Mike Bradley's Pre-Season Bayside Football Power Poll
Mike Bradley's offers up his assessment of the upcoming 2023 high school football season on the shore.
Mike Bradley's offers up his assessment of the upcoming 2023 high school football season on the shore.
It’s great to be back for another season of High School Football in the Bayside Conference. ‘Overtime Live’ is celebrating 15 years, for me this is year #12. I am proud to say I have been a part of the OTL in some form for all 15. During the first three years of OTL I was doing Color Commentary for Stephen Decatur games on the radio. Once their season was over though I did sideline reporting for the OTL playoff games before becoming full-time in 2011.
It truly is an honor and pleasure to do this season after season. Mark Potter deserves all the credit for creating this platform and for the opportunity he has given me through the years. While many outlets have popped up over the last few years, ‘Overtime Live’ was one of if not the first and ahead of its time on the Shore. We are Maryland’s ONLY High School Football Show on the radio and for many years we were the ONLY Show on the Shore period and one of just two in the entire state. Thank you Mark for keeping this venture alive and going all these years.
I can’t thank all the coaches enough for their accessibility and help in this venture. I pride myself on relationships and I like to say we have good bonds built with all the programs. It’s all about the kids but I can’t tell you how much it means to still be involved with prep football. This will be my 22 nd year as either a player, coach, or media member with this sport.
This season features five new Head Coaches in the Conference; I would have to do some serious digging to tell you the last time that has happened. However, in all but one program the coaches were already in the program as an assistant coach so one would think the transition and the learning curve might not be as steep as it would be otherwise. Regardless this will be a very interesting season to see how these new coaches perform and what their imprint on their programs looks like…
…Along those same lines former North Caroline Head Coach James McCormick will be greatly missed. He was great to us here at the OTLbut he more than put in his time and deserves his retirement from the sidelines. We hope he checks in from time to time. Former Wicomico Head Coach Isaiah Taylor took a job as HC at Mt. Vernon in Northern VA. We appreciate his contributions over the last several seasons, wish him well and hope he checks in to stay on top of what is going on in the Bayside…also let’s give a shout out to our friend Eric Otey coaching at Bishop McNamara. We wish him well in year #2 and appreciate his support and checking in with us.
Bill Hauffe of The Star Democrat has joined me as another voter from the Eastern Shore for the MD State Poll which we will post weekly at our Overtime Live Facebook Page. The more representation the better so I am happy Bill has been added. The Bayside Conference has made strides in the overall football product from the play on the field to the college recruiting to the off-season work to social media and more. At the end of the day though consistent deep playoff runs and appearances in State Championship games win or lose will make the rest of the state take notice. Last year was one of the most competitive Conference seasons, especially in the 2A that I can remember. Bill and I are only two votes, but that’s one more from last year. However, I take the voting very seriously and will vote fairly and objectively.
Again, this season Mark Potter and I will recap the games further and hopefully with contributions with our broadcast night Color Commentator, former Kent Island HC Damien Ferragamo on our ‘Timeout with Shore Sports’ Podcast that drops on Tuesday mornings. This season I will continue to have the Power Poll out early in the week and the weekly Picks late in the week at www.shoresportsmd.com.
-While I know it’s not the reason you listen, being a radio guy though I value the sound of a program. I have attempted over the last few years to make the OTL sound like a professional program. I have added to our imaging this season to freshen things up and to promote things we have going on with the program and with Shore Sports. I am happy to have back for another season, the voice of the OTL, Harry Legg (yes that’s his name). He is one of the Top 5 Voice Over artists in the country.
-I would ask all those reading to spread the word about Overtime on-line and on the air. We really encourage participation. I want to hear what students, fans, teachers, administrators have to say about how they see Conference play. I would love feedback on the Power Poll and get predictions from others who follow football. Any promotion you can help us with is appreciated. My e-mail email@example.com
1. Stephen Decatur-The Seahawks made it to the 2A State Semifinal game last year falling just short to eventual champ Milford Mill. While the Seahawks return just a handful of starters combined on both offense and defense, they do return QB Brycen Coleman who is headed to Division I Vanderbilt next season as a WR/Flex TE. Coleman will be the main QB but will mix in at WR at certain times this season as former Seaford QB Careen Bolden transferred into Decatur the 4 th quarter. Bolden, who ran a very different offense took the Blue Jays to the Delaware D-I state semifinals last season. He may be more of a runner than a passer for Decatur. You will likely see Bolden all over the place including some QB. SD also returns key players WR/MLB Gavin Solito, WR/FS Ethan Bradshaw, FS/WR Amarian Manuel, RB Caden Shockley, MLB/TE Sullen Auker and FS/WR Trybe Wise. HC Jake Coleman’s teams always try to rotate in a fair number of players throughout the season for the long-term purposes of experience for the next season. Last year’s squad had a little over 20 combined Freshman and Sophomores who return this season to cushion the blow of the graduated seniors…
…The schedule is beneficial with the first three games at home and 5 of 8 at home overall. Unfortunately, the Week 1 Queen Anne’s matchup was relegated to a scrimmage because of the Lions self- imposed penalty of forfeiting the first game due to off-season events. Coleman was quick to point out every season is different and there is no building on last year. This is a new season. He is right and it’s unfair to this year’s team to automatically expect similar results especially with losing a D-I player like Luke Mergott. However, this team is very well coached, and has not 1 but 2 QBs that can be effective in different ways giving them the best QB depth in the Bayside. Oh, and don’t forget a huge weapon they have in K Brogan Eastlack. While it may take some time for the Hawks to ramp up to where the staff would like it to be (especially because of the changeover in the trenches), the Hawks as I see it are the favorite in the Conference.
2. Kent Island-The Bucs lost in the 2A State Championship Game to Milford Mill last season. No one saw the run that they had coming after losing in Week 1 to Easton last season. The Bucs are also very well coached and have been one of the gold standard programs in the Conference for a long time. While every season is different it’s for those reasons and more that despite graduating 8 starters on offense (including FB/MLB Kasey Heath, a huge loss) coupled with losing 5-6 starters on defense, the Bucs still deserve high consideration. In fact, if they had a returning starting QB I might have considered them for the #1 spot. The Bucs have 41 varsity players this season, with no transfers into the program this off-season. The team has a lot of seniors, however just not a lot of experience. Gavin Henry, last year’s backup, will start at QB and can run. Brady O’Neil returns to the O-Line but moves to Right Tackle…
…He is joined though by four other seniors including C Justin Dillon who is 260lbs and Giuseppe Mellinger who plays both ways at OG/LB…
-Austin Holland returns at WB; he will see time along with Jaxson Hess. Shane Bogardus takes over for Heath at FB. Lloyd Price returns at WR…
…The defense returns four First Team All-Conference players including DB/WR Lloyd Price, DL Brady O’Neil, and Austin Holland at DE.
Tim Goodrich is back for another season as DC and is considered the best in the Bayside. With him leading the way they should be in good shape even with the graduation losses. HC Bryon Sofinowski says he has the fastest backfield he has had in a while. The Bucs bring their blue-collar approach to Friday Night Light’s each season. They will get a nice test against City out of Baltimore Week 1 in non-conference play. There is no doubt many of the Seniors will need to step up and fill big roles this season as starters and produce results. However, the culture in Stevensville is one which sets the team up for success. The team might not get out of the gates the way they want this year either in the win/loss column or how they look on the field, but you would be foolish not to think the team will not get better as the season progresses. The defense will likely have to carry the offense early on. Can the passing game take some pressure off the run game when called upon? Their schedule in 4 of their first 5 games though will be challenge. No doubt a repeat of last year will be awfully difficult but they aren’t a program to be doubted.
3. Queen Anne’s-The off-season in Centreville has been well documented so there is no need to revisit it. Brian Mooney (an ’08 grad and former player) who has served in QB’s coach and Offensive Coordinator roles for the program in the last several seasons takes over as HC for Al Waters. Mooney will call the offensive plays. The Lions while wanting to maintain a strong running game will be much more balanced and will spread things out more than the last few seasons. Brian Aiken the former HC at Kent County will be the Offensive Coordinator. DC Jude Mandes returns so there is a certain level of continuity within the program despite the change at the top. The Lions graduated a good chunk of their offense in KJ Smothers but they do return 5 on the offense and then another 5 on defense with a total of 40 players on the roster. They did have a few players transfer out after the change.
Offensively the production will have to come by committee. The QB position has been a competition between last year’s starter Devin Wright and last year’s JV starter Lance Arnold. We will have to see come Week 2 who gets the nod. Arnold is the better natural passer but lacks varsity experience and Mooney says Wright has looked good in camp. Other players to watch are Kent State bound Jai Roy (TE/RB/OLB), RB’s John Conley, Carter Dickey, RB/SB/WR Landon Brown (who missed last season due to injury) and WR JaDareon Thompson who is just a freshman. The offensive line is very experienced with two three-year starters in C Malone Grace and RT Zach Blanchard.
-Mooney also talked very strongly about his defensive line and its depth with Ethan Wheaton, Andre Young and John Corona among the players to watch.
-With the solid amount of returning starters on both sides of the ball, the push to be more balanced offensively, strong trench play on both sides of the ball, a big-time player like Jai Roy and fair amount of continuity despite the coaching changes, Queen Anne’s should be one of the better teams in the Conference. Who wins the QB job and how they execute the new offense will be a big question. Now they did have to forfeit their first game to Decatur but since all teams make the playoffs that won’t hurt the way it might have in the past. How will Mooney do now in a Head Coaching role is also to be determined but certainly carried himself well in our OTL preview show interview.
4. North Caroline-Nic McMorris is one of the five new head coaches in the Bayside Conference although he like many of the other new coaches has been in the program and was on the varsity staff last season as the OC after being Head JV Coach for several seasons. The Bulldogs have 30-31 players with 12 Srs., 17 Jrs. and 2 Sophs. Each side of the ball returns 5 to 6 starters. There is a lot of experience the team brings into this season. QB Nasai Bell returns as the starter although he reportedly got a push in camp from Corey Bunce. Bell has all the physical tools, but his talents haven’t all come together, and his play has been uneven. But with a full varsity season under his belt and the Wing-T offense being run out of the Spread this season might we see some changes and packages added to make the best use of his skills. Jr. RB/CB Zymear Smith one of the best in the Bayside is back with Tyson Weber who also has a lot of speed and plays CB. The offensive line returns 3 starters including Henry Piavis at LT. His brother Owen plays RT and they both play DE and get after the passer quite well.
-The Bulldogs were inconsistent last year which was rare for Caroline. For NC coming off that blowout playoff win over Easton despite bowing out to Decatur, that had to be something to build from this offseason. With a year or two of experience under the belt of many of the players, they can use that this season to their benefit to be more consistent. McMorris likes the team’s leadership. The big question will be what kind of QB play do they get out of Bell and how will a Spread Wing-T help him and the offense. Also, how will the coaching staff utilize Bell. The defense is usually stout, can they get back to being consistent this season? The last few seasons have been more challenging for this program, but it was not that long ago the Ridge was home to the best team in the Bayside for several seasons. How does McMorris transition as HC? He knows those are big shoes to fill but he can only be himself. Being a former player though and later a coach in the program, he knows the standard and the way things are done from the years of McCormick leadership, which helps. NC should be one of the stronger teams this season, but their play must be more even.
5. Easton-Yes, the Warriors are young this season but don’t let that cloud your judgement. They will still be good this year. Easton has 36-37 players on this year’s team with 13 sophomores (7 of whom will be starting). They also have 11 juniors and seniors, so it’s an evenly spread team of classes. They have 4 returning starters on both offense and defense. Mikey O’Connor continues the O’Connor legacy and will be the starting QB. O’Connor can run and pass and will work to develop both of those areas of his game. RB Dustin Blue will also serve as the backup. Sr. Brandan Jenkins, one of the best backs in the Bayside will see plenty of carries along with Blue who played well as a freshman last season. They also have depth with Srs. Kyle Dyott and Sam Noble. WR Chase Raab was lost to injury in the off-season…
…They still have Colin Mooney returning along with Zach Barnhart and Kyree Acree and Jay Ramirez to name a few. Look, the Warriors should be a team that gets better as the season progresses. This team can run the ball and run the ball well. You will likely see a shift emphasis to the ground game which will help open the passing game for O’Connor. How effective the passing game becomes and how long it takes is something to watch. The bar has been set high over the last several seasons.
-This team though is solid in the trenches on both sides of the ball led by OL and DL Marvin Foster, Khalil Batson, and Tymiere Thomas. The LB Corp is solid. The Warriors are well coached and will be another interesting team because of their youth to see where they are at the end of the season. Their defense and running game should keep them in games early in the season as they find their way.
6. Wicomico-James McMurdo the DC the last several seasons takes over for Isaiah Taylor as HC. McMurdo wants to keep the foundation he and the other assistants built with Taylor. That said tactically he will play it closer to vest and take an old school approach of running the football and playing solid defense (the SU Coach Disbennett 3-4 scheme). The Indians have 35 on the roster and are sophomore heavy at the skill positions. You won’t see as many big shots in the passing game as you did the last few seasons and part of that is because gone are some big-time playmakers the Indians had like QB Darius Foreman and WR Malique Leatherbury, Jayce Freeman, and RB Makhi Johnson. Wi-Hi returns 6 on offense which includes the entire offensive line including LT Marvens Augustave and RT Jabez Baptiste. RB Jordan Hayman also returns. Delmar transfer Takai Hugee is the new QB who they will utilize in the run game…
…The defense, a 3-4 is strong along the front led by NT Jah’Mir Johnson. They are young at LB. McMurdo specialty is defense so you expect that side should be solid…
…McMurdo’s hiring keeps the continuity within the program and that is a big help for this program that has made strides in the last few seasons. WiHi lost some big-time seniors and a transfer from last season. The program usually reloads not rebuilds but there are some big shoes to fill this season. Without as many big plays in the air on offense and on special teams, will the Indians be able to still score enough points. They will learn a lot about themselves in Week 1. I am not sure there is a clear favorite among the Salisbury teams this season.
7. Parkside-The Rams had been the most consistent program in the south for over 5 years up until two seasons ago. Since then, back-to-back losing seasons have the program wanting to get back to their winning ways. Covid affected off-season training and did not help matters last year especially on defense where they really struggled. This season the Rams return experience and as always have a loaded backfield like Wi-Hi usually does. RB Nasir Holden (clocked in off season at a 4.4 40) returns along with RB’s Eli Donaldson, Canaan Mapp (also will serve as a QB and Nasir Sturgis. There are 4 returning on the O-Line including Braden Baum at C. Longtime OC Glenn Phillips departed in the off-season due to work constraints. HC Brendan Riley will be the OC and call the plays. While the Rams will remain multiple, we are hearing they are running some Wing-T this year. Chris Morandi takes over as QB, he was the JV starter last season.
-The Rams do what they do and that’s run the ball although they had some success in the air last season. Can they run the ball in heavy boxes and throw just enough to help themselves out? Can the defense turn it around from last year and do a better job of stopping the opponent. The Rams are another interesting team to watch and see what they can do.
8. Cambridge-HC Toby Peer is in Year #3, and this is a big year for the Vikings after two straight losing seasons. Make no mistake Peer and his staff know how to coach and he has the resume to prove it. There are some caveats to his first two seasons as well. He took over the job in ’21 just a week before the start of summer camp making it tough to transition into the program and there has been a longer time of adjustment than maybe expected. Second,despite the regular season records he has had some success in the playoffs with an upset win over Parkside in his first year followed by a good showing against Harford Tech in the next round and just a 1-point loss to Elkton last season. The Vikings also lost two very tight games to Colonel Richardson, otherwise they would have won the Bayside 1A for the last two seasons and continued the streak of what was 11 straight championships. That all said, expectations are high in Cambridge annually and this season the Vikings should be back in a good place. It starts with Toby Peer II coming back to coach with his father after serving a year in the college ranks at Southern Utah. Just like Raheem Hammond told me with fellow 1A Snow Hill, Peer wants Cambridge to be relentless.
-They have 30 players this season (better than previous seasons) and return 5 to 6 starters each on offense and defense. The Vikings also have good speed however they are young and small in the trenches. Blake LaBelle transferred back in from Easton and will play at QB, but Jrs. Darren Belizaire and Anthony Hughes will see time at QB as well. Belizaire (Safety on defense) also plays WR and will pair in a deep field with Antonio Blueford and Tay’Mar Alexander to name a few. The backfield is loaded with two Srs. in Jaden Ferguson (also plays all-conference LB) and Kayion Marine along with Jr. Willie Jackson. They also have two sophomores…
…With the returning experience, a multitude of skill players including what should be better QB play this season, the Vikings are poised to make strides and improve upon the last two seasons. The trenches are a work in progress and that can’t be overlooked. The Vikings though should have themselves a good season ahead and flip the script with a winning record and then some. They will look to wrestle back the 1A from Colonel Richardson among their goals although Peer says the players have not mentioned that being on their minds at least in front of him.
9. James M. Bennett-The Clippers are in Year #2 under HC Greg Lasinski. This season JMB will have 28 players with 7 Seniors, the rest are Freshman, Sophomores and Juniors. Seven starters return on offense and eight starters on defense. A sign that the program is headed in the right direction is some freshmen beat out some varsity returners from last year and some varsity players from last year will play JV this season. In fact, the JV will boast more players than varsity with 42 players.
-The Clippers, like the North Caroline Bulldogs will run the Wing-T out of the Shotgun. Zakai Smullen remains the starter at QB but sophomore Liam Nelson who is more of pocket passer will see some healthy time there as well. Smullen will also play WB & WR. Other players to watch are Matt Pecoraro who won the starting RB job, he also plays LB. Also toting the rock will be SB Jimmy Martin, WB Jamereon Stevens. Stevens might be one of the fastest in the conference. Zah’Kail Dixon who transferred in from Delmar will be in rotation at back as well. The offensive line has depth and gets back C Jackson Moore who missed last season but was an all-conference as a freshman. Three starters return including G/T Geoff Adams. You do get the feeling the Clippers will be better this season and could take a nice step forward. They might have the best roster since 2018. That team went 9-3. I am not predicting that this season, but they are intriguing.
10. Colonel Richardson-The Colonels have been one of the great success stories in the Bayside over the last several seasons. They are now the 2-time defending Bayside 1A Champs with multiple home playoff games to boot as well. Despite the success, the numbers have remained low for the Colonels. They have 20 on the roster this season with 9 players going both ways. The Colonels have just 2 Seniors, 11 Juniors, 6 Sophomores and 1 Freshman. That said a winning culture and way of doing things has been firmly planted in the program by HC James Jackson and his staff. Colonel did suffer a big loss in the graduation of FB/LB Camron Gondeck. Collin Brewer and Chatydrick Pickron take over for Gondeck, Pickron will also play NT. Other players to watch are QB Terron Hammond, Jr who played at the end of last season. WB’s Carter Turbin, Derrick Mitchell, and Jazir Dickerson. LT Brennan Thomas weighs 280lbs. Jackson says the defense will be their strength.
-With some key graduations and some new players from the soccer team transitioning into football, I am taking more of a cautious approach. The Colonels though are not to be taken likely. However, the last two seasons have set a very high bar for themselves. The 1A also has the chance to be improved this season so it could get a little interesting and more challenging this season.
11. Snow Hill-Raheem Hammond had already taken a job as HC at a school in Prince George’s County on the Western Shore when Snow Hill came calling to have him come back to the program only this time elevated to head coach from assistant coach, a role he had served in the last few seasons. Hammond answered the call and decided to head back across the bridge to the Shore in May. Hammond, a former Snow Hill player and grad has extensive ties to the community in the rec programs. Hammond as HC will also switch sides of the ball and head up the defense this season as coordinator. He says they will be multiple, play with gap integrity and plan on pressuring the other team’s offense. Hammond emphasized they must be much better on that side of the ball this season. The assistant staff is brand new as Hammond puts his own imprint on the team. The team has a healthy number of 44-45 players (although some will play mostly on the Freshman team). The Eagles return almost all their starters, between 19-20. Players to watch are Elijah Cotton (QB), Zyheem Collick (Ath), Joe Johnson (RB/DL) Jakhi Boulware (RB/DB) Jayceere Fields (RB/DB), Tyler Reddick (RB/DB) and Christian Russell (TE/DL). When asked what one word he wants the program described as and he answered “Relentless”.
Hammond played at a time when Snow Hill was a successful 1A program on the Shore and went to the playoffs consistently. He knows what it takes and was part of the history and tradition he would like to see returned. With a fresh start and the large number of returnees you feel like the Eagles should be on an upward trajectory this season and might have one of better seasons they have had in a while. From the outside given the recent seasons, cautious optimism is probably the best way to describe the Eagles but no doubt this will be a program to watch this season.
12. Kent County-The Trojans are back once again under the leadership of Head Coach Harold Somerville who was elevated to the position last spring after Brian Aiken stepped down. Somerville feels more comfortable having had a complete offseason. He added some more experienced coaches to the staff and let some others go. Those coaches come from the youth level. The Trojans will have a roster of 32 with 10 starters coming back in total from last year’s squad. Somerville says the team has good speed and that camp this summer has gone well. When asked what the team needs to do to be more successful this year, he replied they need to have more confidence week in week out. While Somerville still plans on relying on a power run game, he felt thepassing game was ahead of the running game in camp. You got the feeling that he may unleash the pass more than last season. The caveat to all this is the Trojans will be breaking in a Freshman at QB in Dwan Harris, Jr. They also will feature another freshman in Scottie Ford at RB among the trio of rushers. Harris’ learning curve and how much the coaching staff put on his shoulders will play a big part in how successful they will be this season. The defense is expected to be better this year and will be multiple. Some players to watch include Jonah Somerville (WR, SB), Ryan Myers (G, DT) and Jysir Valentine (TE, DE).
13. Washington-The Jags have a third new Head Coach in as many seasons with the hiring of Alec Meintzer. Meintzer has had assistant coaching stints at Wicomico and Easton. Meintzer, who will be the DC and will run a 3-4 scheme retained Tony Morton and added Tim Sykes (both School Resource Officer’s) to the staff. Sykes will coach RBs and DBs. Morton, who is the Assistant Head Coach has been tasked to continue to look out for the kids both on and off the field in providing direction and accountability. Meintzer also added Nick Gianni and Alan Lubinecki, both from Parkside. Gianni was the Assistant Offensive Line Coach for the Rams and will coach the O-Line. Lubinecki was the JV OC. Maybe the biggest hire was Coach Marshall Beacoat who was the HC of Washington back in the Mid-Late 90s and played for UMES. He will assist on the offensive and defensive lines. Lubinecki who played QB at Laurel will be the Jags OC and will run the Triple Option in hopes of gaining an advantage in the Bayside. This year’s team has roughly 30 players with the breakdown of about 18 Freshman and Sophomores, 8 Seniors and just 2 Juniors. The team does return about 5 to 6 starters on each side of the ball. Bradin Corbin will be the QB for the Jags. Other players to look for are Gladimir Maindrin (G, DE) and a speedy Kiel James (WB/SS) along with Xavier Hankerson (MLB, SB) …For Meintzer who is not taking this or viewing this as a steppingstone job, the task is a large one but not one that he seems deterred by. He feels like has assembled a good coaching staff and is looking to play all 9 games this season and give his players the tools to succeed. Whether that translates to wins or not we will have to see. The Jags need stability and a positive culture. If the Jags can be competitive and field a team for all 9 games that will be a big start. While I feel like the program is in good hands, we will have to just wait and see on the results.