St. Frances tops VSN’s Football Preseason Top 20


by Derek Toney

After a disjointed 2020 campaign due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 fall football season has set sail, with hopefully, no major interruptions.

When the final VSN Top 20 was released in 2019, St. Frances Academy completed another wire-to-wire run. The nationally-ranked Panthers are again No. 1 in the 2021 preseason poll.

The East Baltimore school, which dropped its season opener last weekend in Florida, will again play an independent schedule.

McDonogh School, Archbishop Spalding, Mount St. Joseph and Franklin follows St. Frances in the Top 5. The Cavaliers and Eagles will try to dethrone St. Joe in the MIAA A Conference.

Franklin, which plays St. Frances next weekend after an opening week showdown with rival Milford Mill Academy, is the favorite in the Baltimore County league’s Division I. Dundalk could be the Indians’ biggest threat while Milford Mill has the edge in Division II.

Dunbar and Mervo are head of the class in Baltimore City. Broadneck, looking to challenge for the Class 4A state title, is the favorite in Anne Arundel County.

River Hill gets the nod in what should be a tight Howard County race with Glenelg, Howard, Long Reach and Atholton. South Carroll and Westminster should vie for top honors in the Carroll County Athletic League.

Elkton, coming off a Class 2A state semifinal appearance in 2019, is the best team in the UCBAC. After leaving the MIAA A a few years ago to play an independent schedule, Loyola returns to the MIAA, but in the B Conference.

With 2019 B champ St. Vincent Pallotti off the A, the Dons have the early nod to win the league. Concordia Prep, Boys’ Latin School, John Carroll and Archbishop Curley will have a say.

Below is the complete VSN Football Top 20 as well as capsule on each team, including players to watch.

John Griffith, a Bowling Green University commit, returns for a fourth year as St. Frances starting quarterback. The Panthers are No. 1 in VSN’s Football Preseason Top 20.


1. ST. FRANCES ACADEMY

2021 Spring record: 0-2

Coach: Messay Hailemariam

Players to watch: Jaishawn Barham, Sr., Linebacker, 6-foot-3, 230 pounds; John Griffith, Sr., Quarterback, 6-1, 215; Cam Johnson, Sr., Cornerback, 6-0, 165; Derrick Moore, Sr., Defensive line, 6-4, 260; Nasir Pearce, Sr., Defensive line, 6-3, 275

Quick snap: The Panthers (0-1), who lost to Florida’s St. Aquinas last Saturday, have another lineup filled with Division I prospects as Messay Hailemariam is back on the sidelines after the departure of co-coaches Biff Poggi (assistant at Michigan) and Henry Russell.


2. MCDONOGH SCHOOL

2020 record: Did not play

Coach: Hakeem Sule

Players to watch: Johnny Cool, Sr., Wide receiver, 5-11, 185; Dani Dennis-Sutton, Sr., Defensive line, 6-5, 260; Stephen Egbe, Sr., Running back/Linebacker, 6-2, 210; Preston Howard, Sr., Wide receiver/Quarterback, 6-5, 225; Malachi Jones, Sr., Defensive back, 5-10, 180; Kaden Martin, Sr., Quarterback, 6-1, 210; Niles Riding, Sr., Defensive back, 5-11, 185; Antonio Tripp, Jr., Offensive line, 6-3, 295; Quan Williams, Sr., Offensive line, 6-2, 290

Quick snap: The Eagles are determined to erase the memory of 2019 MIAA A final loss with Penn State commit Dennis-Sutton, the area’s top senior recruit, Howard (committed to Maryland) and newcomer Martin, son of former Tennessee star quarterback and Ravens assistant coach Tee Martin.


3. ARCHBISHOP SPALDING

2020 record: 2-0

Coach: Kyle Schmitt

Players to watch: Brian Baucia, Sr., Offensive line, 6-2, 280; Mansoor Delane, Sr., Defensive back, 6-0, 180; Lavain Scruggs, Sr., Safety, 6-2, 200; Kellan Wyatt, Sr., Linebacker, 6-2, 225

Quick snap: With 15 starters, including Division I commits Delane (Virginia Tech) and Maryland pledges Scruggs and Wyatt, Cavaliers (1-0; defeated New Jersey’s St. Augustine Prep last weekend) are in position to capture elusive first MIAA A championship.


4. MOUNT ST. JOSEPH

2020 record: 1-0

Coach: Dom Damico

Players to watch: Bryan Cox, Jr., Running back/Strong safety, 5-10, 190; Tre Goodridge, Jr., Wide receiver, 5-9, 170; Dom Kibby, Sr., Wide receiver, 6-1, 180; Connor Roman, Sr., Linebacker, 5-11, 200; Stephen Schulze, Sr., Offensive/Defensive line, 6-2, 260; Spencer Toth, Sr., Defensive line, 6-3, 240

Quick snap: The tough-minded Gaels (1-0), who defeated St. Mary’s Ryken in opener last weekend, will not relinquish MIAA A crown without a fight.


5. FRANKLIN

2021 Spring record: 5-0

Coach: Anthony Burgos

Players to watch: Quentin Demery, Sr., Quarterback, 6-0, 185; Brice Ellison, Jr., Offensive Line, 6-4, 310; Justin Duru, Sr., Linebacker, 6-0, 205; Rodney Nelson, Sr., Running back, 5-8, 180; Mekhi Workman, Jr., Wide receiver/Defensive back, 5-10, 170

Quick snap: The Indians set to remain on their perch in Baltimore County and make another run at Class 3A state championship.


6. BROADNECK

2021 Spring record: 4-0

Coach: Rob Harris

Players to watch: Dom Downs, Sr., Linebacker, 6-3, 220; Josh Ehrlich, Sr., Quarterback, 6-0, 185; Thomas Endal, Sr., Linebacker, 6-0, 190; Brody Friedman, Sr., Defensive back, 6-1, 190; Jayden Joyce, Sr., Offensive line, 6-4, 285; Kyle Pierce, Sr., Wide receiver, 5-10, 180; J’Marion Simms, Sr., Offensive line, 6-1, 320; Ayden Wheyless, Sr., Offensive line, 6-4, 285; Davion White, Sr., Running back, 6-0, 195

Quick snap: The Bruins are the team to beat in Anne Arundel County and ready to challenge for the 4A state crown.


7. CALVERT HALL COLLEGE

202o record: 0-2

Coach: Josh Ward

Players to watch: Noah Brannock, Jr., Quarterback, 6-0, 195; Matt Conroy, Sr., Linebacker, 6-0, 215; Michael Nwosu, Sr. Offensive line, 6-3, 285; Daniel Owens, Sr., Tight end/Defensive end, 6-3, 255; KP Price, Jr., Defensive back, 6-2, 175

Quick snap: The Cardinals (1-0; defeated John Carroll School last weekend) will be a tough out in MIAA A with young and talented roster.


8. MERVO

2020 record: Did not play

Coach: Patrick Nixon

Players to watch: Derrick Dunn, Sr., Quarterback, 6-3, 225; Connor Hawkins, Sr., Quarterback, 5-9, 175; Kylish Hicks, Sr., Wide receiver/Defensive back, 6-0, 190; Kyle Nelson, Sr., Running back, 6-0, 200

Quick snap: Mustangs look to defend Baltimore City Division I title and make deep run in 3A state postseason.


9. ST. VINCENT PALLOTTI

2020 record: 2-1

Coach: Tony Ashley

Players to watch: Marquise Alsup, Sr., Safety, 6-1, 205; Clay Bulluck, Sr., Running back, 5-11, 200; Cameron Gardner-Young, Sr., Defensive line, 6-2, 260; Braxton Harsley, Sr., Defensive line, 6-0, 205; Kenneth Prince, Sr., Quarterback, 5-10, 170; Lavell Scipio, Sr., Offensive line, 6-3, 320; Nate Stewart, Jr., Wide receiver, 6-5, 195; Robert Thornburg, Sr., Offensive line, 6-2, 275; Daniel Wingate, Jr., Linebacker, 6-3, 210

Quick snap: MIAA A newcomer Pallotti hopes to make statement in first season in area’s toughest league.


10. DUNBAR

2020 record: Did not play

Coach: Lawrence Smith

Players to watch: Donte Lee, Sr., Wide receiver, 6-3, 195; Devin Roche, Jr., Athlete, 5-9, 180

Quick snap: The Poets, with arguably the City league’s best in player Roche (scholarship offer from Maryland), are out to regain Baltimore City Division I and state 1A championships.


11. MILFORD MILL ACADEMY

2021 Spring record: 5-0

Coach: Reggie White

Players to watch: Kamari Banks, Sr., Offensive/Defensive line, 6-3, 260; Shemar Brooks, Sr., Wide receiver/Strong safety, 6-2, 180; Rashard Hening, Jr., Offensive/Defensive line, 6-2, 265; Tasheen Howard, Sr., Quarterback/Free safety, 5-11, 170; Andrew Rhuebottom, Sr., Tight end/Linebacker, 6-3, 220; Daniel Ufua, Sr., Defensive end, 6-2, 210

Quick snap: After strong spring showing, Millers look to follow in fall with first state championship since 1987.


12. OLD MILL PATRIOTS

2021 Spring record: 2-1

Coach: Mike Pfisterer

Players to watch: Jackson Cohenour, Sr., Linebacker/Fullback, 5-11, 165; Donte Craggette-Drake, Sr., Defensive back/Wide receiver, 5-11, 165; Will Ennis, Sr., Defensive back/Wide receiver; 6-0, 180; Myles Fulton, Sr., Quarterback, 6-4, 200; Aswin Johnson, Jr., Offensive/Defensive line, 5-10, 250; Garrett Perotta, Sr., Linebacker/Fullback, 6-0, 195; Trent Radford, Sr., Kicker/Punter, 6-3, 230; Connor Rickard, Sr., Offensive line, 6-4, 325;  Zachary Starliper, Sr., Free safety, 5-11, 165; Timothy Tripplett, Sr., Defensive back/Wide receiver, 5-7, 150

Quick snap: Patriots should be in title hunt in Anne Arundel County as longtime assistant and former North County star Pfisterer has the reigns in Millersville.


13. DUNDALK

2021 Spring record: 3-1

Coach: Matt Banta

Players to watch: Kevaun Briscoe, Sr., Linebacker, 5-9, 225; Antonio Brown, Sr., Wide receiver/Defensive back, 5-9, 185; Jordan Fiorenza, Jr., Running back, 5-9, 210; Dalan Johnson, Sr., Offensive/Defensive line, 6-0, 285; Marcus Nicholson, Sr., Wide receiver/Safety, 6-1, 170; Chimdi Onoh, Jr., Offensive line, 6-6, 265; Abdullah Sargent, Sr., Running back/Linebacker, 5-11, 185; Calvin Stokes, Sr., Quarterback/Defensive back, 6-0, 170; Kamare Watson, Sr., Tight end/Linebacker, 6-0, 210

Quick snap: The Owls, with 17 returning starters, ready to challenge Franklin in Baltimore County Division I.


14. RIVER HILL

2021 Spring record: 5-0

Coach: Brian Van Deusen

Players to watch: Karl Birzak, Sr., Offensive/Defensive line, 6-2, 210; Daniel Fahmy, Sr., Running back/Linebacker, 5-10, 190; Devron Johnson, Sr., Running back/Defensive back, 6-0, 170

Quick snap: The Hawks get nod in what should be a close Howard County race this fall.


15. LOYOLA BLAKEFIELD

2020 record: 1-1

Coach: Anthony Zehyoue

Players to watch: Jayden Moore, So., Quarterback/Wide receiver, 5-10, 170; Anto Saka, Sr., Linebacker, 6-3, 230

Quick snap: The Dons return to MIAA, hoping to challenge for B crown and resume storied Thanksgiving Day rivalry with Calvert Hall.


16. GLENELG

2021 Spring record: 1-0

Coach: Tim Cullen

Players to watch: Dominic Magnolia, Sr., Offensive/Defensive line, 6-2, 230; John Masterman, Sr., Tight end, 6-0, 190; Bisi Owens, Sr., Quarterback/Free safety, 6-5, 210; Michael Robbins, Sr., Tight end/Defensive line, 6-3, 215; Ethan Sotka, Jr., Running back, 5-9, 175;

Quick snap: Owens, younger of brother of 2018 VSN Offensive Player of the Year Wande Owens (Yale) primed to take off as Glenelg looks to challenge in Howard County.


17. ARUNDEL

2021 Spring record: 2-2

Coach: Jack Walsh

Players to watch: Dejuan Bowdry, Jr., Wide receiver, 5-foot-9, 170 pounds; Chris Downs, Jr., Wide receiver, 6-0, 170; Hunter Green, Sr., Linebacker, 5-11, 220; Clint Mills, Sr., Wide receiver, 5-9, 170; Abraham Olugbemi, Jr., Defensive line, 6-0, 285; Ahmad Taylor, Jr., Running back, 5-7, 180; Azier Tention, Jr., Safety; 6-1, 190; John Tonrey, Sr., Linebacker, 6-1, 205

Quick snap: Wildcats should again pose problems in Anne Arundel County.


18. LONG REACH

2021 Spring record: 1-1

Coach: Jamie Willis

Players to watch: Alexander Coffey, Sr., Quarterback, 6-1, 175; Conner Perrigan, Sr., Defensive end, 6-1, 180; Michael Reid, Jr., Linebacker, 6-1, 170; Daniel Ribalta, Jr., Athlete, 5-10, 195; Divine Rice, Sr., Wide receiver, 5-7, 140; Julius Saunders, Sr., Running back, 5-9, 195; Alexander Willis, Jr., Offensive line, 6-6, 335

Quick snap: Lightning has potential for title breakthrough in Howard County, led by Baltimore Touchdown Club Super 22 pick Saunders.


19. ELKTON

2020 record: Did not play

Coach: Matt Feeney

Players to watch: Ian Brown, Sr., Running back/Linebacker; 6-1, 230; Ayden Mears, Jr., Offensive line, 6-2, 260; Douglas McGonigle, Sr., Wide receiver, 6-0, 170; Jayden Triplett, Sr, Quarterback, 6-0, 195

Quick snap: The Elks ready to defend UCBAC Chesapeake title and erase memory of heartbreaking 2A state semifinal loss of 2019.


20. SOUTH CARROLL 

2021 Spring record: 4-2

Coach: Mike Kraus

Players to watch: Ryan Barnard, Sr., Quarterback/Free Safety; 6-3, 210; Jacob Bisser, Sr., Offensive/Defensive linemen, 5-10, 245; Nate Boore, Jr., Running back/Linebacker, 6-0, 180; Gage Duncan, Sr., Wide receiver/Defensive back, 6-0, 170; Logan Miller, Sr., Wide receiver/Defensive back, 5-11, 190; Sean Patrick, Sr., Offensive/Defensive line, 6-4, 235; Jacob Shaw, Sr., Running back/Linebacker, 5-11, 190; Jackson Strzelczyk, Jr., Wide receiver/Defensive back, 5-10, 145; Noah Strzelczyk, Sr., Wide receiver/Linebacker, 6-0, 185

Quick snap: Led by Baltimore Touchdown Club 22 selections Barnard and Patrick, Cavaliers will challenge for Carroll County Athletic League crown.