playoffs.
Now, 24 straight wins by one team might not make this sound much like a rivalry — unless you’ve seen some of these games. It very much it. The teams go at it again on Sept. 23 at C-SD, at 7 p.m. Week 5: Halfway There Easton and Kent county have had some interesting recent history; the Warriors pulled out a narrow, lowscoring victory which really stung the Trojans. In 2014, Kent County rallied from an early 13-0 deficit to win. Oct. 1’s, 1:30 p.m. battle at Kent County might be worth the trip to the northernmost school in the Bayside Conference.
At the same time, Queen Anne’s visits Parkside; can the Rams make noise against one of the best teams in the conference for the last decade? Week 6: Naval Battle With nautical mascots — the Buccaneers and Clippers, respectively — Kent Island their host this week (Oct. 7 at 6:30 p.m.), James M. Bennett face off. The Clippers improved from 3-7 in 2014 to 7-3 last year and made the playoffs. Was it a blip on the radar, or are the Clippers back to stay? This game might prove if they have staying power. Week 7: Trojan War Without star athlete Marcquan Greene last year, Kent County lost at North Caroline. This year, Greene and company play at home, at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 14. Can they avoid a repeat of history?
Col. Richardson heads to Nandua, Va., at 7 p.m. that night; it’s a must-win game for the Colonels, who need to win ever y game they won last year and possibly one more if they want a shot at the playoffs. Week 8: Almost There Parkside visits Stephen Decatur at 6 p.m. on Oct. 20 to start Week 8’s slate of games. The Seahawks, perennially a strong squad, have fallen on hard times in recent seasons, going 2-8 in 2014 and 4-6 last year. A win against Parkside would be key to the team’s playoff hopes. On the other hand, Decatur would be a big win for a Rams squad who came up short in Week 10 last year. Week 9: Doubling Down The road to playoff success has led through Queen Anne’s County High for a number of years; North Caroline’s Week 9 win last year was worth a ton of playoff points. What’s more, the Bulldogs beat them again in the playof fs two weeks later, surviving a strong Lion push for revenge.
On Oct. 28 at 7 p.m. in Centreville, we get to see who’ll be the higher playoff seed; it might determine who’s the host if they meet in the postseason again.
At the same time, Parkside visits Kent Island in a key test for the Rams, as well as a game the Bucs can’t afford to take lightly. Week 10: Rival Redux C-SD hosts Easton in a rivalry that stretches back more than a century, at 7 p.m. on Nov. 4. C-SD has won eight of the last nine meetings, but two of those were by four points or less, and the game, which I call the Choptank Bowl, is always worth the admission price.
Another 7 p.m. kickoff that night is Queen Anne’s at Kent Island; anyone needing this game’s importance explained to them simply isn’t a Bayside football fan.
So there you have it — 16 games with huge implications and consequences. Most are between strong teams, and the ones that aren’t are a sort of crucible for the teams who had bad records in 2015.
Other games might prove interesting as well, and time will tell. Meanwhile, get your seat cushions and coats ready, folks.
Sept. 2, and opening night, is just over two weeks away.
Cambridge-South Dorchester’s Jake Morris makes a leaping catch on the Vikings’ game-tying drive late in the fourth quarter of a 2015 comeback victory over Kent County.