A realignment of the Maryland Scholastic Association has St. Mary's stepping up to the A Division while Severn School and Archbishop Spalding will play in the MSA B Division.
The elevation of the Saints has resulted in Spalding being dropped from St. Mary's schedule, but the traditional Saints/Severn rivalry will continue -- with a change.
Instead of the traditional meeting in the final week of the season, the Saints and Admirals will play in the third week, Sept. 18 at Severn. It shouldn't diminish their intense rivalry.
"Our second annual River Classic, which is a bull roast sponsored by the home team after the game, will be held a little earlier this year, but it still should be a great day," said Jim Nolan, one of the organizers.
After a five-year sabbatical from football, Alan Pastrana has returned to the sidelines as Severn's head coach. Pastrana succeeds Jim Doyle (15-5, two seasons), who resigned to concentrate on his business.
Pastrana, who starred as a quarterback at Severn and Annapolis High and the University of Maryland before playing briefly in the NFL with the Denver Broncos, spent 17 years coaching football at Anne Arundel Community College. From 1980 to 1989, Pastrana was head coach of the Pioneers before they dropped the program.
"It's a good time for me to get back into it, and so far, it's been delightful," Pastrana said of his first high school job. "The kids are eager to learn and they give you a nice feeling of the team concept."
With just 11 seniors, Pastrana has a relatively young and inexperienced squad. Returning second-team All-County linebacker Scott Singleton (6-0, 190) might not play and that would be a blow.
"Scott hurt his back during the summer and may not play," said Pastrana. "We're keeping our fingers crossed."
The loss of Singleton would put an added burden on capable junior back/linebacker John Vereen (6-0, 175).
"John is a multi-talented kid, who does it all and can make you feel like a coach," said Pastrana. "He has the ability to turn a busted play into a great play."
Pastrana is attempting to mold sophomores Willie Wu (5-8, 145) and John Butcher (5-6, 150) into productive quarterbacks in his multiple-I and pro-set-type offense, "They're both very intelligent, focused and eager to learn, but they lack strength," said Pastrana. "So, we will have to do some things to take the pressure off them."
When asked why his Saints decided to jump from the old MSA C Conference into the A Division, coach Brad Best answered, "because I'm crazy.
"No, really if ever there was a time for us to move up, it's with this team. We have more depth than we've had since I've been here."
In four years, Best (26-14) has turned the Saints program into one of the most respected in the metro area. Last year's stunning 14-13 upset of Calvert Hall and overall 8-2 mark convinced Best and school officials that the program was ready to move up.
Some 22 seniors, including All-County and second-team All-Metro kicker Mark Kiefer and second-team All-County defensive lineman Greg Carobrese, return with desire to contend with Calvert Hall, Loyola, McDonogh, Gilman and Mount St. Joseph.
Kiefer (6-1, 175) kicked a school-record six field goals and 22 extra points while leading the Saints in scoring with 46 points. He also plays end both ways.
"Mark is a blue-chipper as a kicker and there are a lot of schools interested in him," said Best, a former college assistant before coming to St. Mary's.
Carobrese (6-0, 205) is a key member of a defensive unit that yielded just 16.2 points per game and had three shutouts last year. The defense also includes seniors end Ryan Hughes (5-11, 175), down lineman Justin Kiernan (6-3, 235), linebacker Joe Keenan (5-11, 190, a Division I prospect) and defensive back Matt Clune (5-9, 150).
Seniors Eric Fenwick (6-2, 245) and Damon Rigot (6-0, 185) are expected to solidify the offensive line at tackle and center, respectively.
Junior Brad Davis (6-1, 160) returns at quarterback after going 7-0 as a starter.
"Brad throws well, is very accurate and has learned to read defenses well," said Best.
"This move up should provide more opportunities for all our kids."
Spalding Cavaliers (3-7) When you're trying to build a winner and a respectable program, you need all the help you can get, and second-year coach Del Hughes is getting that and more.
An influx of 200 freshmen into Spalding, with many of them coming out for football, and returnees like senior co-captain Andre Matthews have Hughes beaming.
"Andre requested a move from running back to the offensive line because he said he could help the team more," said Hughes, a veteran ex-assistant at a couple of county schools before taking the Spalding job. "Asking to switch to the line is an oddity for sure."
Matthews (5-11, 205) also plays linebacker.
Hughes inherited a team that had gone 2-8 in 1991 and had suffered through the longest losing streak (27) in county history, but managed to go 3-7 last season, including wins in the final two games.
Playing in an MSA B Division that includes Gilman, Mount St. Joseph and Cardinal Gibbons, Hughes expects his Cavaliers to compete despite having only six seniors and 22 new starters.
Matthews, senior co-captain tackle/linebacker Steve Windsor (6-0, 195) and junior transfers Kenny Kulezs and Steve Madden are vital to those goals. Kulezs (5-7, 165) is a quarterback from St. Joe while Madden (5-7, 170), a running back, is from Pallotti.
"We're getting there," said Hughes.