Commentary

Allegany welcomes our northern neighbors

Updated: June 16, 2009, 6:50 AM ET
By Sheldon Shealer | ESPNRISE.com

Allegany High School (Cumberland, Md.), which competes as an independent in football, has played host to teams from Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and D.C.

Tom Preaskorn
Mike Loveday for ESPN RISETom Preaskorn and Allegany will play Grand Prairie Composite on Sept. 11.
Now add Canada to the list.

Grand Prairie Composite High School (Alberta, Canada) is scheduled to visit Cumberland Friday, Sept. 11 for an afternoon clash with Allegany.

The meeting will mark the first time a Maryland public school has played an international opponent. The game is slated for a 1 p.m. start at Greenway Avenue Stadium in Cumberland.

"They called me in my office, and I thought it would be real interesting to play a school from Canada," Tom Preaskorn, Allegany head football coach, said. "My [athletic director] and principal OK'd it. We talked to the Maryland [state high school] association, and that was OK.

"It's going to be a unique opportunity. We're going to let the kids, who buy tickets, out of school [in the afternoon] to go to the game."

The contest will be played in the afternoon in connection with Allegany High School football's Reunion of Champions celebration, which will be held at 5 p.m. that day in Cumberland. Among the featured returners is former head football coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes and Allegany graduate, Earle Bruce.

Grand Prairie plays in the Mighty Peace Football Conference, where it has won five of the last nine championships. The Warriors play Canadian rules during the season, but on the trip to the U.S., Grand Prairie will play American rules, nothing new to the program and coach Rick Gilson.

Gilson's squad traveled to San Diego to face Grossmont High School (La Mesa, Calif.) in 2004, and played Bonita Vista High School (Chula Vista, Calif.) in 2006 in northern Virginia. Grand Prairie lost both contests by a combined score of 99-0. In connection with a California-based sports travel company, Grand Prairie plans a week of sightseeing around a contest in the U.S.

This year, Grand Prairie will visit Baltimore, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., in the five days leading up to the Friday contest with Allegany. Following the game, Grand Prairie will return to Baltimore Saturday, and attend the Navy - Louisiana Tech football game.

Gilson said only 40 of the program's projected 60 players will make the trip to the U.S.

Both coaches said they know little about the other's program.

"All I know is they are a quality team year after year," Preaskorn said. "The good thing is, they'll have to play American football."

"There's a good possibility that we'll exchange film, but that doesn't help them much because we'll be sending them 12-man [Canadian rules] film," Gilson said.

Gilson will travel to the Washington, D.C., area this summer for business, and said he plans to make a side trip to Cumberland to visit with Preaskorn.

For Maryland playoff point system purposes, Grand Prairie will be considered a Class 3A school, based on its student enrollment.

In 2004, Grand Prairie lost to Grossmont, 56-0. Two years later, Grand Prairie lost to Bonita Vista, 43-0. According to that record, the best comparison Allegany can make is, in 2004, Bonita Vista defeated Linganore High School (Frederick, Md.), 27-21.

The last time a Maryland high school played a team outside the United States was in the early 2000s, when private school Mount St. Joseph traveled to England.

Sheldon Shealer is a senior editor with ESPNRISE.com. Shealer has covered high school sports in Maryland for more than 20 years. Sheldon can be reached via email at SSHLR@erols.com