Category: St. Frances Feature
St. Frances football returning to Geico Bowl
by Derek Toney
In a season where quality opponents were few, if any, St. Frances Academy football team is getting its wish, just in time for Christmas.
The No. 1 Panthers will play in the Geico State Champions Bowl Series. St. Frances will play Georgia Class 6A state champ Lee County Dec. 22 in Leesburg, Ga.
"We're excited to have the opportunity to play one more game, especially for our seniors," said Panthers co-coach Henry Russell, whose team is ranked No. 5 in USA Today's Super 25.
It's the second straight year the Baltimore City private school is playing in the nationally-televised event (ESPNU). Last year, St. Frances routed Utah powerhouse Bingham at Grand Canyon University in Arizona.
This season, St. Frances played a hastened national schedule after its fellow MIAA A Conference members announced in late spring they would not play the Panthers, citing safety and competition imbalance concerns. The MIAA declared St. Frances A Conference champions in August and there was no standings kept or a postseason tournament this past season.
The Panthers played a nine-game schedule, three against Canadian teams. Their season-opening match against Philadelphia's St. Joseph Prep (ranked No. 6 nationally by USA Today) at the University of Maryland was stopped in the third quarter after several lightning delays.
St. Frances, the No. 1 team in the state media poll, outscored its opponents (one forfeit), 434-18. The East Chase Street school will get its toughest challenge since late August in Lee County (15-0), which has won 21 straight decisions, and went wire-to-wire as the No. 1 team in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's 6A rankings this past fall.
The Trojans feature defensive linemen DeAngelo Carter, who committed to Minnesota and defensive backs Jammie Robinson (offers from Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame and Oklahoma) and Tavian Banks (offers from Iowa State, Maryland and Nebraska). Lee County defeated Northside Tuesday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlana for its second straight 6A crown.
St. Frances, which last played Nov. 11, has one of the nation's most talented rosters led by Alabama commit Shane Lee. Lee, the state's top senior recruit by Rivals.com, is rated the nation's No. 1 inside linebacker by ESPN.
Senior offensive linemen Darrian Dalcourt is also committed to the Crimson Tide, along with junior defensive end Chris Braswell. Braswell, Jordan Toles and Demon Clowney is rated among the nation's top 150 juniors.
"They (Lee County) provide a great challenge for our team, but this is the type of game you want to play in as a player or coach," said Russell, whose team has won 22 straight and 31 of 32 since 2016. "We will have to step our preparation up over the next week, especially after a layoff."