1...North Caroline-The Bulldogs (2A East Region Runners Up) have two Division I players and a returning QB. The program is on a nice roll thanks to a really good feeder program and continuity in the coaches and scheme. NC has taken the next step to be mentioned among the top in the Bayside. Now it’s a matter of maintaining that consistency which they are starting to build. They break in 3 new offensive lineman and will once again have a big target on them. They are very solid but in no way will they steamroll through the entire conference, they will have their work cut out for them. Head Coach James McCormick is one of the Bayside’s best.
2...Kent Island-The Bucs had one of their fewest graduation totals in recent years at 11. Talented transfer QB Trent Jackson from Riverside Baptist who is from ‘The Island’ takes over the reins from Jordan Marciano who will move to FB/LB. The offensive line looks to be the best in the Conference and 5 returners come back to the defense which is always the Bayside’s stingiest. The Bucs for sure will be the toughest test for North Caroline and very well could be sitting at #1 when all is said and done. HC Damien Ferragamo has continued the winning ways of the program since taking over.
3...Queen Anne’s-The Lions graduated 20 of 22 starters including their entire offense. They have three QBs in the mix, one who has some experience but it looks like they are going with the freshman. The defense will likely have to carry the team at least early in the year. This may be one of Donnie Graef’s tougher coaching jobs but the tradition and continuity is there so you still expect a fair amount of success. However it should be an interesting year in Centreville as a 7-3 or even 6-4 record might not be far from reality. Most programs would be fine with that but not where the Lions have set the bar over the last ten years.
4...Parkside-This is the year of major expectations. The only team in the South that has shown consistency in winning recently may have their best team since Head Coach Brenden Riley’s first year in 2008. The Rams bring back a ton of returning experience. This is the Rams best chance at competing with the North in a while. They are led by All Bayside First Team RB Nayel Oge and two way All Bayside Conference lineman Jose Vazquez-Ramos. They return QB Andrew Smith and leading tackler Brady Smith. This year under new OC Glen Phillips, he will employ a multiple offense they hope will give them an advantage. Transfer WR/R Tyler Poulsen was a huge get and adds to an already speed team. A Week 2 battle at North Caroline will be the telling tale for Parkside.
5...Easton-The Warriors have arguably the best QB in the Conference returning in Mason Ledford and one of the best WR in Tahjiere Nixon. The question will be in the trenches on both sides of the ball. The Warriors graduated over 15 starters last year. If the Warriors can keep Ledford on his feet they will at least be in a lot of high scoring games which will give them a chance. Head Coach Matt Griffith has done a nice job in making football relevant in Easton again.
6...Cambridge-The Vikings are very much like Easton. Cambridge graduated 16 starters from last year. They do though return some key skill guys like QB Nate Lowe, RB Tahj Molock and WR Jimmy Schultz. The question for them is also how the team will do in the trenches and how will their lack of experience affect them? Head Coach Jake Coleman though just seems to win time and again and is a big believer in rotating in a lot of players to get experience. We will see how much that pays off this year. The Vikings have a brutal schedule to start the year so they will have to grow up in a hurry.
7...Kent County-The loss of Mr. Everything, All Bayside Conference Player Marcquan Greene is a huge loss for the Trojans who last year shifted to QB from RB/WR and he did not disappoint. Kent will have to get a much more shared contribution from the offense in order to score. That said the Trojans are deep at RB including Silas Phillips and Elkton transfer Brandon Jones. Last year’s backup QB Peyton Taylor takes over under center. The offensive line should be strong. The question will be to some extent the passing game and the defense. Head Coach Brenden Ireton has done a real nice job with the program probably exceeding expectations of the school the last few years with a string of playoff appearances. This year may be a step back but he has the program to where they can stay competitive, win some games and not completely fall off the map with loss of a player like Greene.
8...JM Bennett-The Clippers numbers are building and they have now had two straight winning seasons. The Clippers return QB Joey Blake and RB Deondre Carter. Big things are expected of TE Ian Hoisington. K/P Steve Oscar is one of the best in the Bayside and a rare weapon they employ. As with many in the Bayside the question will be how the team does in the trenches? Bennett it appears may be another year away from getting back to the 2015 success they achieved. That said it appears after having some down years for various reasons including a rash of injuries, Head Coach Hoot Gibson has the program back trending back in the right direction with some nice facilities to boot.
9...Wicomico-Brian Hanson is in year two as Head Coach with his Triple Option offense. He has to replace QB Jason Patterson who was extremely comfortable with and a big part of last year’s offense. The Indians are stacked at RB which is nothing new with Wi-Hi. The numbers for the team are down this year. However the feeling is one of confidence, togetherness and focus. The Indians want to turn around the 5-15 mark from the last few years. The fresher faces are more together and look to be tougher than the last two graduation senior classes. Improved defense is a big emphasis this year. It looks like 2018 though is the year where this program could make a bigger leap. The first five weeks of the schedule sets up favorably but Week 1 is a tough battle out of the gate against North Caroline.
10...Colonel Richardson-The Colonels have seen improvement the last two years and have just missed the playoffs in the 1A East. The numbers in the program are still a problem but up this year around 25. The loss of RB Eric Joseph was big but Robert Thompson should be solid taking over behind an experienced line led by Chris Wahl. QB Jake Zebron returns. The Colonels play 4 Eastern Shore of VA teams and have a 10 game not 9 game schedule unlike last year. Head Coach Dan Mangum has the program in the right direction but they must stay healthy, greatly minimize mistakes and win the games they should. Somewhere along the line though they must pull an upset. This will be an interesting year in Federalsburg to see if they can stay on the upward trajectory.
11...Stephen Decatur-Head Coach Bob Knox returns to the sidelines after a year’s absence due to his Grandson’s cancer. However he comes back to a team with just 5 returning starters and no QBs with experience at any level. The program the last few years has had its unusually high share of injuries, key transfers, graduation and other circumstances that have knocked it down a few pegs. Knox, has the 12th most wins in MD High School history averaging 7 wins a year. The Seahawks though have won just 7 games in the last three years. Knox’s coaching will be put to the task this season. It may take until ‘18 or ‘19 to get back to where the program usually sits.
12...Washington-The Jaguars return 12 starters but have just 20 players and are extremely thin in the trenches (due to some injuries right before camp), so much so that they are going with the A11 offense which employs just three lineman. They do return QB Erik Ballard. The transfer of WR/R Tyler Poulson to Parkside was a huge blow. Head Coach Greg Lasinski is doing is best to keep a positive outlook and is hoping for a competitive product which may be helped with some additional players once school starts.
13...Snow Hill-The Eagles have better numbers this year and they always have at least a few talented players and speed. That said it will be a challenge from Week 1 (at Kent Island) as it has been the last few years. It seems though there is a more positive feeling about the program which has had its fair share of success but has fallen on hard times. Part of the reason for lack of numbers is the lack of players from Pocomoke High (who does not have a football team) that used to go to Snow Hill for football. That pool has dried up for various reasons. The one sport athlete trend has also hurt Snow Hill, one of the smallest schools in the state of Maryland. The Eagles this year may be able to peel off a win or two, something that they have not done since October 2014.