A heat wave. A couple of weeks of thunderstorms. An earthquake and a hurricane. Fair to say the summer in the Baltimore area has been interesting.

After a hectic couple of days in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, the high school football season, the unofficial sign of fall, kicks into full gear. It starts Thursday evening with the second annual I-95 Kickoff Classic.

Featuring eight games at two venues over three days, the event will showcase some of the top talent in the Mid-Atlantic region.

Mount St. Joseph vs. Friendship Collegiate Academy (D.C.), Thursday, 5 p.m. at Bowie State University

The Show Stopper: Eddie Goldman, Friendship Collegiate

The nation’s No. 1 defensive line prospect, Goldman, 6-foot-4 and 307 pounds, is a man-child. Goldman, who has every big-time BCS program seeking his services, had 40 tackles last season.

The matchup

Mount St. Joseph will look to get its season off on the right foot, just like last year when it routed Bishop McNamara in the inaugural Kickoff Classic at Unitas Stadium. The Gaels finished 3-6 last season, but with 11 starters back, are hoping for improvement in 2011.

Mount St. Joseph has a pair of dangerous threats in Temple-commit Sam Benjamin and Angelo DeShields (Stoney Brook). The Irvington school will face a talented squad in Friendship, a charter school in the Distirct, ranked No. 10 in the Washington metro area.

Friendship opened its season with a 12-6 victory over Ohio’s Taft in a nationally televised contest Sunday. Albert Reid, a West Virginia commit, rushed for 143 yards and had a touchdown reception while Goldman recorded two quarterback sacks.

 

Calvert Hall College  vs. St. John’s (D.C.), Thursday, 8 p.m. at Bowie State

The Show Stopper: Da’Quan Davis, Calvert Hall

With Adrian Amos, last season’s VSN Defensive Player of the Year off to Penn State, Davis becomes the captain of the Cardinals’ secondary.  The West Virginia-commit had six interceptions and two fumble recoveries in 2010.

The matchup

da'quan davisThe Cardinals again start their season against St. John’s from Washington Catholic Athletic Conference. After winning the MIAA A Conference championship and finishing No. 1 in the area and state polls, the Towson school has lofty expectations.

Calvert Hall has a dynamic offensive attack, led by senior quarterback Thomas Stuart, running back Brandon Neverdon and C.J. Williams and wide out Trevor Williams (WVU commit). Emmanuel Holder and Davis will lead an experienced defensive cast.

The Cadets are expected to contend for a WCAC postseason spot this fall, returning a veteran cast. Mitch Kirsch, an all-WCAC first-team selection last fall, is one of four starters back on the interior.

Ben Onett, who committed to Temple, will direct the offense with Troy Robinson handling the running load. Olajuwon Swearinger, an all-WCAC first team pick in 2010, anchors the defense with junior linebacker Devin Williams, a Stanford commit.

Thanks to Hurricane Irene, both teams’ openers were cancelled last weekend. Calvert Hall defeated St. John’s, 24-7, last year in Towson ending a six-year losing skid.

 

ian thomasFranklin vs. Henry A. Wise, Friday 5 p.m. at Morgan State University

The Show Stopper: Ian Thomas, Franklin

Thomas had a breakout junior season last year with 1,353 all-purpose yards and 20 touchdowns as the Baltimore County reached the Class 3A state title. He’s arguably the No. 1 senior wide receiver (21 scholarship offers) after catching 50 passes for 953 yards in 2010.

The matchup

This game could be called “The Bridesmaids Bowl,” as Franklin and Wise left M&T Bank Stadium without a state championship last December. Wise from Prince George’s County lost Frederick’s Urbana in the 4A finale.

Led by Thomas, Franklin brings a wealth of skill performers including Marquis and Reggie Ellis and Anthony Taylor. With a new quarterback, the Indians could be a work in progress offensively and will face a daunting challenge against Wise. 

The Pumas have been one of the state’s best defenses, allowing 150 points with 14 shutouts the past two seasons. Tre Smith (6-3, 200) is one of the state’s top linebacker prospects.

Running back Uriah Bethea and wide receiver Zachary Pascal, a pair of James Madison commits, will lead the offense. The Upper Marlboro school is coached by DaLawn Parrish, a former Wake Forest standout and All-Met performer at Howard.

 

Gilman School vs. Philip Smith (VA), Friday 8 p.m. at Morgan State

The Show Stopper: Cyrus Jones, Gilman School

With Darius Jennings, last year’s VSN Offensive Player of the Year, graduated to the University of Virginia, Jones is more than ready to be offensive catalyst for the Greyhounds. A Top 50 national recruit by ESPN, Jones had more than 1,200 all-purpose yards and scored nine touchdowns last fall.

The matchup

cyrus jonesAfter a pedestrian 68-9 rout of Maryland Christian School last weekend, the bar will be significantly raised for Gilman with Philip Smith, a perennial Virginia state power. The Norfolk school has won its district crown the past seven years and is 52-4 over the last four seasons.

Running back J.C. Coleman, who’s verbally committed to Virginia Tech, rushed for 1,400 yards and 21 touchdowns last season. J.J. Williamson (Hampton) passed for a school-record 3,244 yards replacing Philip Sims, a 2009 national recruit who’s playing for Alabama.

Gilman may have its best team talent-wise led by Jones, who has the likes Alabama and Auburn, vying for him. He had returned a kickoff and punt for touchdowns, and a 34-yard run against Maryland Christian last Friday.

The Greyhounds also have a bevy of backs led by Kenny Goins, and junior quarterback Shane Cockerille gives them a steady vertical option. Devon Porchia (PITT commit), Brian Gaia (Penn State) and junior Jim Poggi leads the defense.

 

Archbishop Curley vs. No. 15 Patterson, Saturday 10:30 a.m. at Morgan State

The Show Stopper: Pete Carter, Patterson

A key reserve on the Clippers’ Baltimore City championship basketball team last winter, Carter will be in the fore of the football team’s pursuit of another city Division I crown. The 6-foot-3 wide receiver caught eight touchdowns last season.

The matchup

Separated by a couple of miles on the Erdman Avenue corridor, the Friars and Clippers will play for the first time in more than 20 years when they were members of Maryland Scholastic Association.

After reaching the MIAA B finals last fall, Curley look to reload. Though small in numbers, the Friars have quality with seniors, led Avery Williams (running back/defensive back) and all-MIAA B linebacker Matt Zelechowski.

The Clippers
, who shared the city Division I with Dunbar last season, said goodbye to18 seniors including standout quarterback Aaron Overton. Patterson coach Corey Johnson is excited about 6-foot-2 senior Craig Oliver behind the center.

He’ll have a perimeter threat in Carter, in addition to Joshua and Derwin Beasley in the backfield.  The unproven Patterson defense will be tested by Curley’s triple-option running attack.

 

Loyola Blakefield vs. DeMatha Catholic, Saturday 1:30 p.m. at Morgan State

The Show Stopper: Brent Wilkerson, DeMatha

Wilkerson, 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds, is regarded as Maryland’s top defensive end prospect by Rivals.com. The Penn State commit is an impressive target as a tight end (caught two touchdowns last season).

The matchup

For the second straight year, Loyola kicks off its campaign against the perennial state powerhouse. The Dons played evenly with the Stags before the Prince George’s County squad pulled away in the final quarter for a 45-31 decision at last year’s I-95 Kickoff Classic at Unitas Stadium.

Loyola will attempt to compete again with running back Ryan Black (Bryant commit) and all-MIAA A wide receiver Jordan Floyd, keying the offense.  After giving up a ton of points last season, the Dons’ defense will be much improved after some rough seasoning in the MIAA A.

Elijah Brooks will make his debut as DeMatha coach. The former assistant and standout running back is the successor to legendary coach Bill McGregor, who stepped down earlier in the year and is now on the Gilman staff.

Several state high school insiders think DeMatha is primed to take a step back, but DeMatha, ranked No. 4 in the preseason state media poll, still have an impressive stock of Division I talent. In addition to Wilkerson, the Stags have linemen Michael Moore, a Virginia recruit, and linebacker Sam Lebbie (West Virginia). DeMatha is inexperienced in several key offensive positions.

 

deontay mcmanusDunbar (D.C.) vs. Dunbar, Saturday 7:30 p.m. at Morgan State

The Show Stopper: DeonTay McManus, Dunbar

Arguably the area’s best player, McManus is a hard-hitting defensive back who’s projected as a wide receiver. The West Virginia commit will look to get the ball in the hands more often this fall.

The matchup

When asked about Dunbar (D.C.) a few weeks ago, Poets coach Lawrence Smith simply said, “They’re us.” This should be a highly physical game sprinkled with the intensity being Baltimore v. Washington.

The Crimson Tide has been the dominant program in the District with eight D.C.I.A.A championships in 12 consecutive appearances in the finals (known as Turkey Bowl). Though longtime coach Craig Jefferies retired to become a college assistant, Dunbar has four Division I prospects in the fold with tight end Daniel Nwosu, Donald Bouknight (defensive line), running back Olu Izegwire and junior two-way linemen Derwin Gray, who holds verbal offers Auburn, Clemson, Michigan State and West Virginia, New Mexico, North Carolina and Syracuse.

The Poets may have their best team since the 2008 edition which won a third straight Class 1A state title, led by Tavon Austin (West Virginia). In addition to McManus, the east Baltimore school have Division I prospects Brown (offer from Liberty University), Hawkins (Purdue), Highsmith (Elon, Marshall and Youngstown State) and Williams (Texas-El Paso, Toledo and Youngstown).

Dunbar expects to be strong defensively, but the quarterback spot is a question with Kevin Estep and William Crest. Estep started the final six games last season en route to the state title, but it’s believed Crest, a sophomore, can provide a downfield presence.