Week 2 sees tests for Bucs, Bulldogs, Vikings and Warriors
We had quite an interesting opening week of football in the Bayside Conference.
The top teams all won. A team from near the bottom last year came a play away from pulling off an amazing upset in a high-scoring track meet of a game in Easton. And one of the oldest rivalries in the state, pitting Wicomico High against a team from Cambridge, was renewed.
Let’s start with that North Caroline-Easton game, because a lot of people, myself included, either underestimated the Warriors, or overestimated the Bulldogs.
I think it’s the former rather than the latter, really. North Caroline can beat you up the middle, around end, or even deep on occasion.
Easton, on the other hand, was reportedly rebuilding and hoping to be viable after a 2-8 season in 2015.
Opening night proved the word “rebuilding” should be replaced with “rebuilt.” Scoring seven touchdowns against a team that allowed four or more in a game only once last year means, in no uncertain terms, you’re back.
Now, let’s discuss Easton head coach Matt Griffith’s gutsy decision to go for two at the end of the game.
After scoring a touchdown to pull within 49-48 with under 30 seconds remaining, Griffith had the choice of sending in Emma Skoglund to kick a point-after and potentially force overtime, or going for a two.
Skoglund, 4-for-4 kicking PATs in her varsity debut Friday, was the safe choice.
Instead, Griffith chose to try a two-point conversion, in the form of a pass. It failed, and Easton lost.
I don’t fault Griffith one single iota. While kicking the PAT would’ve shown he had confidence in Skoglund, Griffith’s decision to go for two showed he had confidence in the entire team. (Skoglund, by the way, became the first female player I can find record of in North Bayside history to score in varsity football, so congrats on that, young lady!)
If Griffith didn’t have confidence in his place kicker, she wouldn’t be on the team in the first place, so consider that, too.
In 2011, another coach faced a similar choice with far more on the line. In that year’s Class 4A state championship against Quince Orchard, Old Mill head coach Chad McCormick trailed 35-28 in overtime. His team scored a touchdown, and he went for two with his team down 35-34.
Old Mill succeeded on the conversion — and won the championship, 36-35. McCormick did it because, as his predecessor, Damian Ferragamo, put it, “he told me, ‘it was the only time in the game I knew we could win the game if our play worked.’”
This decision is very analogous to Friday night’s battle at Warrior Stadium. Granted, there was a kickoff after Easton’s touchdown and, had they trailed 50-49 at that point, the Bulldogs might have had the chance to run two or three plays. But, hey, you play to win sometimes instead of playing to keep from losing.
As Ferragamo, now head coach at Kent Island, said, “Hey, I’d have done the same thing. I support Matt 110 percent on that . ... You figure, look at the score, and you see nobody’s stopping anybody, you might as well go for it.”
It didn’t work this time. But hey, these teams might meet again in the playoffs. Who knows? Either way, it was a great call, and one, I can say, I might not have been bold enough to make. So, I tip my proverbial hat to Griffith on that one.
Things don’t get any easier for Easton or the Bulldogs this week.
Easton visits Parkside in a game that might determine the playoff fates of both teams. I say this because if the Warriors win, it proves they’re able to contend up and down the conference. After all, if they win, in this scenario, they will have taken the Bayside Conference’s top team to the mat one week, and then beaten a team with a solid record last year, on the road, the following week.
If Parkside wins, the Rams could be poised to improve on last year’s 6-4 mark which almost was enough for the postseason.
North Caroline plays its home opener Friday against Cambridge-South Dorchester in a contest between teams who scored a combined 110 points last Friday night. Defenses on both sides need to step up, because both teams have blinding speed and depth at the skill positions.
Realistically, the VikingsBulldogs contest could end in one of hundreds of ways. Last year’s 20-14 game was the same way.
In discussing these, and the other games in Week 2, the gnomes in my basement came to a prediction in one game, at least, that surprises me a little. I won’t delve too deeply into the circumstances or process behind the prediction in question, but if you want more detail, check out my Twitter feed.
They tend to get one game wrong per week anyway, so take whatever they say with a grain of salt. After all, how smart is pottery?
The rest of Week 2 has a couple games that could turn heads as well. Can James M. Bennett, which won its opener against Washington despite giving up more than 400 yards of offense, give Queen Anne’s County a battle? Can Kent Island, which beat Elkton during the regular season last year, avenge Elkton’s playoff-opening riposte nine weeks later?
Will Snow Hill, which dressed 17 players last week against Parkside, and Colonel Richardson play in a barnburner, a tight, low-scoring game, or a blowout? Colonel has around two dozen kids, so depth is a concern for both sides.