Foot­ball’s back? That was a long 39 weeks...

Dorchester Star - - Front Page - DAVID INSLEY Fol­low me on Twitter: @ SDBaysideS­ports.

Ris­ing this morn­ing from my slum­ber, our 8-year-old snor­ing be­side me af­ter hav­ing snuck into the bed­room while my wife worked overnight, my thoughts were not of break­fast, nor were they of the fact that school was just a week away.

Oh, no, my friends. It was of some­thing much greater.

“Foot­ball’s back this week? It’s about time!”

The North Bay­side will stay strong, though, and will still prob­a­bly dom­i­nate that con­fer­ence ri­valry, much as it does in base­ball (but not bas­ket­ball).

Ris­ing this morn­ing from my slum­ber, our 8-year-old snor­ing be­side me af­ter hav­ing snuck into the bed­room while my wife worked overnight, my thoughts were not of break­fast, nor were they of the fact that school was just a week away.

Oh, no, my friends. It was of some­thing much greater.

“Foot­ball’s back this week? It’s about time!”

It feels like part of me has been asleep for the 39 weeks be­tween the last game in­volv­ing a Bay­side team and now. I don’t fol­low the NFL; not be­cause of peo­ple protest­ing the an­them, though that’s the main rea­son I hear more and more say they’re not watch­ing.

I ac­tu­ally took back my Sun­days about five years ago when I re­al­ized I was get­ting too worked up watch­ing Dal­las screw up, and de­cided to tune in only spar­ingly. (I got mad dur­ing one game, threw my Cow­boys-logo wal­let away, then re­al­ized I had to buy a new wal­let... and I’m a tight­wad, so I’d imag­ine you can fig­ure out the rest of this story your­selves.)

I’m on the fence about whether I’m gonna watch the Su­per Bowl. Part of me wants to, just to see the com­mer­cials. But then, a lit­tle voice in my head asks, “Dude, are you se­ri­ously go­ing to watch a fourhour foot­ball game for the ads?”

So I don’t know. I’ll prob­a­bly watch, but re­al­is­ti­cally, I only en­joy high school foot­ball. I’m a rar­ity in that I’m a po­lit­i­cal con­ser­va­tive who won­ders if pay­ing col­lege ath­letes min­i­mum wage might not be a good idea af­ter all, but I don’t re­ally watch col­lege ball ei­ther. It hasn’t drawn my in­ter­est since the 1990s, truth be told.

Fri­day nights are where it’s at for me. I guess I’m spoiled be­cause I know all the coaches; heck, I know al­most all the of­fi­cials, band di­rec­tors, and half the play­ers and fans, too. It’s nice to have that lux­ury, I guess. And yes, I could eas­ily get press cre­den­tials to col­lege or pro events, but hon­estly, I just pre­fer high school sports nowa­days.

All that hav­ing been said, here we are. Week 1 is fi­nally upon us. Let’s look at what we had last year, and then see what we have com­ing up.

Last fall, in the Class 1A bracket, Kent County broke a 22-year, 25game los­ing streak against Cam­bridge-South Dorch­ester, win­ning the East re­gion in Week 12 be­fore get­ting, well, the same treat­ment from Fort Hill that ev­ery­one’s been get­ting for years, los­ing in the state semi­fi­nals. Colonel Richard­son, go­ing 4-5, missed the play­offs nar­rowly.

In the 2As, de­fend­ing East champ North Caro­line fell in the re­gional fi­nal; Kent Is­land and Queen Anne’s also made the play­offs from the Bay­side, with Eas­ton, hav­ing re­bounded nicely from a 2-8 sea­son in 2015, came a win away from do­ing so as well.

What this means is the North Bay­side, es­sen­tially, came two wins — one by Colonel, and an­other by Eas­ton — at the right point in the sea­son for the en­tire di­vi­sion to make the play­offs.

The South Bay­side, on the other hand, had per­haps its worst year ever. Only one team, Park­side, beat a sin­gle North foe, and that was Colonel. Snow Hill went win­less again; Stephen De­catur, with­out its 33-year head coach, Bob Knox, who took the year off to sup­port his grand­son Eli as he bat­tled a rare form of brain can­cer, went 1-9. Wash­ing­ton went 2-8, Wi­comico 3-7, James M. Ben­nett 5-5, and Park­side 6-4.

An in­ter­est­ing note is that every South Bay­side foot­ball con­fer­ence win came against an op­po­nent with an in­fe­rior record at year’s end. Lit­er­ally, there were zero up­sets in the South. In the North, we had a cou­ple, like Kent Is­land top­ping North Caro­line in Week 3. But the Bull­dogs avenged that in the first play­off round. We’ve al­ready dis­cussed Kent County and C-SD.

I’m hop­ing for some up­sets this year; noth­ing is more bor­ing than a week in which I get every game right. Yes, I’m a nerd, and yes, I like be­ing right, but I like be­ing sur­prised more.

And this year, I think we’re gonna have a few.

Let’s start with a look at the South. Ben­nett and Park­side look, by my es­ti­ma­tion, poised to im­prove by at least one win apiece; ex­cept for head-to-head, all but one of their 2016 wins came against South teams, so if they do im­prove, it’ll pretty much have to be at the North’s ex­pense. Ben­nett gets a chance for an early-sea­son win against a North team on open­ing night, mak­ing a rare visit to Colonel Richard­son.

Park­side has five North teams — Kent County, North Caro­line, Kent Is­land, Eas­ton, and Queen Anne’s — on its sched­ule, and also starts against a smaller school, host­ing Kent County on Satur­day. There’s two pos­si­ble South wins in Week 1.

De­catur will be bet­ter; Snow Hill has a higher turnout (ath­letic di­rec­tor Todd Lamp­man told me Satur­day night the pro­gram, which for­feited a game last year due to low num­bers, had 33 come out this year). Wi-Hi and Wash­ing­ton will ben­e­fit, hope­fully, from the re­turn of their coaches and some vet­eran play­ers (though Wash­ing­ton lost a key player, tight end Tyler Poul­son, who moved to Salisbury and is now at­tend­ing Park­side).

So, yes, the South Bay­side will be bet­ter. The North will stay strong, though, and will still prob­a­bly dom­i­nate that con­fer­ence ri­valry, much as it does in base­ball (but not bas­ket­ball).

The big ques­tion is, who’s up­wardly mo­bile in the North, and who’s set to fall off? It’s easy to say, “hey, Kent County lost the best player they may have ever had when Mar­c­quan Greene grad­u­ated — is that team gonna fall off?” or “What about Queen Anne’s? Or C-SD?”

We’ll find out about those last two teams Fri­day night, and that’s our Bay­side Game of the Week, re­ally. Eas­ton and Kent Is­land should cruise to wins over their 1A op­po­nents; it’s a week full of such games ac­tu­ally.

Wel­come back, high school foot­ball. Glad to see you again. It’s been a long 39 weeks.

Fri­day’s Games Game of the Week Cam­bridge-SD (8-4) at Queen Anne’s (9-2)

Like when fight­ing crime, play­ing de­fense means you only have to be wrong once for the other guys to get a big score. We’ll see who makes the most mis­takes. I say this will end up... — Lions, 28-20.

Snow Hill (0-10) at Kent Is­land (9-2)

Snow Hill may have had 33 come out for foot­ball, but I only saw 20 dressed at the last scrim­mage. Kent Is­land has that many se­niors. — Buc­ca­neers, 48-0.

Wash­ing­ton (2-8) at Eas­ton (7-3)

Wash­ing­ton re­port­edly had around 20 show up to play this year. I hope it’s more. But they won’t stop Eas­ton this week in any event. — War­riors, 42-6.

Ar­ca­dia, Va. (0-1) at De­catur (1-9)

Ar­ca­dia, 4-6 last year, al­ready played its first game, a 56-36 loss to First Flight High, from the North Carolina coastal re­gion where Wil­bur Wright did his thing in 1903. That’s 22 more than they scored in last year’s opener. — Fire­birds, 38-30.

J. M. Ben­nett (5-5) at Colonel (4-5)

Th­ese teams last met 32 years ago. Ben­nett won 47-0 en route to its third state ti­tle in four sea­sons. Won’t be that bad this time. Colonel has at least a shot in this one. — Clip­pers, 35-20.

N. Caro­line (9-3) at Wi­comico (3-7)

This could be ugly, or Wi-Hi could not-re­ally-sur­prise me and play a strong game against the Bull­dogs. Ei­ther way, though, I think the guests have too much to be stopped here. — Bull­dogs, 34-13.

Satur­day’s Game Kent County (7-6) at Park­side (6-4)

It’ll be hard to re­tool in a pro­gram with no JV the year af­ter such an his­toric run. A win here would be a huge state­ment for the Tro­jans, but I go home team.

— Rams, 21-19. Week 13, 2016: 1-1. Last Sea­son: 63-13. Ca­reer To Date: 850-179 (.826)

PHOTO BY DUSTIN HOLT

Cam­bridge-SD se­nior quar­ter­back Tyler Hard­ing (2) will again look for tar­gets like Tajh Molock (1) this sea­son.

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