Commentary

Queen Anne's favored in Bayside

Updated: August 25, 2009, 4:46 AM ET
By Sheldon Shealer | ESPNRISE.com

For the historically inclined, thoughts of the Bayside Conference for football often conjure up memories of Cambridge-South Dorchester's powerhouse teams from the 1970s and 1990s. Perhaps it brings back thoughts of James M. Bennett's perennial championship contenders of the 1980s. More recently, Wicomico emerged as a force, rolling off 22 straight regular-season wins from 2005 through 2007.

Players to Watch

Taylor Henry appears to be the best quarterback in the Bayside this season.

    OFFENSE

  • DeRon Ames, Snow Hill, RB
  • Andrew Brickey, Decatur, WR
  • Duron Duffy, Parkside, RB
  • Tyler German, Queen Anne's, QB
  • Jake Haley, Queen Anne's, WR
  • Tyler Hartrim, Decatur, QB
  • Taylor Henry, Cambridge-SD, QB
  • Andrew Johnson, Wicomico, WR
  • Jeremy Keith, Queen Anne's, OL
  • Joe Kirby, Kent Island, RB
  • DEFENSE

  • Donte Ayres, Wicomico, LB
  • Zach Eure, Parkside, LB
  • Matt Fitzgerald, Queen Anne's, LB
  • Quinn Haley, Queen Anne's, DB
  • Andrew Johnson, J.M. Bennett, DE
  • Nick Hubbard, Cambridge-S.D., LB
  • Brandon Moore, Wicomico, DE
  • Matt Steffers, Queen Anne's, LB
  • Delonte Tate, Decatur, S
  • Damian Williams, Parkside, NG
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Today, however, the Bayside's newest member has become its most dominant -- Queen Anne's. The school was once too large to play in the Bayside so it toiled in the Anne Arundel County League until the early 1990s before it was accepted back into the Bayside as another school in the area prepared to open, thus cutting in half Queen Anne's enrollment.

Between 1993 and 2003, Queen Anne's stay in the Bayside ran the gamut of results, from 0-10 in 1996 to 9-2 three years later. After 2003, however, the Lions program evolved into a consistent contender, highlighted by last year's 12-1 season and a Class 2A state semifinal showing. Once again, Queen Anne's is considered the class of the Bayside, but there is no shortage of teams that will vie for postseason berths from this 13-team conference that is broken into North and South divisions.

For the first time, the Bayside has two Class 3A programs in Stephen Decatur and J.M. Bennett. Both had winning seasons last year and should challenge for playoff berths. In 2A, Queen Anne's is the favorite to repeat as region champ, yet Parkside is coming off an eight-win season and vastly improved North Caroline and Wicomico could be back in the playoff mix in 2009. Historically, the Class 1A teams in the Bayside take a brunt of the losses to the 3A and 2A programs, but that has not stopped Cambridge-South Dorchester from being a factor. The Vikings, despite a late coaching change, has the talent to compete for the 1A East region crown.

North Division

Cambridge-South Dorchester appeared to be a lock favorite among the Bayside 1A schools. Then, Monday, Aug. 3, coach Jake Coleman quit  less than two weeks prior to the start of practice  citing differences with the school principal regarding the football program. Sources in the conference said an offer to coach CSD was turned down by a former CSD head coach a day later, leaving the Vikings scrambling to fill the position. Montre Jenkins was named head coach just days before practice started. CSD returns Taylor Henry, conference's top quarterback prospect who stands 6-5, 230 and is drawing Division I interest. Nick Hubbard, a 6-0, 210-pound linebacker, is the team's top defensive returner.

Col. Richardson went on a youth movement last year and felt the pain in the win-loss record, winning only one contest. The Colonels figure to be stronger this season, but lost one of its top players who transferred to North Caroline.

The Easton is years removed from the days of being a playoff contender, but that could be changing. The Warriors return 15 starters from last year's team, including senior running back/linebackers Zach Morris and Josh Sauns. While all of the Bayside schools have similar schedules, Easton's 10-game run includes six teams with winning records from last year and two other teams that are considered to be vastly improved this year.

Rob Edler is back as Kent County's coach, and that's actually a big deal for this program that has fallen on tough times. Last year Edler became the program's fourth coach in five years. He hopes to instill some consistency within the program that could equate to victories on the field. The team's top returner is athlete Adam Clough, who likely will be the starting quarterback and if not, he'll start at running back.

After years of promise, Kent Island finally got into the playoffs last season and should be in the running again in 2009. The Buccaneers are strong at running back with Joey Kirby and Luke Baxter, and linebacker Joey Buckley leads a defense that returns seven starters.

North Caroline returns 15 starters from last year's squad and Bayside coaches are projecting the Bulldogs as the most likely team to have a turn-around season. North Caroline had a run of playoff appearances in the mid-2000s, but has won only five games over the past two years. Fullback Nick Nichols and running back Dionus Downes will be key players in North Caroline's wing-T offense.

Queen Anne's is coming off a 10-0 showing in the regular season and its second region title in five years. With 13 returning starters, it appears the Lions are well positioned for another run at a state semifinal appearance. Queen Anne's has won 47 games in the last five years. Tyler German, only a junior, returns at quarterback after receiving second-team all-league honors last year. His primary targets will be twin brothers Quinn and Jake Haley, both of whom are major college lacrosse prospects. Jake is headed to Georgetown and Quinn has committed to Maryland. Lead the team's defense is third-year starting linebacker Matt Fitzgerald. Queen Anne's only graduated six players from last year's 12-1 team.

South Division

J.M. Bennett returns to Class 3A this season, giving the Bayside two schools (joining Stephen Decatur) above the Class 2A level for the first time. The Clippers are coming off a six-win season and return all-league linebacker Tom Albright.

Parkside is riding the wave of success. Coach Brendan Riley had 77 players show up the first week of August for a conditioning camp, and that did not include 30 additional player he knows will be with the program. "I've got 97 helmets, and it looks like we'll fill them all," he said. Parkside made the playoffs for the second straight season last year after having never qualified before 2007. Parkside will have size on the offensive line with two projected starters checking in at 315 pounds. The team's top linebacker is Zach Eure, who was 40-1 and won a state title as a wrestler last year. The defensive line will be led by 6-2, 280-pound senior Damian Williams. Duron Duffy, who was a second-team all-Bayside pick on defense last year, projects as the team's lead running back.

Snow Hill may be a bit of a mystery entering this season. Highly touted DeRon Ames is at Snow Hill, but he did not finish the season with the team in 2008. If he returns, Snow Hill could be in the running for a 1A East region playoff spot. If not, the Eagles may end up a middle-of-the-pack program.

After graduating Division I recruit Tim Donnelly, Stephen Decatur coach Bob Knox was not sure what he would do at the quarterback position in 2009. Enter another quarterback transfer in Tyler Hartrim, who was the junior varsity quarterback the last two seasons at Nease (Jacksonville, Fla.). Nease is the school that produced Tim Tebow. Donnelly, like Hartrim, transferred to the Ocean City, Md., school during his junior year. "I don't know if I'm blessed or I've just been going to church enough, but we got another one," Knox said, jokingly, of a top flight quarterback transfer. Donnelly helped Decatur to a 7-3 season last year. This year's team figures to be a playoff contender with standout athlete Delonte Tate, cousin of former Maryland Offensive Player of the Year and Auburn running back Ben Tate. Tate will play running back or receiver and safety on defense. The team brings back all-conference receiver Andrew Brickey, who had 37 catches for 779 yards and 13 touchdowns last season. Dylan Drew, a three-year starter, is the team's top offensive and defensive lineman.

Washington, like Col. Richardson in the North Division, struggles to remain competitive among the 2A-heavy division. The Jaguars are coming off a one-win season. In fact, last year's win was the program's first since 2006. Alan Holmes, who coached Snow Hill to a playoff berth, is back at Washington for a second season.

Two years of outstanding graduating classes finally caught up to Wicomico in 2009. The Indians' 22-game Bayside regular-season win streak ended in the first week and the team hobbled to a 3-7 season. Coach Dave Nettles said he figured last year would be a step backward, but that it would pay off in 2009. "We're a young team, but this will be my best team," Nettles said. "We're faster than we were in the past. This is by far the strongest, biggest and smartest team. Since we're so young, I'm not going to say this is the most talented team, but it has the potential to be." Andrew Johnson, who is receiving Division I interest as an outside linebacker, leads what projects is a stellar defense. The key player to watch is freshman phenom Donte Ayres, who is expected to start as a fullback and outside linebacker.