Area football season makes long-awaited return Friday; St. Frances set for national showdown in Sunshine State
by Derek Toney
High school football is back. Seriously.
After no true fall 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and a handful of schools playing a limited schedule in the spring, the first full football campaign since 2019 will start Friday evening.
MIAA schools get the proverbial ball rolling with Archbishop Spalding, Boys’ Latin School, Calvert Hall College, John Carroll School and St. Vincent Pallotti taking to the field. Area powerhouse St. Frances Academy begins another independent schedule with a daunting challenge.
The 2021 area slate shifts into full gear next weekend with the start of public school play.
St. Augustine Prep (NJ) at Archbishop Spalding
When: Friday, 6:30 p.m.
Outlook: The Cavaliers, who went 2-0 in an “open season” format (MIAA member schools played at their discretion but no league standings were kept) before Covid concerns ended their season, kickoff the 2021 area season.
The Anne Arundel County school should challenge for the MIAA A Conference championship with 15 returning starters, led by Division I recruits Mansoor Delane (Virginia Tech), Lavin Scruggs and Kellan Wyatt (Maryland). Spalding reached the MIAA A semifinals in 2019.
St. Augustine went 4-3 last season with its losses by a total margin of 12 points. The Hermits, ranked No. 6 in New Jersey, feature seven Division I recruits on offense and Northwestern commit Denis Jaquez, leading the defense.
Calvert Hall College at John Carroll School
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Outlook: The MIAA season begins with a non-conference tilt in Harford County. Calvert Hall, which lost its two outings in a shortened fall campaign last year, hopes to compete for a MIAA A postseason spot with standout defensive end/tight end Daniel Owens and junior quarterback Noah Brannock.
The Patriots, featuring Baltimore Touchdown Club Super 22 pick Kilo Mack (running back/free safety), have a young roster that hopes to be a factor in the MIAA B. John Carroll played only one game last fall.
Bishop Ireton (VA) at Boys’ Latin
When: Saturday, 12 p.m.
Outlook: The Lakers start their 2021 campaign with a non-league contest. Boys’ Latin split two games during last fall’s “open season,” losing to Gilman School and defeated rival St. Paul’s School.
Eleven starters return for BL, led by senior quarterback Kaden Lymon, senior cornerback Nate Crouse (committed to Air Force for lacrosse) and senior linebacker Braeden Hammett. Lakers coach Ritchie Schell, the longest current tenured coach (21 seasons) in the MIAA, will rely on veteran defense (seven returning starters).
Bishop Ireton from the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference, played four games (2-2) last season. Senior quarterback Jamie Kaiser (6-foot-5) holds a scholarship offer from Pittsburgh for football and Maryland for basketball.
St. Frances at St. Thomas Aquinas (FL)
When: Saturday, 12 p.m.
Outlook: The Panthers are back in the spotlight with a nationally televised match (ESPNU) against one of Florida’s elite programs. The game marks the return of Messay Hailemariam as Panthers coach after Biff Poggi stepped down earlier in the summer to join the University of Michigan staff.
St. Frances, which went 0-2 in the spring, has another talent-laden roster featuring Oklahoma commit Derrick Moore (defensive line) and four-year starting quarterback John Griffith (Bowling Green). The East Baltimore school, ranked No. 8 nationally by MaxPreps, has nearly two dozen Division I recruits.
St. Thomas Aquinas, ranked No. 6 by MaxPreps, won its record 12th Florida state championship last season. The Fort Lauderdale school, featuring wide receiver and Pittsburgh commit Camden Brown, and consensus national Top 5 senior Julian Armella (offensive tackle), has the most alumni currently playing in the NFL, including Nick and Joey Bosa.
Pallotti vs. Brashears (PA)
When: Saturday, 1 p.m.
Where: Wolvarena Stadium (Turtle Creek, PA)
Outlook: Pallotti travels to Pittsburgh to start its latest chapter. The Panthers, who won the MIAA B title in 2019, is the newest member of the A Conference.
The Laurel school, which defeated Calvert Hall and lost in double overtime to Mount St. Joseph last fall (2-1; defeated Concordia Prep), returns 10 players, led by senior safety Marquise Allsup.
Allsup, a Baltimore Touchdown Club Super 22 selection, holds scholarship offers from Buffalo, UCONN and Syracuse.
Brashears have 16 starters back from last season’s 2-4 showing. Linebacker Ta’mere Robinson is the No. 1 senior recruit in Pennsylvania, according to Rivals.
St. Mary’s Ryken at Mount St. Joseph
When: Saturday, 2 p.m.
Outlook: The battle for the Lambert Cup resumes as MIAA A champ Mount St. Joseph makes its debut. The Gaels, who won the 2019 MIAA A crown, played one game (defeated Pallotti in double OT) in last fall’s “open season,” before shutting down due to Covid.
The Gaels return five starters, led by two-way senior linemen Steven Schulze, who was an All-MIAA A selection in 2019. Dom Damico, who won eight MIAA titles at McDonogh, begins his first full season as Mount St. Joseph coach.
St. Mary’s Ryken, who went 1-4 during the WCAC spring season, won the WCAC Metro Division title in 2019. Jordan Scarborough, a senior wide receiver committed to Air Force,and 2019 All-WCAC Metro linemen Noah Jordan and TJ McCauley, will lead the Knights.
Mount St. Joseph have won the last two meetings over its Southern Maryland rival, and lead the Lambert Cup series, 4-2.