Growing from five games to eight, the I-95 Kickoff Classic is sure to be bigger than ever in its second year, taking to the stadiums of Bowie State and Morgan State universities while showcasing the area’s elite football programs before Labor Day.

“We will probably, based upon the schools, have the number one classic in the country,” said Tony Kennedy, President of Extra Point Promotions.  “The only reason we won’t be number one is that we aren’t on ESPN.”

Returning from the 2010 Kickoff at Unitas Stadium on the campus of Towson University, the MIAA’s Calvert Hall College, Loyola Blakefield, Gilman School and Mount St. Joseph will be headlining games at the two Baltimore-area colleges, while Archbishop Curley joins the event in its second year.

In addition to the MIAA schools, 2010 Class 1A state champ Dunbar, 3A state finalist Franklin, Baltimore City league Division I co-champ Patterson  and 4A state Champion Urbana from Frederick County will grace the Morgan State field.

“Look at how diverse we are this year,” Kennedy said. “We have eight public schools, seven private schools and one charter. It doesn’t get much more diverse than that, folks.”

The Classic is set to begin Thurs. Sept. 1 with Mount St. Joseph coach Blake Henry looking to lead the Gaels to another season opening victory, taking on Friendship Collegiate Academy from the District at 5 p.m. at Bowie State.

“It is a big honor,” said Henry. “This is the biggest classic in the state of Maryland, and we are really excited to be a part of it and play at Bowie State.”

Henry took to the field in the 2010 Classic in his debut for Mount St. Joe, and led the Gaels to a 29-6 win over Bishop McNamara at Unitas Stadium.

“It gives them a lot of extra motivation,” Henry said of a I-95 Classic win. “Our guys work hard all winter spring and summer, and we get to reward them by playing a quality team like Friendship Collegiate, in a special, unique game like The Classic.”

Defending MIAA A champ Calvert Hall against the St. John’s (D.C.), in the renewal of their rivalry. Last year, Calvert Hall ended a six-game losing streak with a 24-7 season-opening win at Russo Stadium. 

The Cardinals followed with a thrilling 26-20 triple overtime victory over Spalding in the second game of the Kickoff Classic at Unitas Stadium. The Towson school went on to a 11-1 campaign and the No. 1 ranking in VSN’s Top 20.

This year’s Calvert Hall/St. John’s battle will take place under the lights of Bowie State, the first night high school game to be played at Bulldog Stadium.

Franklin will take its place in the three-day footballfest Sept. 2, as The Classic moves to Morgan State’s Hughes Stadium. The Indians from Baltimore County will matchup with Prince George’s Henry A. Wise at 5 p.m., followed by Gilman against Virginia’s Oscar Smith at 7:30 p.m.

Franklin lost to Wilde Lake in the 3A title game at M&T Bank Stadium. It was the school’s first state title game appearance since 1978.

“We feel honored,” Franklin coach Anthony Burgos said. “We talked after the season last year and thought this would be a good venue to get our kids out on a big stage.”

Wise, coached by former Howard High and Wake Forest standout DaLawn Parrish, has reached the Class 4A state finals the past two seasons. 

Oscar Smith enters the game as a seven-year Southeastern District Champion, having only lost two regular-season games in their championship run, while Gilman holds six MIAA titles in the past decade, and a 28-7 destruction of Good Counsel in the 2010 Classic.

An all-Baltimore game begins the third and final day of football, pairing Patterson and Archbishop Curley in the event’s only morning game at 10:45 a.m., Saturday, making way for a 1:45 p.m. Loyola vs. DeMatha direct rematch from the 2010 Classic.

A youthful Loyola Dons’ squad went toe-to-toe with DeMatha in 2010, losing to the 2010 WCAC Finalist in a 45-31 game, and will undoubtedly look to improve with another year under their belts.

Urbana and Dunbar finish-out the three fays of football with back-to-back games, Saturday night, as Urbana takes on Westlake from southern Maryland at 4:45 p.m., and Dunbar takes on the Dunbar of Washington, D.C. at 7:45 p.m.

With the field set, Kennedy feels that the 2011 I-95 Kickoff Classic is going to be even better than the 2010 version, ranked as the third best in the country by MaxPreps last year. Kennedy feels the exposure from this event can help a number of student-athletes.

“Two top 50 players in the country are playing in The Classic, but people say we aren’t a football area,” Kennedy started.  “Well I beg to differ.  We are a football area, and the coaches and the administrators will get the credit that they deserve.

“That is the only difference between Florida, Georgia and us. Exposure. They get all the credit and all the exposure, but in the end it is all about the number of kids you send to school, not the championships you build.”

2011 Kickoff Classic Schedule

Thursday, Sept. 1 (at Bowie State)

Mount. St. Joseph vs. Friendship Collegiate (D.C.), 5 p.m.
Calvert Hall College vs. St. John’s (D.C.), 7:30 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 2 (at Morgan State)

Franklin vs. Wise, 5 p.m.
Oscar Smith (VA) vs. Gilman School, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 3 (at Morgan State)
Patterson vs. Archbishop Curley, 10:45 a.m.
Loyola Blakefield vs. DeMatha Catholic, 1:45 p.m.
Urbana vs. Westlake, 4:45 p.m.
Dunbar vs. Dunbar (D.C.), 7:45 p.m.