FROSTBURG — Maryland schools grab the spotlight tonight as five area schools make their 2019 season debuts, highlighted by what has traditionally been a late-October contest to kick off the season as defending Maryland 1A state champion Fort Hill visits Mountain Ridge.
There are nine area games on the schedule, as the Miners host Fort Hill, Allegany travels to Indian Head in Charles County to take on Lackey, Southern visits Smithsburg and Northern travels to Brunswick.
West Virginia schools are in their second week of the season, as Keyser (1-0) hosts Berkeley Springs (0-1), Frankfort (1-0) hosts East Hardy (0-1), Moorefield (0-1) visits Pocahontas (1-0), Hampshire (0-1) hosts Musselman (1-0) and Petersburg (1-0) visits Pendleton County (0-0).
Start time for all games is 7 p.m.
Fort Hill at Mountain Ridge
Fort Hill and Mountain Ridge will kick off the season tonight the way they have never done. This marks the first year the schools will open with each other, the move of the traditional late-season game being made due to Maryland’s new playoffs system and the nine-game regular-season.
It marks the 13th year in a row the Sentinels and the Miners will meet, dating back to 2007. Fort Hill has won all 12 meetings, taking last year’s decision, 56-0. The earliest Fort Hill and Mountain Ridge have met previously is Oct. 26.
And the kicker shall lead the Sentinels, as senior Danny King takes over at quarterback this year for Fort Hill. Four All-Area players remain from last year’s 13-0 state championship team — offensive linemen Hunter Jacobs, Liam Moran and Jakobe Jackson, as well as the placekicker, punter and now quarterback, King, who has committed to kick at West Virginia University as a preferred walk on.
Todd Appel opens his 12th season as head coach with 131 career victories and a school-record .903 winning percentage to go along with five state championships.
Mountain Ridge begins the fourth season under head coach Ryan Patterson (13-17) and is coming off a 6-4 season in which a mid-season six-game winning streak had the Miners in playoff contention.
Senior Tre Smith (6-foot-3, 292 pounds) is a four-year starter and will anchor the defense at nose guard and tackle. He has received a slew of college offers as a defensive player, including from Maryland, Syracuse, Temple, Villanova and James Madison. He was also one of the Miners’ top receivers last year at tight end.
The Miners return three players on the offensive line in center Peyton Porter and tackles Aaron VanMeter and Josh Winner. Jared Horsman is expected to get most of the touches in the backfield, while the quarterback is sophomore Bryce Snyder.
Allegany at Lackey
The Campers open their fourth season under head coach Bryan Hansel (23-10) and seek to bounce back from a 4-5 season in 2018.
Allegany returns All-Area player, senior Christian Welch, who was first-team Times-News All-Area as linebacker and second team as a fullback.
They also have several returning players who gained valuable experience last season in senior running back-defensive back Trevan Powell, senior wide receiver-defensive back Dorian Terrell, senior running back-linebacker J.D. Shambaugh and interior linemen junior Ryen Baker and Robbie Suesse. Grant Cain will be the quarterback.
Welch was the Campers’ leading rusher with 996 yards with 11 touchdowns. Powell started as a sophomore and rushed for 566 yards and four touchdowns and caught a pair of passes for 20 yards. Matt Fuzie will get the first reps at fullback for the Campers as one of the strongest players on the team.
Lackey was 7-3 last year and fell to eventual 1A runner-up Douglass, 9-7, in the South Region semifinals. The Chargers have been to the state playoffs 15 times and have one state title — 1986 when they beat Allegany, 38-21, in the Class B (now 2A) final. This will mark the fourth meeting between the schools, the first being in 1975. Alco’s only win against Lackey came in 1976, 8-0.
Southern at Smithsburg
Southern is coming off of back-to-back eight-win postseason appearances and begins the seventh season under head coach Jon Nazelrod. Senior Jonas Shaffer, a second-team All-Area offensive tackle as a junior, is the lone returning starter from last season.
Versatility is something the Rams will count on this year, as groups of new faces dot most of the positions. Competing at tight end, for instance, are Peyton Wilson and Anthony Reams, with Parker Meyer and Jeremiah Pattison at wide receiver. Cole Baker caught five passes for 126 yards and a 25.2 average a year ago. Pattison had two receptions for 43 yards.
Senior Zack Rohrbaugh is the probable starter at quarterback. At fullback will be Declan McCann, Cole Baker, or Luke Adams, with Jacob Nazelrod, Pattison and Baker at halfback. Jacob Richter is also in the mix at the backfield positions. Nazelrod ran 19 times for 129 yards and 6.8 yards per carry and is the top returning rusher.
The kicker, Parker Meyer, converted 25 of 32 extra points and two of three field goals a year ago.
Northern at Brunswick
Northern opens its 23rd season under head coach Phil Carr (113-107) and travels to play Brunswick (7-3 last year). The Railroaders won last season’s opener, 21-0.
The Huskies were 3-6 last year, but settled things after two tough losses and over six hours of weather delays in the opening two weeks. The Northern offensive line lost only one starter from last year, and Jake Rush returns having gained 1,103 yards of all-purpose yards last season. His 122.6 yards per game was sixth best in the area.
The returning starters on the offensive line are Landon Broadwater at center, guards Jake Glotfelty and Garrett Emory and tackle Ian Eggleston.
Other returning starters on the offense are Rush, who will be moving from slot to halfback, Hunter Meyers, who is moving from guard to fullback, and split end Isaac Bittinger (6-1, 170 Jr.).
• As West Virginia schools opened their seasons last week, Keyser turned in a very impressive performance with a 56-7 win over Robert C. Byrd. Frankfort opened with a 35-3 win over Moorefield, while Petersburg beat Berkeley Springs, 25-14, and Hampshire fell to Preston, 37-14.
Mike Burke is sports editor of the Cumberland Times-News. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeCTN.