Classic start of something big?


COLLEGE PARK -- Northern Virginia went home the winner over Maryland in Saturday night's inaugural Chesapeake Football Classic at the University of Maryland's Byrd Stadium, but both sides went home happy, said organizer Jerry Franks.

The contest, which replaced the 8-year-old Pennsylvania/Maryland Big 33 game, was a close one. Maryland lost, 18-16, after leading, 9-6, early in the third period.

"We had a gathering of both staffs after the game and they were all very pleased," said Franks, a former coach at DeMatha in Hyattsville and Northern in Calvert County.

The states had agreed to a one-year contract, pending the game's success, but Franks said he thinks there will be talks about a game next year.

"We've agreed to get together and discuss the pluses and minuses of this year's event," Franks said. "It was a challenge, but I'm sure we can make next year's even bigger and better."

An enthusiastic crowd of 8,193 was almost evenly divided between the two states. Maryland fans reacted with disappointment as their team blew three scoring chances in the first half -- twice with the game scoreless -- to trail, 6-3, at halftime.

"In the eight years that we played the Big 33, we never had the crowd excitement that we had this year," Franks said. "It just shows what a natural rivalry this is."

C. Milton Wright coach Steve Harward along with McDonogh's Mike Working, handled the defense on a seven-member coaching staff headed by Linganore's Dave Caruthers.

"Everything the Big 33 had, we had in place in just one year," said Harward, referring to a series that ended with Maryland trailing, 7-2, to Pennsylvania, which signed a contract with Ohio.

"We had a great crowd, especially for the first time," Harward added. "And this is a great site. It's something to build on."

Team Maryland couldn't build on the passing of Pallotti graduate Jason Boseck, who completed 23 of 47 attempts for 382 yards, shredding a man-to-man secondary that -- among several other restrictions -- was mandated by game officials.

Most Valuable Player Mancel Johnson of Eleanor Roosevelt caught 11 passes for 171 yards and a touchdown, and Largo's Tony Stringfield caught five for 144 yards, thanks largely to the pass blocking of All-Metro Chad DuBeau (Severna Park) and second-team All-Metro Richard Abrams (Arundel).

"I thought the blocking went very well, especially after only being together for a week," said 6-foot-4, 250-pound Abrams, who will play at Maryland this fall. "Losing on a field where I'm going to play for the next four years was hard to swallow, but the crowd was definitely into it. I was like, 'Where'd all these people come from?' It was a big step up."

Two first-team All-Metro players shined on defense. Mount St. Joseph's Dave Sunderland, a 6-4, 245-pounder headed for Lehigh, had nine tackles, including three solo, and a sack. C. Milton Wright linebacker Brad Fordyce, who will attend Springfield, had six tackles, three solo, and held the ball on a successful field goal and an extra point -- both by Jason Williams (Crossland).

"The way this thing was put together -- it was a first-class job the whole way," said Sunderland who, along with his teammates, stayed with host families in Frederick as the Marylanders practiced at Linganore High.

"It was great to be a part of this, and I think it's going to last a long while."

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