The high school football season has arrived in an abbreviated fashion because of the coronavirus pandemic with private schools from the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association permitted to create their own schedule.
Among the teams set to take the field are defending MIAA A Conference champion Mount Saint Joseph and B Conference champion St. Vincent Pallotti. Calvert Hall, Loyola Blakefield and Archbishop Spalding are among the A Conference schools looking to give champion Mount Saint Joseph a push, while John Carroll, St. Mary’s, Archbishop Curley and Concordia Prep are among the teams from the B conference joining Pallotti.
Two championship games, not sanctioned by the MIAA, will take place Dec. 18.
“We are excited to finally take the field as a team for this 2020 season," Calvert Hall’s first-year coach Josh Ward said. "It has been a long offseason with our guys staying motivated with offseason workouts and zoom meetings. To finally take the field as a team, they are going to bring a lot of energy and excitement.”
Archbishop Spalding coach Kyle Schmitt said his players are excited to return to competition.
“Our players are extremely excited to play and represent our school and program. They have done an incredible job of sticking together through Zoom meets, group workouts and practices,” Schmitt said. “They have embraced the challenges of this season and I believe they are going to play very well once they have the opportunity.”
Loyola Blakefield coach Anthony Zehyoue said his players can’t wait to get started.
“It has been a long offseason and I know that the season will inevitably fly by,” Zehyoue said. “However, the wait is worth the thrill of the roller coaster.”
As for the public schools, most jurisdictions in the Baltimore region — Anne Arundel, Carroll, Howard and Baltimore counties — plan to begin winter sports on Dec. 7 with competitions starting Jan. 4. Baltimore City schools also signed on to the statewide effort to move the sports season earlier but have not said when they will begin.
The public school fall sports season will begin Feb. 13 with games starting March 5. That likely spells the end of the 131-year streak of the City-Poly game, a series Poly leads, 63-62-6, dating to 1889.
Here’s a snapshot look at some of the participating private school teams:
MIAA A Conference
Four of Archbishop Spalding football’s six defeats last season occurred as the Cavaliers lost the lead in the final minutes. This year, coach Kyle Schmitt will rely on the defense’s “killer instincts” to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
Safety Quinton Young, recovered fully from a junior season injury, will lead the effort, aided by Penn State commit Zakee Wheatley, inside linebacker Sean Berardino and recent Maryland commit Kellan Wyatt, who’s gotten “bigger and stronger.”
“Our experience is there. I think we’ll be winning games on defense,” Schmitt said, “and offensively, try not to screw it up for them. We’re really talented on [defense]. The most talented since I’ve been at this school.”
Junior quarterback Nick Gutierrez steps up as the Cavaliers' main signal-caller this year, replacing former starter Austin Tutas. Schmitt and Gutierrez’s teammates already feel secure in their quarterback’s leadership. Sophomore Xavier Essex and freshman Austin Troyer will compete for the backup spot.
Though Spalding will continue to rely on its no-huddle, spread offense and on Jayon Venerable and four other top tailbacks, the Cavaliers aim to throw the ball more this fall, calling on Wheatley and others for air support.
COACH: Kyle Schmitt, eighth year
LAST YEAR: 5-6, 1-3 MIAA
KEY PLAYERS: Seniors Zakee Wheatley (WR/DB), Jayon Venerable (RB/DB), Chase Lusk (OL), Quinton Young (RB/DB), Bryson Carter (WR/DB) and Shamar Smith (RB); junior Kellan Wyatt (OLB).
RETURNING STARTERS: 14
“We are returning some key players on defense including free safety Tre Jordan and Merrimack commit, linebacker Michael Johnson, who will be manning the middle our defense and our entire defensive line,” Ward said. “Returning on the offensive side of the ball is our Sacred Heart commit, quarterback Amir Jenkins, along with three starting offensive lineman and rising sophomore quarterback Noah Brannock.”
Jenkins threw for 712 yards and seven touchdowns and rushed for three more scores last year. Brannock had 112 passing yards and two touchdowns in his freshman season.
Defensive linemen Omari Lewis, Chidi Ejoh, Kaiveh Brown and Daniel Owens echo the days of the Los Angeles Rams' “Fearsome Foursome” defensive line of the 1960s and 1970s. Each of them have caused a lot of problems for quarterbacks and running backs alike. With Johnson and Jordan, the defense is a strong point.
COACH: Josh Ward, first year
LAST YEAR: 9-3, 2-2 MIAA
KEY PLAYERS: Seniors Amir Jenkins (QB), Tre Jordan III (WR/DB), Mike Johnson (LB), Omari Lewis (OL/DL), Chidi Ejoh (DL) and Kaiveh Brown (DL); junior Daniel Owens (DL); sophomore Noah Brannock (QB).
RETURNING STARTERS: 10
Gilman will play just two games this season,at Boys' Latin Nov. 7. and the following week against St. Paul’s at home.
While there won’t be many games for Gilman, coach Nicholas Bach wants to see the most from his young team.
“Every game will be significant since we are very limited in our amount of contests allowable right now,” Bach said. “We hope to provide an opportunity for exposure for the older guys and a safe, meaningful, and fun experience for our younger Hounds this year.”
The Greyhounds are led by three seniors — tight end/defensive end Mattheus Carroll, all-purpose man Rayaun Lane and wide receiver Jermaine Conyers.
Lane had 30 carries for 301 yards and two touchdowns and acaught 13 passes for 327 yards and four touchdowns. Sophomore quarterback Matthew Parker threw for 827 yards and seven touchdowns last year to go with 38 carries for 228 yards.
COACH: Nicholas Bach
LAST YEAR: 1-9, 0-4 MIAA
KEY PLAYERS: Seniors Mattheus Carroll (TE/DE), Rayaun Lane (WR/RB/Rover) and Jermaine Conyers (WR/DB); juniors Keyon Torain (RB) and Kolt Pearce (WR); sophomores Matt Parker (QB), Avery Jones-Allen (WR), Ahmir Crawley (DL) and Miles Roberts (OL).
RETURNING STARTERS: 9
The Dons had a breakthrough season in 2019. Quarterback Jordan Moore, now a senior, threw for 2,184 yards, 27 touchdowns and five interceptions while rushing for 649 yards and seven touchdowns. On the other side of the ball, outside linebacker Joshua Buck flashed with 63 total tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, nine sacks and a pass deflection.
Loyola Blakefield will face off against all MIAA opponents. The team opens at St. Paul’s, followed with Spalding, John Carroll, the Turkey Bowl at Calvert Hall, another road game at Mount Saint Joseph and end with a home game against Concordia. Despite the tough schedule, Loyola Blakefield has high expectations for the year after going 8-2 in 2019.
“The key for us this season will be proving that we have our share of talent as well,” coach Anthony Zehyoue said. “I am so proud our team’s progression over the last four years, going from a two-win team with a losing culture to an eight-win team with a winning culture. This season might feel like one of those amusement park rides where you stand in line for an hour just to ride it and it is over after about 30-45 seconds.”
COACH: Anthony Zehyoue, fourth year
LAST YEAR: 8-2, independent
KEY PLAYERS: Seniors Jordan Moore (QB/DB) and Joshua Buck (DE/RB); juniors Micah Robinson (RB/LB), Anto Saka, (LB) and Billy Dwan (OL).
RETURNING STARTERS: 10
MOUNT SAINT JOSEPH
There’s a lot of momentum heading into the new season for the Gaels. They won their first outright conference title in 70 years in 2019. The program has several players returning, but also has seen a lot of turnover.
During the offseason, four other current key players committed to Division I schools — quarterback Billy Atkins (James Madison), cornerback Deshawn Jones (Wake Forest), wide receiver Tyler Wilkins (Morgan State) and cornerback Jabari Echols (Maine).
Wide receivers Ausar Crawley and Semaj Henson pack a punch, with Crawley nabbing 66 catches for 797 yards and nine touchdowns in the 2019 campaign and Henson grabbing 35 passes for 536 yards and six touchdowns. Along with Wilkins, their targets should go up.
Atkins led the state in passing yards last season (3,089) and also added 36 touchdowns. He is seventh all-time in passing yards in Maryland (6,968) and is third all-time in passing touchdowns (88).
Damico has 28 years of head coaching experience with 24 years at McDonogh and four years at Cardinal Dougherty in Philadelphia.
COACH: Dom Damico, first year (29th overall season)
LAST YEAR: 10-2, 3-1 MIAA, A Conference champion
KEY PLAYERS: Seniors Billy Atkins (QB), Ausar Crawley (WR), Tyler Wilkins (WR), Semaj Henson (WR/RB), Blake Wisnauskas (DL), Deshawn Jones (CB), Jabari Echols (CB), Russell Jones Jr. (OL), Izu Igwe (OL/DL) Brandon Figue (LB) and junior Stephen Schulze (DE).
MIAA B Conference
ANNAPOLIS AREA CHRISTIAN
For the last three years, AACS has been “blessed” to have consistency with quarterback Ryan Idleman. Now, the quarterback position is open to three candidates: senior Jonathan Collins and two freshmen, Aaron Rhodes and Anthony Wiseman.
The Eagles will be limited in what they’ll be able to do with the ball, but they still intend to run a spread offense.
“The great thing about that is our boys, we’re excited just to have those two games,” coach Mike Lynn said. “It’s the same opponent. It’s one of our rivals. It’s not hard to get them up for that game — I’m pretty sure St. John’s Catholic Prep gets up for it as well.”
COACH: Mike Lynn, seventh year
LAST YEAR: 2-7, 1-7 MIAA
KEY PLAYERS: Seniors Will Diggs (WR/LB), Ty Stein (TE/LB) and Jaylon Carver (WR/DB); juniors Josh Hardy (DE/TE) and Warren Burris (WR/DB); sophomores Andrew Fatusin (OL/DL) and Zephaniah Wade (OL/DL).
RETURNING STARTERS: 7
In a competitive MIAA B conference, Curley answers the bell as a contender. Last year, Curley went 7-4 and had a 5-3 conference record.
“I want us to grow off what we did last season and continue to grow as a program,” coach Brendon Ireton said.
They bring back senior quarterback Kofi Kwaw, who was an All-MIAA selection. He passed for 874 yards with eight touchdowns and four interceptions. Ireton expects a great deal from Kwaw and other team leaders.
Also returning are a pair of Sacred Heart commits in defensive back Jamal Avery and offensive lineman Joe Petrsyzak, along with wideout John Munk, who was Kwaw’s top target with 14 catches for 324 yards and three touchdowns.
COACH: Brendon Ireton, third year
LAST YEAR: 7-4, 5-3 MIAA
KEY PLAYERS: Seniors Kofi Kwaw (QB), Ronald Clark (RB/LB), Jamal Avery (DB), Joe Petrsyzak (OL), Denzel Evans (SLOT/DB), John Munk (WR), Kent Bero (SLOT/OLB), Kobe Davis (DE), Judah Conaway (DT) and James Hansen (LB).
RETURNING STARTERS: 14
Boys' Latin has an extremely senior-laden team. They will only play two games, but there’s a ton of excitement surrounding the program.
Coach Ritchie Schell has brought in new and young offensive staff members, including 26-year-old offensive coordinator Anthony Rinaudo (served in the same role at Concordia), offensive line coach J.P. McManus (Calvert Hall/Hofstra) and Greg Pyke, a 2012 Boys' Latin graduate and former offensive lineman at Georgia and in the NFL.
“We have great new coaches this year,” offensive lineman Xander O’Malley said. “They’ve really reinvigorated our program."
Although there will be just two games this season for Boys' Latin, Schell is expecting to bring on positive change.
“Our expectations going into the season were to compete and to make a statement about our new brand of offense,” Schell said.
COACH: Ritchie Schell, 20th year
LAST YEAR: 4-5, 4-5 MIAA
KEY PLAYERS: Seniors Alexander “Xander” O’Malley (OT/DT), Amare Conley (CB), Braydon Hill (CB), Matt Greaver (LB), AJ Hernandez (LB/TE), Garrett Glatz (FS/SLOT), Vinny Arthur (OL), Ben Mapp (WR), Nick Westercamp (OT) and AJ Vaughans (RB).
RETURNING STARTERS: 16
Joe Battaglia is a former Navy football assistant coach who has taken over for Josh Ward. It’s his first head coaching position and he’s ready to continue to build off what Ward had in place.
“We took this job knowing that this program has come a long way in a short amount of time, and that’s where we want to be,” Battaglia said. “We want to compete with the best in the area and we’re excited about it. Our expectation is to compete with all of them. We’re not shy to go get anyone, and for me it’s a great barometer for me and our coaches to see where we are in that process.”
Battaglia has a quarterback duo of Justin Carter and Jalen Bradford, both of whom he believes will be playing college football. Carter threw for 1,117 yards and seven touchdowns last season and rushed for 680 yards and six touchdowns.
COACH: Joe Battaglia, first year
Last year: 5-5, 3-5 MIAA
KEY PLAYERS: Seniors Justin Carter (QB), Jalen Bradford (QB) and Chiebuka Aduaka (OLB/TE); juniors Sone Metuge Jr. (OL/DL), Everette Dingle Jr. (WR/DB) and Cliff Gillis (WR/DB).
RETURNING STARTERS: 11
John Carroll only had two losses last season that were by more than a touchdown (Pallotti and Loyola Blakefield) and the other two were one-score games (two losses against St. Mary’s).
The Patriots bring back 15 starters, including senior running backs Roman Hemby, who committed to Maryland in August, and London Drummond. The duo provided one of the strongest combinations in the MIAA, totaling 1,104 rushing yards and 15 rushing touchdowns. Hemby had an additional 348 receiving yards and four touchdowns.
“I believe that our offense will run through the ability of our returning playmakers, Roman Hemby and London Drummond to do things in space,” coach Ken Brinkman said. “The offensive line will take on some reloading, due to graduation, but we feel that we have some very capable younger guys that will step in and get the job done.”
Defensively, the program has eight starters returning. The continuity on that side of the ball is what Brinkman believes to be a winning recipe, especially with the amount of younger players that received playing time last year.
COACH: Ken Brinkman, third year (27th overall)
LAST YEAR: 6-4, 6-2 MIAA
KEY PLAYERS: Seniors Roman Hemby (RB/FS), London Drummond (RB/LB), Jacob Osburn (OL/DL), Amon Brown (WR/DB), Cameron West (TE/LB), Jack Owen (OL/LB) and Nick Ray (OL/DL); juniors Athan Barmer (WR/DB), Kilo Mack (TE/SS), Carter Horsburgh (TE/LB) and Antonio Brown (QB/WR); sophomore Jaquan Corner (OL/DL).
RETURNING STARTERS: 15
“Repeat" is the mantra of third-year head coach Anthony Ashley. With a program that has won an MIAA championship in the C conference in 2014 and two in the B conference (2016, 2019), the expectations are high.
Quarterback Ejau Collazo, offensive lineman Jeron Oliver, wide receiver Isaiah Perkins (Towson commit) and defensive lineman Christopher Boti (Liberty commit) were All-MIAA selections last season. Perkins offers up a big-bodied red zone threat and he can burn defenses deep as well, putting together a 24-catch, 573-yard season with five receiving touchdowns.
Pallotti defensive lineman Cameron Gardner Young is the cousin of Washington Football Team rookie defensive end Chase Young.
COACH: Anthony Ashley, third year
LAST YEAR: 12-1, 9-0 MIAA, B Conference champion
KEY PLAYERS: Seniors Ejau Collazo (QB, All-MIAA), Jeron Oliver (OL), Darrien Grimes (OL), Keshawn Wheeler (RB), Isaiah Perkins (WR, All-MIAA), Will Webster-Brown (WR), Christopher Boti (DL, All-MIAA), Connor Maloney (LB), Brandon Figueroa (LB), Cameron Prescott (DB) Clayton Bullock (RB) and Qveon Steinberg-Patterson (DB); juniors LaVel Scipio (OL), Cameron Gardner Young (DL), Braxton Harsley (DL), Cornell Evans (DL), Robert Thornburg (OL), Julius Allen (LB), Kenneth Prince (QB), Marquise Alsup (DB), Kameron Howard (DB) and Ian Tolson (DB); sophomores Nate Stewart (WR), Collin Coates (DL), Daniel Wingate (LB) and Daniel Lovett (CB).
RETURNING STARTERS: 18
St. Mary’s coach Jason Budroni is looking forward to bringing a childhood tradition to his Annapolis home. This year, the Saints will play a Thanksgiving game, moving the intrasquad “Blue and White” game that’s typically played before the first scrimmage.
Budroni had tried and failed to entice opponents to play on Turkey Day for years.
“We played on Thanksgiving Day. It was a big deal. Here, it’s not such a big thing,” the Pennsylvanian native said. “I’ve been looking forward to it. … This is an opportunity to do something. Should be fun.”
St. Mary’s will tweak its offense slightly this year after the departure of All-County running back Alex Wicks, who will play lacrosse at Maryland. Now, senior Ki’Sean Gray-Dantzler will take the reins fully on the ground — the running back surpassed 1,100 yards in 2019 — while the Saints focus on throwing more.
Senior quarterback Chris Golini returns after throwing for 1,170 yards and eight touchdowns last season. He added 30 carries for 112 rushing yards and a touchdown.
COACH: Jason Budroni, sixth year
LAST YEAR: 8-4, 7-1 MIAA
TOP PLAYERS: Seniors Chris Golini (QB), Tommie McKoy (DB), Ki’Sean Gray-Dantzler (RB), Michael Coit (LB), Colin Burlace (LB) and JJ Carl (NT).
RETURNING STARTERS: 10
Scott Van Zile is entering his first season as St. Paul’s coach after coaching Towson University’s quarterbacks last season. His new combo with quarterback Scott Smith III and wide receiver Kylen Austin should be the cause of concern for opposing defenses. Both players are committed to Division I programs — Smith to Towson and Austin to Liberty.
“While we were not able to get together this summer due to COVID-19 precautions, the team did participate in virtual workouts as well as football meetings,” Van Zile said.
They’ll only play three games, against Loyola Blakefield, Gilman and Boys' Latin.
COACH: Scott Van Zile, first year
LAST YEAR: 2-7, 2-6 MIAA
KEY PLAYERS: Seniors Scott Smith III (QB), Kylen Austin (WR), Jack Keenan (WR) and Damian Ramos (K/P); juniors Christian Richter (OL), John Icard (LB/DL), Cole Bloom (LB) and Connor Dunay(RB/DB); sophomore Josh Stinespring (DB).
RETURNING STARTERS: 7
Offensive Players To Watch
Mount Saint Joseph, quarterback, senior
The pro-style signal-caller looks to pick up where he left off last year when he put together a remarkable season in leading the Gaels (10-2) to their first outright MIAA championship in 70 years. As a junior, the James Madison commit threw for a state-best 3,089 yards with 36 touchdowns and seven interceptions. In his fourth varsity season, the 6-foot-1 Atkins brings leadership and athleticism with a strong and accurate arm to make all the throws in the playbook.
“I believe that we’ll be just as powerful as we were last year offensively and defensively," Atkins said. “We lost some guys, but our young guys are ready to play. Of course our seniors — our receiving corps is ready to play. We’ll be fine. And of course, I want to break the all-time Maryland record for yards and touchdowns. That’s exciting for me, but more importantly, I just want to win another championship for my team.”
Mount Saint Joseph, wide receiver, senior
At 5-foot-9, 170 pounds, Crawley, who last year had 73 catches for 797 yards and 10 touchdowns, is tough for defenders to keep track of with his elusive speed and quality route-running. He enters his fourth varsity season needing 60 catches to become the program’s all-time leader in receptions (2002 graduate JJ Outlaw has the mark with 167). Crawley, also a standout point guard for the Gaels basketball team, is still weighing college options.
“My first three years of high school and all throughout my childhood, I focused on basketball,” Crawley said. “So, this being my first year, I could tell that there was a major difference when we first went back to practice. Things were just getting so much easier, I was able to run more crisp routes. I’ve definitely seen a major improvement in the last 3-4 months.”
John Carroll, running back, senior
The 6-foot, 195-pound Maryland commit brings dazzling, do-everything skills to the Patriots' backfield, evidenced by a junior season in which he accounted for for 1,077 total yards and 16 touchdowns. Shifty with an explosive burst, Hemby carried the ball 105 times for 729 yards (6.9 yards per catch) and 12 touchdowns and finished with 28 receptions for 348 yards and four scores.
“Whether or not I was coming out of the backfield or playing the slot, I knew that I wanted to make something happen,” Hemby said. “Not just for myself, but for everybody else. We all did that.”
Archbishop Spalding, center, senior
An first-team All-Metro pick last season, the four-year starter is a vital cog on the Cavaliers offensive line, bringing leadership, smarts and fine technique. In the team’s balanced attack, the 6-foot, 275-pound Lusk dominates with a combination of power and finesse whether run blocking or protecting the quarterback. Last season, the Cavaliers averaged 149 yards on the ground and threw for more than 2,100 yards. Lusk is still weighing college options.
Loyola Blakefield, quarterback, senior
A three-year starter and first-team All-Metro pick last year, the Duke commit provides instant offense with his ability to throw and run. In his breakthrough junior season, Moore threw for 2,187 yards and 27 touchdowns and added 649 yards on the ground with seven scores to lead the Dons to an 8-2 mark. With his natural athletic ability matched by his understanding of the offense, Moore is primed for bigger things in his senior season.
“It’s definitely difficult that we weren’t going to have a season this year because I graduate early,” Moore said. “I didn’t even expect to play my senior year. Now that they switched back and we’re going to have a season, I’m very grateful and I’m just trying to make the best of this opportunity in my last year with my teammates.”
Defensive Players to Watch
Concordia, senior, edge rusher
Aduaka had a breakout year in his first season at Concordia, where he had 35 solo tackles, 43 total tackles, six sacks and one quarterback hurry. One of the most important aspects of his play has been his leadership.
“I’m just trying to get better,” Aduaka said. “I want to prove everyone who believes in me right — nothing too crazy. I’m basically just trying to take control of the smaller things. If you take control of the smaller things, the bigger things will follow. Coach [Battaglia] tells us every day at practice to ‘Stack your days’. I want to stack my season and show everyone that I’ve got what it takes.”
Loyola Blakefield, senior, edge rusher
Buck is known as one of the unsung heroes at Loyola. What the 5-foot-11, 187-pound edge rusher lacks in size, he makes up for instincts. He totaled 63 total tackles, 13.5 tackles for a loss, nine sacks and one pass deflection last season.
“I just try to tell them what I tell them in practice — we trust in each other,” Buck said. “It could be anybody’s game. Whoever gets hot, that’s the person who gets hot. If we keep getting that person open, we’re going to make them pay. We just have to hold each other accountable for that to make sure that we capitalize.”
Calvert Hall, senior, middle linebacker
Johnson has been one of the keys to Calvert Hall’s defensive superiority. He’s setting out to prove a point and wants to be the best linebacker in the MIAA before heading to Merrimack College. Johnson had 47 solo tackles, 60 total tackles (10 tackles for a loss) and four sacks last year.
“They flush the quarterback and the running back out and it just makes it easier for me to go make the play or go get the ball-carrier when they bring them out,” Johnson said of his experienced teammates on the defensive line.
Calvert Hall, junior, defensive line
Owens has several offers from Big Ten schools, including Michigan State and Penn State. He’s ranked as the 21st strong-side defensive end of the 2022 class and the 12th-best player in Maryland, according to 247Sports. The junior was productive in the passing game with 4.5 sacks, two quarterback hurries and five pass deflections last season.
“It’s been fun getting to know everybody entering this process,” Owens said of his recruitment. “I really had no clue of what I was doing, but I was lucky that I had my old head coach, Donald Davis. He was on me about making my sophomore season film and that’s the reason that I have these offers. It’s fun looking at it now, but I’ve got a long way to go.”
Archbishop Spalding, senior, defensive back
Wheatley continued to do what he does best in 2019 — steadily applying pressure to opposing offenses. He had 22 solo tackles, 28 total tackles, three interceptions and 3.5 tackles for a loss. He is a Penn State commit and prepped for his last hurrah with Spalding. His play last year was good for another All-MIAA selection.
“I feel like the skills that I have go well with offense and defense, so I can go both ways,” Wheatley said. “I can use them to help my team. For Spalding, I told them I can help wherever I’m needed.”