The Vikings may be brewing up a combination where the defense is in lockstep with their perennially potent offense.
Head coach Gaven Parker certainly thinks so.
Cambridge-South Dorchester High’s football team, which has seen its defense yield more than 250 points each of the last two seasons, and were soundly defeated in the opening round of the Class 1A East Region playoffs both times, will trot out a series of two-way players looking to make their mark on both sides of the ball.
Cambridge-SD, which finished 7-4 in 2018 and made the region playoffs for a remarkable 12th consecutive year, is armed with a strong returning cast looking to do some damage beginning Friday at Rising Sun.
“The Bayside (Conference) was kind of a little bit behind the rest of the state in acknowledging the nine-game season plus the playoffs was going to pass,” said Parker, entering his second year as head coach. “So, the 1As really took it on the chin. We lost a 2A game, which is what it is, but it caused us to scramble when everyone had their schedule set.
“We ended up picking up Rising Sun, which is two hours away from us,” Parker added. “It’s a 2A school we should match up well with, but anytime you travel two hours, you always set yourself up for some frustrations, and we have to be mentally tough in that aspect.”
The contest was hastily scheduled following the changing of the playoff format beginning this fall, where Week 10 is now the first round of the playoffs, featuring eight teams from each region in brackets.
After the second round of the playoffs, the remaining eight teams from the four regions will be reseeded to complete the knockout tourney.
“No one really knows what that’s going to look like,” Parker said. “The biggest thing is, you used to be able to kind of know how many points you needed ... you kind of judged where you were going to be. No one really knows what this format is going to produce, so that’s kind of interesting going into the year, going into every week, not really knowing how things are going to unwind.
“It’s going to pose a challenge,” Parker added. “The re-seeding in the quarterfinals is going to pose a challenge.”
Back under center is 6-foot-3 junior John Henry, who split reps with Jaquan Farrare in 2018. Henry will be backed up by Kanye Pinder (So.), who will be making his varsity debut after playing as the junior varsity QB his freshman year.
A five-pronged rushing attack will include senior Khalik Beasley, who racked up 1,213 yards on 103 carries in only eight games in 2018, and scored 15 touchdowns. Malik Ennals (Sr., RB), Dario Belizaire (So., RB), Camren Lake (Sr., FB) and Donald Banks (Jr., FB) will also see action in the backfield.
Logan Middleton (Sr.) and Odell Hudson (Jr.) will be split out wide, while Ricky Donaldson (Sr.) is the lone starting tight end. The offensive line, left to right, is slated to be Dwyane Batson (Jr., LT), Noah Presley (Sr., LG), Ray Johnson (Sr., C), Avery Nichols (Sr., RG) and Ira Nichols (Jr., RT).
“I think we have a five-headed monster with running backs,” Parker said. “I think they are all pretty good. I think our receivers are some of the best in the Bayside (Conference), and I think our quarterback has progressed nicely.
“The expectation is to have a pretty good year on offense,” Parker added.
On the much-anticipated defensive side of things, junior Jay’zon Roberts (DB), Beasley (FS), Lake (SS) and Tim Johnson (Jr., DB) patrol the secondary. On the 3-4 front deployed by second-year defensive coordinator Al Waters, Ennals (OLB), Banks (OLB), Belizaire (ILB) and Dylan Meekins (Sr., ILB) will be among the linebacker corps.
Up front, Batson (DT) and Presley (DT) flank Avery Nichols (NG), but Parker said all five offensive linemen plus junior Darien Gabriel will see playing time on the defensive line in an effort to keep the trench warriors rested.
“The team has taken to his concept and scheme,” Parker said of Waters. “I’m excited about what’s showing up on the field, so hopefully we can produce some things come this Friday and every Friday from here on out until the middle of December.
“I think when you look at our team, Khalik Beasley is our biggest home run hitter, but I think defensively, we have two, sophomore inside linebackers and them having another year in the system, we’re really going to see some big dividends.
“Our secondary is a year older, our line is another year in the system, as well, and I think, defensively, is where you’re going to see our biggest gains this year, as a team,” Parker added.
Sophomore James Frazier will handle kicking duties, while Ennals will be punting. All of it has Parker thinking beyond just making the playoffs; only twice during the 12-year playoff run did Cambridge-SD advance past the region playoffs, though it did win single postseason games in four other seasons.
“I think the expectations are pretty high,” Parker said. “We’ve won the 1A Bayside every year now since 2007, and we haven’t lost a regular-season, 1A Bayside game, and the goal is to finish in the playoffs.
“Last year, we had a decent season,” Parker added. “We had a tough schedule, but a decent season, and couldn’t get it done against Perryville in the first round. They came to our place and kind of gave it to us, physically and schematically.
“We had to really refocus this offseason, and make sure we finish everything that we do,” Parker continued.