CUMBERLAND — Beginning tonight everybody will be in the pool as Maryland public high schools kick off their football seasons.
In 7 o’clock games, Fort Hill will host Silver Oak at Greenway Avenue Stadium to open its 77th season, while Allegany opens its 87th season at Southern against the Rams. Mountain Ridge and Northern will open on the road, with the Miners visiting Jefferson (1-0) and the Huskies visiting Smithsburg.
In West Virginia, Keyser (0-1), in its 98th season of football, will look to bounce back from a season-opening loss at Wheeling Park in hosting its home-opener against Berkeley Springs (0-1). Frankfort (1-0) and Moorefield (1-0), will meet at Moorefield for a 7:30 kickoff, while Hampshire (1-0) visits Elkins at 7 p.m. and Petersburg (0-1) will visit Pendleton County with a 7:30 start.
Silver Oak at Fort Hill
After two lopsided early-season losses, Fort Hill used a seven-game winning streak to reach the Maryland 1A West Region championship game in putting up a 9-3 season when many of the so-called experts predicted no better than 5-5.
With seven first-team Times-News All-Area selections, as well as six second-teamers and three honorable mention returning from last year, Fort Hill believes it can build on that success.
Returning at quarterback will be second-team All-Area selection Hunter Squires, who completed 50 of 89 passes his junior season for 732 yards and 17 touchdowns with just seven interceptions. Squires was the Offensive Player of the Game in Fort Hill’s 21-20 Homecoming victory over Allegany, passing for two touchdowns and rushing for the other one.
In the backfield, first-team All-Area selection Dekari Darr returns to play fullback and halfback after rushing for 938 yards on 128 carries, scoring nine touchdowns. In the Sentinels’ 46-42 playoff loss to Brunswick, Darr gained 263 yards on 39 carries.
Silver Oak, of Keymar, already has two games under its belt, the Rams opening the season with a 13-6 loss to St. Vincent Pallotti of Laurel and a 50-0 win over Hillcrest of Cincinnati (find the link for updated schedules and results of regional Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia schools on times-news.com).
Fort Hill defeated Silver Oak in last year’s opener, 63-18.
Allegany at Southern
Allegany returned to the Maryland state playoffs last season for the first time in three years with a 7-4 record and returns a nucleus of several players who gained experience as underclassmen.
Senior Trenton Eirich is the starting quarterback after being the back-up last season, rushing for three touchdowns. As the Campers’ top return man, Eirich returned two punts for touchdowns. Dalton Golliday and Brady Hillegas are at halfback.
Defensively, junior Kirk Robinette, first-team All-Area, returns at linebacker.
Former Southern linebacker Jon Nazelrod will make his debut as the Southern head coach tonight. An assistant coach for the Rams for five seasons, Nazelrod is intent on helping Southern to its first winning season in 13 years and back into the state playoffs. After an 0-3 start, the Rams finished 4-5 last year, including a win over Northern.
Southern’s four returning starters on offense are senior center Seth Holler and senior guard Tristan Nazelrod, senior running back Reese Haskiell and senior fullback Seth Kisner.
Allegany won last season’s meeting, 56-6
Mountain Ridge at Jefferson
Putting last season out of sight and out of mind will suit the Mountain Ridge Miners just fine, thank you, as, with just two starters returning from back-to-back nine-win seasons, they suffered through an 0-10 year. The Miners were shut out three times and scored only 62 points last year.
The Miners, with 14 returning starters, will go with a new look beginning tonight, as they have scrapped their traditional wishbone offense in favor of a pro-I set to better fit this year’s team.
Mike Strietbeck and A.J. Wagner are at quarterback. Logan Jeffries, Brandon Redmond, Ian McCormick and Bradley Green are at fullback; and Rashawn Johnson, Ty Brooks, Nevada Shriner and Jeremy Teets are at tailback.
Having been a Class 1A school since opening six years ago, Mountain Ridge is now Class 2A.
Jefferson beat Spring Mills of Martinsburg, 58-6, to open its season. The Cougars beat the Miners last year, 40-12.
Northern at Smithsburg
Northern found itself in a rebuilding year last season, but after a rough start the Huskies won four of their last six to finish the season 4-6. While Northern will still field a young team — seven sophomores are on the 23-man roster — the hope is last season’s strong finish will carry over to this season.
The Huskies will count on junior Meshach Metz to run the offense at quarterback, this season going with more of an option approach. Back-up quarterback Noah Werner will be called upon to put the ball in the air, having passed for 800 yards on the junior varsity team last year.
Defensively, Northern will have good depth at linebacker, with Metz returning after collecting over 100 tackles last season for the second straight year.
Northern fell to Smithsburg last season, 30-0.
Berkeley Springs at Keyser
Keyser lost to Wheeling Park last week, 45-22, falling behind 42-6 at the half. Last season, Keyser gave up just 68 points all year on its way to the Class AA state championship game.
Danny Fife, 2012 Area Player of the Year, rushed for 105 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries, while Erik Willis scored a second-half touchdown.
Berkeley Springs lost to Clarke County, 34-0, in its opener.
Keyser won last year’s game, 47-0.
Frankfort at Moorefield
Brady Watson rushed for 122 yards and three touchdowns on 13 carries to lead Frankfort to a 35-13 win over North Marion last week. Watson also made two big stops on defense in the second half to help the Falcons break open the game.
Trent Hamilton led the Frankfort defense with eight tackles and a sack. Watson had eight tackles, including two for two-yard losses on third downs in the pivotal third quarter.
Rion Landes ran for a touchdown and passed for a touchdown to lead Moorefield over Petersburg, 29-25. After falling behind on the opening kickoff the Jackets took a 7-6 lead on the game’s second play when Tyheim Franklin broke one for 80 yards.
Frankfort beat Moorefield last season, 28-20.
Hampshire at Elkins
Dale Bryson caught a touchdown pass and intercepted three passes to lead Hampshire past Preston, 34-14. Quarterback Shane Ennis passed for 189 yards and three touchdowns, including two to Dane Heavener.
Lucas Powers returned the opening kickoff 84 yards for a touchdown.
Hampshire fell to Elkins last year, 57-42.
Petersburg at Pendleton
Kelson Thorne returned the opening kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown, and Petersburg would build a 19-7 lead, but fell to Moorefield, 29-25.
Ryan VanMeter hit Josh Inskeep with two touchdowns passes, and Alex See with one.
Mike Burke is sports editor of the Cumberland Times-News. Write to him at email@example.com