A historic first meeting between Western Maryland and Salisbury State will spice up the 1997 state collegiate football season that has three of the five Division II and III schools searching for some offense to go along with strong defenses.
The Green Terror and Sea Gulls will meet Nov. 1 at Western Maryland in a clash that gives each school two games against state rivals.
Salisbury State will visit Frostburg State on Sept. 27, at Salisbury, and Western Maryland entertains Johns Hopkins on Nov. 15.
Hopkins, Salisbury and Bowie State will all live on defense and can only hope their offenses can find some punch.
Frostburg State and Western Maryland know they have a lot of options on offense and both teams have outstanding defenses.
Here's a closer look at the five schools:
Outlook: Salisbury will have its fifth new quarterback in five years, with Towson High grad and C.W. Post transfer Tim Burke, a junior, winning the battle over freshman Matt Main from Middletown High for the starting job.
Burke and Main were the finalists from an array of seven QBs who came to preseason camp for a team that skidded to 4-5 last season, thanks to numerous injuries. The Sea Gulls were 7-3 in 1995 and open the 1997 season today on the road against a strong Ursinus team.
Junior wide receiver Brian Doyle, a product of Anne Arundel County's Chesapeake High, will be the top target for Burke. Doyle caught 14 passes for 283 yards and four touchdowns last season. He also returned punts for an average of 14.9 yards which ranked him eighth in the nation in Division III.
Joe Rotellini begins his eighth season as Salisbury coach and is hoping senior running back Mac James (5 feet 4, 169 pounds) can return to his sophomore form (347 yards, five touchdowns) after a junior year that was limited to three games and 20 carries for 79 yards because of an appendicitis attack.
Senior kicking specialist George Mayer, an Archbishop Curley grad, has made 39 of 42 career extra points and 17 of 27 field-goal attempts.
An experienced Salisbury defense will be led by fifth-year senior free safety Travis Royall, senior defensive tackle Mike Brouthers, junior transfer Scott MacRobbie and freshmen Khalid Attie (DE) and Mitchell McCraw (LB) from Mount St. Joe in Baltimore.
Outlook: Hopkins returns five starters from a unit that was ranked No. 13 in both total defense and scoring defense among Division III schools last year. The Blue Jays allowed 236.3 yards a game and 10.6 points.
Hopkins also was ranked 10th in pass defense, allowing 79.9 yards a game.
The five starting defensive returnees are senior linebackers Mike Albert, Carl Cangelosi and Greg Degl, junior end Larry Gulotta and senior corner back Barclay Surrick.
The Blue Jays, who open their season Sept. 13 at home against Washington and Lee, are coming off a 7-3 season and finished third in the Centennial Conference at 5-2. They are picked to finish third again this year in the Centennial.
Senior kicker Todd Bencivenni is a preseason Division III All-America selection by Football Gazette, coming off a season in which he hit 16 of 17 extra points and 12 of 18 field-goal attempts.
Senior tailback Don Cajick will be counted on to help Hopkins control the ball. He was fourth in rushing in the Centennial last year, averaging 84.2 yards a game for coach Jim Margraff, who is in his eighth season at Hopkins.
Outlook: Bowie State was ranked 17th nationally in pass defense last season in Division II and has nine starters back from that unit.
Four of those returning defensive standouts are junior free safety Ray Cannon, junior linebacker Lorenzo Carter, senior defensive end Cory Walker and senior linebacker-strong safety Jamel Blagmon.
The Bowie defense also will be helped by the addition of senior defensive tackle Nate Somerville (6-4, 280). He was an offensive tackle last season.
Bowie lost three games by a total of 12 points last season and finished 3-7 overall and 2-6 in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association under coach Sherman Wood, who starting his fifth season at the school.
Bowie also lost three offensive starters to injuries before the season last year but all received medical hardships and return this season. They are 6-3, 250-pound senior tight end Alex Harris; 6-3, 300-pound junior guard Alphonso Murray, and senior center-guard Lee Davis.
Another top offensive lineman is junior tackle Sandee McDonald (6-3, 280).
Bowie, which opens the season today at home against Livingstone (N.C.) College, will be looking to senior wide receiver Stacy Plater and junior running back Ryan Pigford to produce. Plater caught 23 passes for 413 yards and two touchdowns last season and he also returned 18 kickoffs for 418 yards.
Sophomore Carlos Winokuroff will start at quarterback and is being challenged by junior Jimmy Whitehead.
Top newcomers for Bowie are 6-2, 240-pound junior tight end Damon Wilson, a transfer from Howard, and freshman guard Kenny Edwards (6-0, 260) of DeMatha.