What We Learned After Weeks 2 & 3:
Last week’s Hurricane which is a now a Tropical Depression/Rainstorm has caused a massive amount of destruction of homes and infrastructure in North and South Carolina in a completely different context caused issues for the Bayside Conference. The teams that had it the toughest was North Caroline and Cambridge who had to play on a Wednesday. Caroline Head Coach James McCormick who is been at the helm for a long time told me on the OTL that he doesn’t ever remember playing a game on a Wednesday. McCormick told the Star-Democrat that the staff did not even have time to implement a game plan due to the quick turnaround.
Most teams played on Thursday night except for Queen Anne’s who traveled to Georgetown, DE to take on Sussex Central out of the Henlopen Conference. Snow Hill’s game against Arcadia (VA) was postponed indefinitely and JM Bennett moved their game to Monday against Nandua (VA). The Eastern Shore of VA schools in Accomack and Northampton Counties were closed for most of the week due to the anticipation of the effects of Hurricane Florence. Low lying areas in those counties were evacuated earlier in the week.
Bayside vs. Henlopen Conference:
Kudos to Cambridge and Queen Anne’s for scheduling non-conference games against teams out of Delaware’s Henlopen Conference. I have advocated for a long time for Bayside-Henlopen Conference matchups and we have started to see this over the last few years. I realize there are logistics including money, travel and the fact Delaware starts a week later than the Bayside. However, I would continue to push for Bayside teams to try and schedule these matchups or against northern Delaware high school teams who also have many quality programs. These games provide excellent competition to help teams for their conference schedule and for the playoffs. I realize for the 2As with as competitive as that region is that if you lose that game it gives you little to no margin of error going forward. That said as one Coach told me, I would rather lose to a quality program then beat up on ones that are not very good.
It has not been a good year for the Bayside against the Henlopen though as Cambridge and Queen Anne’s lost by a combined 57 points in their matchups against Woodbridge and Sussex Central respectively. Washington takes on Laurel, DE this Friday.
-One Parkside assistant coach called the Parkside win over the Easton Warriors on the road Friday a “Program Win”. Indeed, it was, it was a program win from several facets.
First it was a big win for a program over a good team out of the Bayside North. While Easton is not an elite team they are very good especially on offense and fell the week before 36-30 to perennial power Queen Anne’s in a game the Lions had to come back to win. Nonetheless for the Rams who have strung together several winning seasons that the rest of the South has not come close to be able to do, what has eluded them was a big win. Those kind of big wins against North teams will also lead to an even further step of making the playoffs. For Parkside coming off a tough loss on the road in the rain at North Caroline 20-0, they bounced back and were very resilient. They showed that resiliency in coming back down 14-0 after giving up two consecutive scoring drives mostly in the air to the Easton offense. The Rams dug in, pounded the rock, stepped up their defense and got some help on a failed fake FG attempt by Easton that would have put them up by three scores. This was just one of many steps yet to go for Parkside, but we will see if this is the springboard to greater things after a 2017 season that had very high aspirations for the playoffs that did not pan out. This team took its first step to doing something it did not do last year and that’s beating a quality North team and they did that on Friday. (This year’s Warriors team is better and healthier than last year’s team.)
On another facet go back several years and at one-point Parkside ran a spread offense that primarily threw the ball and put up about 40 points a game and then a year later they had switched to much more of a ground attack and shortly thereafter went to running the option before going back a little bit to the spread but eventually settling on a Multiple Pro Style attack. The Pro Style approach is now the overriding style of Head Coach Brendan Riley on offense that can see physical pounding backs and elusive athletic ones as well. In the last five years the Rams have been successful in accomplishing that with some excellent backs over the years including Dalonte Waters one of the state’s all-time leading rushing. The Rams were able to establish their will against a smaller Easton defense and run the ball on long time-consuming drives down the field. Parkside goes about 5 to 7 deep in their backfield and can present different running styles to the defenses they face. Marcus Yarns was much more athleticism and speed than a physical attack, but it really doesn’t matter the style, the Rams were effective.
Thirdly, Parkside’s issues in the last few years have been defense and special teams. This year there seems to be an emphasis on the defense and it has paid dividends. Week 1, their win on the road at Kent County didn’t really tell us much however the following week the Rams held tough in a 20-0 defeat on the road in the rain at North Caroline. Then after giving up two consecutive scoring drives to Easton mostly in the air, the defense dug in and stopped a fake FG attempt deep in their own territory. From there the Rams defense played extremely well and were as much apart of this win as the running game. If the defense can play like this going forward, this season ought to be very fruitful for them.
-Easton Head Coach Pat McGlinchey’s decision to go for a fake FG in their loss to Parkside was costly however there are a couple of different ways to look at it. Now its easy for me to criticize him and play Monday Morning Quarterback. He said they saw some things on video (Hudl) and thought they could take advantage of it. On the one hand that is why you do film study so that you can try and take advantage of something that you see from the other team. In addition, FGs even as we saw Sunday at the NFL level is far from a given. I will give you both of those points. That said how many times have you seen successful fake FGs executed in high school, less times than even made extra points. The Warriors have a solid kicker in Alex Stetcher-Scott. I would rather have taken the safer of the two for the points on a drive you were lucky have that got you in the red zone due to Parkside penalties. That said Coach McGlinchey was confident in his decision after the game on the air and did not waver and that you must respect, and the players have to respect that as well. While it’s not exactly the same, Parkside’s decision to go for two instead of the tie at the end of the game could have cost the Rams their win.
In closing though Easton QB Ryan O’Connor threw multiple balls that should have been intercepted and were dropped by Parkside defenders. McGlinchey said after the game that issues tackling are still a problem for this team although they did make improvement from the previous week’s game against Queen Anne’s. Some of the missed tackles are due to the outstanding play of Marcus Yarns who ran all over the Easton defense.
-Penalties did in Easton in their loss to Queen Anne’s and they had some key ones in the loss to Parkside. While they did cut down on their penalties against Parkside and that certainly was a good thing, its something that plagued Pat McGlinchey when he was a Head Coach at Wicomico. It is something certainly to watch as the season goes continues.
Kent Island-Kent County:
Kent Island Head Coach Damian Ferragamo said it plain and simple on Friday night when talking to me on the OTL after their narrow 7-0 win over Kent County. “We were outplayed on both sides of the ball and they were more physical than we were.” Its not often that you hear that about Kent Island although I believe it was two years ago that Ferragamo mentioned his offensive line not being physical enough when he was trying to piece together his offensive line which eventually he did. That is not the case this year with a veteran line, so it was more surprising to hear on Friday night. I would not expect that to continue. What was surprising was Kent County was blown out by Parkside in Week 1 53-0. Parkside is very similar to Kent Island as they are big and physical and a down hill running team. Yet Kent County did a 180 in their matchup against the Bucs. Now Kent did not score any points however if their defense plays like that the rest of the year, they will win several games before the year is out.
Kudos to Kent County though for their play. The Trojans who got their first win in Week 2 against Washington have a mix of young and experienced players. Their Head Coach David Boyle was a former assistant under former Head Coach Brendan Ireton so most of the players are very familiar with him.
At least 10 of the 13 Bayside Conference teams are breaking in new Quarterbacks this year. That is the most that I ever remember in a season. The most I remember is 7 or 8. So far through three games Kent Island, North Caroline, Parkside and JM Bennett are among the teams that are fairing well with new signal callers. I need to throw in Easton, even though the Warriors are 1-2, Ryan O’Connor has shown himself very well at times through three games. Easton is relying on it young QB the most of the aforementioned teams as their offense is as much pass as it is run. For Kent Island they can lean on a very strong running game and defense yet their QB, a Freshman in Matt Burnside has afforded himself well. It’s a new day for sure when you see Freshman and Sophomore QBs at the High School and College Levels coming in and having instant success.
I was nowhere near ready as a Freshman to play on varsity and lead the offense. For Kent Island and Easton to know you have another two to three years with a quality QB is a huge advantage for a program. Queen Anne’s returned SyRus McGowan this year at QB and he is only a Sophomore. He got valuable experience last year although the Lions passing game has struggled this year. Both O’Connor and Burnside had the advantage of easing into their high school careers playing Washington and Snow Hill with all due respect to the Jags and Eagles. It got a lot tougher for O’Connor with games against Queen Anne’s and Parkside in the following weeks. Burnside will get his fair share of tough contests beginning with non-conference foe and state ranked Oakdale (Frederick) next week.
New QBs-Styles of Offense:
Following up on the last point about the number of new QBs in the Bayside is the style of offenses that the league runs. While it is still a difficult task for a Freshman or Sophomore QB to be the starter on a varsity offense with no experience, what makes it a little easier in easing these guys in is the kind of offenses they run and what the Head Coach asks of the QB in their offense. For many of these teams, they have a run first mentality and they don’t necessarily ask the QB to carry the team on his back with a flurry of passes. That doesn’t mean the QB doesn’t have a responsibility of checking the team out of one run play and getting them into another depending on the defense, because they do but its not the same as running a wide-open offense where you’re throwing the ball 25-40 times a game.
We talked about this last year to some extent, the Bayside might be the last Conference in the state where most of the teams run old school offenses. It’s unique for 2018. Whether it be a Double Wing, Wing T, Power I or even the Triple Option, they are all very prevalent in the Bayside. You don’t see too many Spread Passing Games, Spread Zone Read Options, K-Gun or Pistol Offenses being run. That all said many of the QBs when they do throw are throwing a lot of play action roll out passes that shrink the field to a half to make it easier for them as well. With strong running games and defense, those QBs do though have to make the most of the chances they do get to throw the football. Ultimately though there will come a time where the QB and the passing game have to be called on to carry more of the load and that is where the rubber hits the road. We shall see what happens as the season goes on with many of their programs and their passing games with so many new QBs in the Conference.
The season is still fairly young however as we have learned in years past, an 8-2 record does not always guarantee a playoff spot. If your 3-0 you have done yourself a huge favor since many of the Bayside 2A teams have several big matchups that likely will leave a team with at least one loss, maybe two. There are 7 games left however presently you already have a pretty good idea of how difficult it will be for several teams to get to the playoffs. Harford Tech and Elkton are each 3-0. Elkton still has Bel Air (0-2) but better than their record indicates, also Havre De Grace, C. Milton Wright and Edgewood with the latter schools 3As. Fallston is 0-2 but they are traditionally pretty good under Dave Cesky. There is definitely a possibility for a loss maybe two in there.
Harford Tech has a slew of 1A matchups against teams that have just one win or are winless. They very well could run the gamut and go 10-0. The Cobras are a team very likely to be unblemished but if they are they are likely to only have one loss.
Right now, in the always ultra-competitive 2A East, Queen Anne’s and Easton already have two losses with essentially no margin for error the rest of the way. Queen Anne’s still has to play other 2A powers, North Caroline (this Friday), Parkside & Kent Island and 3A JM Bennett. It’s likely they will suffer a loss at least in one of those games. Easton still has tough games in JM Bennett, North Caroline, Kent Island, Wicomico and Cambridge left on their schedule. There is no way they get through that without at least one loss which very likely ends their playoff chances.
North Caroline is 3-0 and still have Queen Anne’s, Easton, JM Bennett and Kent Island. If they can defeat Queen Anne’s who they host at home, JM Bennett and Kent Island lurk as the most difficult. They are likely to be favorites against Bennett and at least evenly matched to Kent Island. They may have the easiest path to the playoffs but the definition of easy here is not that easy. Again, this is where being undefeated is a huge plus because they have some margin for error. The Bulldogs can win all those games but a loss in there would not be surprising at all.
Kent Island is 3-0 but they still have a major task ahead with Top 25 State Ranked Oakdale along with Parkside, North Caroline, Queen Anne’s. Easton and Wicomico are also on that schedule, no easy feat either. There is no doubt the Bucs will have at least one loss there and possibly two.
In the 3A East, JM Bennett and Stephen Decatur are off to a 2-1 start and Bennett has as good if not better chance of winning the game on the road at Easton this Friday. The 3A is tight with Chesapeake-AA and Northeast-AA at 3-0 and Long Reach at 2-1. You have Reservoir and Atholton that are both at 1-2. Both the Clippers and Seahawks have several tough matchups left this year and its likely 2-3 loss teams will get into the playoffs as many of the Howard County teams will play each other and beat each other up.
In the 1A East outside of Havre De Grace who is off to a 3-0 hot start, it’s completely wide open with several teams including Cambridge, Colonel and Kent County who are all 1-2. While Patterson Mill is 0-2, there are three other teams who are already 0-3 but with all the 1-2 teams even some of the winless teams still have a chance but its likely most of those will not make it. The 1A will be a hot race and it will be interesting to see if the Bayside can get in two or three teams. There is a big 1A matchup this week between Cambridge and Colonel Richardson. Kent has a win against fellow 1A team Washington. Colonel has a win against fellow 1A team Snow Hill. Kent County hosts Snow Hill this Friday.
Ricky Pollitt of The Daily Times put together a nice overview piece of some of the South teams and where they stand after Week 3 of the season. The link is below: