BOWIE — — Eight local schools will participate in the second annual I-95 Kickoff Classic, a 16-team football showcase featuring the best teams from Maryland, Virginia and Washington to be played Sept. 1-3.
The field of participants doubled this season, with eight public schools and a charter school added after last year's edition featured eight private schools.
"[Getting public schools] was a big priority," Tony Kennedy, president of Kickoff Classic organizer Extra Point Productions said at a news conference Wednesday morning. "If you're going to be truly inclusive, you need to make sure you take care of your public schools."
2010 Division 1 Baltimore City champion Patterson — who along with Dunbar and Franklin will represent the area's public schools — will face Archbishop Curley on Sept. 3, the first of four Saturday games at Morgan State.
"It's huge for us," Patterson coach Corey Johnson said. "Typically in the city league, we get exposure playing Dunbar, Poly, and City, but this has taken it to a state and national level. It's also good for our program. We want to help our kids and get them exposure."
Aside from being the lone public vs. private school matchup, Johnson said it could also be the first chance for fans to see Patterson basketball star Aquille Carr on the gridiron. Johnson said The Baltimore Sun's 2011 boys basketball Player of the Year has expressed interest in playing high school football for the first time this fall.
"People will be excited to see what he's going to bring to the table," Johnson said. "He'll probably play a little slot-back for me, get him out catching some balls, trying to get him in some one-and-one situations. He's just so dynamic and so fast, so that'll be exciting."
This year's Kickoff Classic also features a rematch of last year's marquee game, with Loyola looking to avenge its 45-31 loss to powerhouse DeMatha. Loyola coach Brian Abbott is looking forward to the rematch.
"It's just a great opportunity to play great talent and a well coached team, matching up against a bunch of [Division I] football players," Abbott said. "The boys can learn a lot."
In another marquee matchup, Gilman will play Oscar Smith of Virginia Beach on Sept. 2 at Morgan State. Winners of three of the past five MIAA championships, the Greyhounds' season opener will be against an Oscar Smith squad that has lost just two regular-season games in the past seven years.
Calvert Hall, last season's MIAA A Conference champion and Maryland's top-ranked team, will square off with St. John's (D.C.) in the second half of the Thursday double-header at Bowie State. Mount St. Joseph will play Friendship Collegiate (D.C.) in Thursday's first game.
In other matchups, Franklin will play 4A runner-up Wise of Prince George's County on Friday at Morgan State. The second half of Saturday's slate includes Class 4A champion Urbana playing Southern Maryland Athletic Conference power Westlake, and Dunbar of Baltimore facing Dunbar of Washington.
Kennedy said that while the area doesn't get as much credit as other football hotbeds, the Baltimore-Washington corridor is a strong football area. Come August, he sees the Kickoff Classic as a natural fill-in should there not be professional football.
"If the NFL doesn't play, don't worry," he said. "We've got entertainment for you."
Date, Game, Location, Time
Sept. 1, Mount St. Joseph vs. Friendship Collegiate (D.C.), Bowie State,5 p.m.
Sept. 1, Calvert Hall vs. St. John's (D.C.), Bowie State, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 2, Franklin vs. Wise, Morgan State, 5 p.m.
Sept. 2, Gilman vs. Oscar Smith (Va.), Morgan State, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 3, Patterson vs. Archbishop Curley, Morgan State, 10:45 a.m.
Sept. 3, Loyola vs. DeMatha, Morgan State, 1:45 p.m.
Sept. 3, Urbana vs. Westlake, 4:45 p.m.
Sept. 3, Dunbar vs. Dunbar (D.C.), 7:45 p.m.