Five MIAA football programs will take part in the inaugural I-95 Kickoff Classic, a four-game, one-day event pitting some of Baltimore's best against three of the Washington area's top teams.
The event, scheduled for Sept. 4 at Towson University's Johnny Unitas Stadium, starts with Mount St. Joseph facing Bishop McNamara of the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference at 10:30 a.m. At 1:30 p.m., Calvert Hall of the MIAA A Conference meets B Conference member Archbishop Spalding. Loyola will take on DeMatha, another WCAC power, at 4:30. The finale, scheduled for 7:30, pits Gilman against Good Counsel of the WCAC. The eight participating teams have combined for 31 league titles since 1996.
Tony Kennedy, president and chief executive officer of Extra Point Productions, thinks the I-95 Kickoff Classic will bring more recognition to high school football in Maryland, one of the major reasons he organized the event.
"We want to change the way Maryland football is perceived. We are one big state that doesn't get the credit we deserve. This will be the day Maryland football will jump out to the rest of the nation," Kennedy said during a news conference Wednesday at Towson's Glory Days Grill.
Gilman assistant Henry Russell said he was looking forward to coaching in the event's finale. The Greyhounds, defending MIAA A Conference champions, will be looking for a measure of revenge against Good Counsel, which won the WCAC title last year.
"We got beat by them last year at their place, so this will be a nice chance for revenge," Russell said. "This whole thing is just a great idea which is going to bring a lot of exposure to Maryland football."
Don Rushing, a Good Counsel assistant, thinks the event will lead to new rivalries and better competition. "I'm excited to be a part of this," he said. "It will be interesting to see if maybe two to three years down the road the best conference will begin to stand out. I hope this thing continues because it's a shame these teams don't get to play against each other more often."
Loyola coach Brian Abbott said he likes the idea of playing a tough opponent in the beginning of the year. The Dons' matchup with DeMatha could serve as a forecast of things to come in the season.
"The first game is always a tone-setter for the season," Abbott said. "For us to play a team like DeMatha, we'll know where we stand right away."
DeMatha assistant Sean Costello says it may be one of the few times teams will be cheering for rivals in their conference. "These kids are always looking for something fun and exciting to do and they're going to have pride in where they're from. We'll be rooting for the teams in our conference," he said.
Bill Murphy, Towson's assistant director of facilities operations, said the school is honored to be hosting the first I-95 Kickoff Classic.
"This event will be amazing," he said. "It's four great games all in one day, and I'm very proud that it will be held at Unitas Stadium. Our focus has been to host more events here, and there's no better place to start than this."