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What We Learned: Weeks 3 & 4 (Part 1)

September 28, 2017

 

Welcome to our Week 3 & 4 recap of football in the Bayside Conference. Thanks for all the support and readership. If you have any questions, comments, etc, please email me at mikeontheb@hotmail.com For those interested in the Bayside South, the ‘Bayside Blitz’ is one of the features on my weekday morning show at the beach on 92-7 WGMD, wgmd.com and the WGMD App. Ricky Pollitt from ‘The Daily Times’ joins me every Friday at 740am to talk about that week’s games and news and notes.

 

Don’t forget if you missed any of the Overtime Live Show from Friday Night on 94-3 WINX-FM or sfmsports.net or want to replay it just check it out HERE:

 

Bigger Things in Life than Sports:

This article is pinned to the top of the Overtime Live Facebook page but in case you’re not on Facebook, here is the link to a great story out of Berlin before the Stephen Decatur-Kent Island game.

 

As I mentioned on OTL, Stephen Decatur may not have won on the football field but they won in the game of life on Friday. Coach Knox truly showed last year family comes first.

 

Top Heavy:

After North Caroline’s win over Queen Anne’s 55-7, it’s clear that this year the Conference is the most top heavy or one sided it’s been in the last several years. Yes Kent Island and Queen Anne’s have ruled the day at the top for a long time but more recently you have had at least a third team to give those two a run for their money and that team has been North Caroline. Last year, Easton was able to compete with all three of those teams which made four. Cambridge in ’14 and ’15 played North Caroline tough and should have won in ’14 if not for a bad call before halftime. This year it’s not even close as North Caroline and Kent Island are the crème of the crop. We will see later on in the year if there is a big difference between #1 and #2 (I personally don’t think it’s as big a gap between those as #1 and #3). Parkside may have something to say about that this Friday but they have to prove that on the field first before I make any bold predictions. While the rest of the Conference is fairly wide open it makes it very dull at the top.

 

(Sidebar): Parkside has a chance at redemption after losing in a blowout Week 2 to North Caroline. The Rams highly touted included by yours truly ran into the snowball effect in Ridgely and a really good team for that matter and found themselves down three scores before you knew it. Head Coach Brendan Riley told me that they definitely plan on giving themselves plenty more time to get to Stevensville and that the late arrival in Ridgely certainly did not help matters internally in that game but he certainly was not using that as an excuse why they lost. Star RB Nayel Oge does return this week after being out the last two weeks with a foot injury. For Parkside to win, their defense will need to have their best game in a long time, no turnovers on Special Teams and make a few plays in the air. You cannot expect that their offense will run roughshod over Kent Island, ain’t gonna happen, they need all sides to factor in here.

 

Lofty Expectations:

I haven’t asked North Caroline Head Coach James McCormick this yet but I have to think the coaching staff privately feels an immense amount of pressure to take this team at least as far as it got in 2015 if not to a State Final. It’s not often you have two Division I Power 5 Conference recruits on your roster. Two years ago without Jaimon Franklin the Bulldogs got to the Region Finals. Franklin returned to the team last year and while the team made the playoffs they were soundly defeated in the Region semifinals at Elkton. (BTW Elkton is 4-0 and has outscored their opponents 139-63 although Caroline has been more impressive 190-13. Max Preps has Elkton ranked #79 in the state and North Caroline #23, that I think is a bit skewed but it’s their rankings) Coach McCormick and his staff may never have two players like that on the roster again for that matter and as tough as it was losing to Walkersville, an upset early in the playoffs would probably be doubly worse, nah scratch that, it will keep you up at night from time to time even after you have stopped coaching (not trying to exaggerate here). That all said there is no reason why the Bulldogs cannot continue to run the table this year and make a deep run. David Insley of the Star Democrat made mention in his blog last week that Cody Pepper might be better this year than Cameron Byrd was his senior year.

 

It certainly seems Pepper has improved over last year and I think the numbers bare that out. I personally won’t be able to make that Byrd-Pepper assessment until playoff time when I am on the sidelines but if true that could be difference needed to get to the State Finals. Byrd made some big throws thanks to the opportunities he received from some aggressive play calling by McCormick in 2015. (While he may publicly lament it I still say that the pass call late in the 1st half against Walkersville was the right call. Their two safeties were split well enough from each other that the seam route to the TE was a perfect call.

 

Unfortunately the TE ran way to close to the hash and the one safety and never pushed his route over to the middle of the field enough and Byrd should not have thrown it due to the poor route run. That pass was intercepted and returned for 6. I was there I saw it, good play call, poor execution.)

 

Don’t Get Crazy in Centreville:

I wouldn’t get too overboard about what is happening in Centreville this year. While Queen Anne’s is used to graduating a lot of players, I am not sure I remember quite this many starters graduating in one year and that coupled with a tough schedule including an exceptional North Caroline team has the Lions at 2-2. The game against Sussex Central was a perfect tune up before North Caroline one would have thought. However when a team is better or in this case, a lot better, it will show. It’s not easy turning over a ton of players and having success every year. Head Coach Donnie Graef has been able to do it but this is obviously one of his tougher jobs. He also has been working Freshman QB SyRus McGowan into the mix and started him last week against North Caroline. (I have to assume that at this point he will continue to start from here on out and get the young signal caller as much experience as possible for ’18.) Once in a while attrition will catch up and that is exactly what has happened this year. At this point though there should be many wins in sight for the Lions and it would be hard to think the Lions won’t finish out the season 7-3 with their only loss coming at the end of the year to Kent Island and that is no certainty only an early prediction.

 

The only thing that is concerning when you look at Queen Anne’s in the big games the last few years is that while they have been in some very close matchups they are 4-8. Go back to 2015, they lost their first game to Marcquan Greene and Kent County 46-45 at home. They also lost 3 out of their 4 to end the year. Now to be fair two of the losses were to North Caroline (whom they almost beat in the playoff matchup with a Freshman QB after losing by 25 a few weeks before) who made the Region Finals before losing to Walkersville. The other loss was to Kent Island. In the last two losses that year they lost by a combined 15 points, 8 & 7 respectively. They did blowout Sussex Central that year, their signature win that season. Last year they finished 9-2; their two losses though were to Henlopen Conference foe Sussex Central and then Elkton in the playoffs although they played the Elks tough. They did defeat Easton, North Caroline and rival Kent Island.

 

This year they have lost to Sussex Central and North Caroline in back to back weeks. That said it’s certainly not completely fair to lump the losses together because teams are different year to year and you have to give some credit and respect to those opponents as well. However I am sure they would like to reverse that trend in the near future.

 

A Very Divided League/Injuries=Parity:

North Caroline showed the gap between #1 and #3 Queen Anne’s in the Bayside and then I think there is a certain divide between #3 and #4 although not as great as #1 and #3. Then you have teams #5 through #10. I don’t think I have ever experienced so much parity in the league in the time I have covered the league in this kind of depth. Some of the parity is definitely due to injury no doubt when you look at the QB injuries to Mason Ledford (out for the year) and Tyler Harding who was knocked out in the North Caroline and then did not play against Colonel Richardson. Some of the injuries affecting teams are just week to week injuries but nonetheless make at least some difference. It is very difficult to rank the teams from #5 to #10. The QB injuries level the playing field a great deal although there is still something to be said for line play even if those guys played, they need time to throw the ball or blocking for any QB runs called. Even with Tyler Harding at QB I still think Colonel would have given Cambridge a pretty good game and I doubt the game plan changes much anyway. If Harding had played I doubt they would have run in much after getting knocked out of the Caroline game.

 

While Easton’s injuries impacted them in the loss to JM Bennett; dropped passes, missed tackles and special teams issues played a factor in the Warriors loss. Easton nonetheless was in that game until the 4th quarter, go figure and what does that say about JM Bennett? Well you first credit Bennett for playing well in all three phases and taking advantage of mistakes to get the win at home last Saturday. However you could also say should it have been that close for that long? Enter parity and the fact that Bennett is one of those teams I am still trying to figure out. I would have thought they would have had less success against Easton and more against Colonel Week 1 but that is not how it played out. Heck Bennett only beat Colonel by 2 points and that’s with the Colonel’s turning the ball over 6 times. Oh yeah and having Steve Oscar is a difference maker. He has been good for at least a win a year for the last three years for Bennett. Even with injuries for a game to star players in the NFL, the point spread usually only moves about .5 point to a 1 point if that. If this was baseball his Wins Above Replacement would be through the roof. Yet that all said Oscar had two kicks blocked on Saturday against Easton, go figure. (Parity and the fact that Special Teams play is usually not that special at the high school level.) So it wasn’t just Easton with ST issues, Parity!

 

Decatur has scored just 6 points against Wicomico and Kent Island. Yet in their wins against Arcadia and Washington they put up over 40 points per game. It’s pretty obvious their offense still has a lot of work to do given who they have and have not had success against. Their defense has been the better of the two including holding Wicomico just 8 points...Wicomico’s offense had a big day against Colonel but has done little else this season. Even though it was a point of emphasis it was still expected to be the weaker of the two, Wicomico’s defense which looked horrible against North Caroline (and no the opponent did not have everything to do with their issues) has seemingly done a complete turn around keeping down Colonel and Stephen Decatur’s offenses and played pretty darn well against Parkside despite the score. One of those scores can be attributed to really good field position given to Parkside by a botched fake punt when the Indians only trailed 15-8…Even though Parkside has a big offensive line and several backs; they have not exactly steam rolled defenses this year. Putting North Caroline aside, Easton and Wicomico’s defense have had their fair share of successes against the Rams offense. In the end it does seem like talent and possibly the wearing out of the opponent has taken place but I expected more dominance.

 

Cambridge, Stephen Decatur, Wicomico, JM Bennett are all in a rebuilding mode of sorts…Colonel Richardson is trying to take the next step although numbers continue to be an issue for them and mistakes, whether it be penalties and or turnovers. That said they certainly seem to be a better program in the last few years…Washington is having to play A11 offensive football with just three offensive lineman due to injuries and Snow Hill is still looking for their first win since October 2014…That said in the last two games Snow Hill has played much better giving Arcadia (VA) and Kent County some good games. If Snow Hill’s QB had not been knocked out early or RB Amonte Allen had been able to play (out due to injury) who knows, maybe they could have hung with Kent County until the end or pulled it out. If Kent County had not been down some big starters due to injury and grades against Washington they I think probably defeat Washington. That said you could make the argument KC still should have won but credit the Jags who are nowhere near the team they thought they would be before training camp started due to injuries and the Tyler Poulson transfer.

 

Sure you can go by head to head matchups and you have to, to a certain extent but I think between #5 and #10 you could flip a coin in a lot of the matchups for better or for worse. I am still trying to figure out a lot of these teams.

 

I Know That Quote is not directed at OTL:

Head Coach Jake Coleman was quoted in the Star Democrat as saying…

 

“I could not be more proud of this team,” Coleman said after his team improved to 1-3. “It has been hard. We started 0-3. They’ve heard all the doubters. They’ve heard all the people asking what’s the matter…

 

Well this blog has not been asking what’s the matter. We know 16 starters lost to graduation and a really tough schedule is why Cambridge is 0-3 but I have never commented that the program is in peril. While Cambridge like Queen Anne’s has usually faired just fine even with big graduating classes, from time to time the task becomes much tougher and it’s not nearly as easy. We probably have taken for granted that these teams can just roll from year to year but there are always bumps in the road from time to time.

It’s true I haven’t picked Cambridge in any of those 3 games and I am 3-0 but I also believe they will run the table until Easton. Then we will see where both teams are at that point but with Harding at QB right now I would give them the edge. I don’t get too reactionary or jump off a ledge; it’s all about putting it in perspective.

 

Taj Molock/Silus Phillips Co-MVPs:

Hard to not think Taj Molock of Cambridge and Silus Phillips are not the co-MVPs of the week. Molock rushed for 249 of Cambridge’s 344 yards rushing yards and scored all four touchdowns….Phillips back from injury had 5 TDs in Kent County’s win over Snow Hill 45-28…Special mention goes to Snow Hill WR Rayshan Baine who filled in at RB for Amonte Allen who did not play in this game. Baine rushed for 4 TDs himself in the Eagles loss.

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