Franklin football coach Anthony Burgos scheduled the Indians’ season opener against Henry Wise before the slate of games for the second annual I-95 Kickoff Classic was set. But when Classic officials called, Burgos eagerly agreed to move the game to Morgan State.
“It’s great exposure for the kids, a great opportunity to play on a big stage early,” Burgos said. “It’s a game that we can gain a lot from. If things don’t necessarily go our way, we can use that to carry us through the rest of the season. We’re taking a chance in our conference, but if you want to be the best, you’ve got to play the best.”
Friday night’s showdown between two 2010 state finalists — the Indians in Class 3A and the Pumas in Class 4A — is one of eight games highlighting some of the best teams in Maryland, Washington D.C. and Virginia at the Kickoff Classic, which runs Thursday at Bowie State and Friday and Saturday at Morgan State.
The field also includes three local 2010 champions — Calvert Hall in the MIAA A Conference, Dunbar in Class 1A and Urbana in Class 4A — as well as preseason Gilman, last year’s A Conference runner up currently ranked No. 47 in the nationwide ESPN High School Powerade Fab 50.
The inaugural classic featured matchups between some of the top Baltimore and Washington, D.C., private schools and added public schools this time, a priority for Kickoff Classic founder Tony Kennedy.
The classic’s marquee game, Friday at 7:30 p.m., features nine-time A Conference champ Gilman taking on Oscar Smith, from Chesapeake, Va., which has lost only two regular-season games in the last seven years.
Calvert Hall meets perennial opponent St. John’s-D.C. Thursday and Loyola takes on DeMatha on Saturday. Saturday night caps off with the first meeting between Dunbar and Dunbar-D.C at 7:45 p.m.
“We’re so close, and we’ve always wanted to make it a rivalry,” Poets coach Lawrence Smith said. “My years of being at Dunbar, Dunbar-Dunbar has always been a basketball rivalry, because they also have a great basketball tradition there. … We wanted to get together, because they have been just as successful as we have been with the number of folks they have put in college making a mark and the number of guys they have put in the NFL making a mark.”
For Kennedy, putting together the schedule is all about finding popular, competitive matchups among the area’s best teams.
“It just starts from looking at previous records, looking at how many potential three-, four-, five-star [recruits] that the teams would have, and also the schools’ reputations,” he said. “It just so happens that we’re getting very, very lucky with scheduling. I always look ahead two or three years out and we’ve been getting lucky placing the teams in the right spots.”
Last year’s classic included Gilman’s 28-7 win over Good Counsel, Calvert Hall’s 26-20 triple-overtime win over Archbishop Spalding and Mount St. Joseph’s 29-6 win over Bishop McNamara.
This year’s field includes Mount St. Joseph, Archbishop Curley and Patterson.
Last year’s classic was rated No. 3 in the country by MaxPreps, but Kennedy said it wasn’t rated this year.
“If they want to rank them on how many Division I prospects are in it, other than the Herbstreit Classic on ESPN that pulls teams from all over the country, if you look at the numbers, there’s no way any classic will have more D-I and Division I-AA players than our classic,” he said. “No way.”
I-95 Kickoff Classic
Thursday at Bowie State
Mount St. Joseph vs. Friendship Collegiate Academy (D.C.), 5:30
Calvert Hall vs. St. John’s (D.C.), 7:30
Friday at Morgan State
Franklin vs. Wise, 5:30
Gilman vs. Oscar Smith (Va.), 7:30
Saturday at Morgan State
Archbishop Curley vs. Patterson, 10:45 a.m.
Loyola vs. DeMatha, 1:45
Westlake vs. Urbana, 4:45
Dunbar vs. Dunbar (D.C.), 7:45