WORTON — So much time has elapsed since Kent County High’s last football game that you can throw momentum out the window when talking about the abbreviated season that kicks off Friday at 6:30 p.m.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the traditional 2020 seasons for high school fall sports in Maryland.
But after a lapse of 15 months, football is back.
Kent County opens at home against Colonel Richardson.
The Trojans have a new head coach in Brian Aikin, who expects to suit up only 15 players for the first game.
In addition to a small roster, Kent is young, relatively inexperienced and, according to Aikin, undersized.
Freshmen and sophomores will have an opportunity to play a lot.
“We don’t have many kids, but all the kids we have are excited. They’re good athletes and we’re going to allow them to use their athletic ability to make plays,” Aikin said during a Feb. 27 phone interview.
Assessing his team after two full weeks of practice, Aikin said, “I think we’re going to be competitive.”
Due to the truncated fall season that began with practices on Feb. 13 and ends with the final play date of April 17, the Trojans have a shortened schedule of seven games.
A Class 1A school, Kent plays home-and-away series with 1A opponents Colonel Richardson and Snow Hill, and has one game with perennial 1A power Cambridge-South Dorchester. The Trojans round out their all-Bayside Conference schedule against Queen Anne’s and Parkside, both 2A schools.
Due to concern over the spread of COVID-19, the conference has adopted a policy that prohibits all spectators from visiting teams.
Kent’s home games are on Fridays with a scheduled 6:30 p.m. kickoff.
While this is not the traditional season, Aikin echoed the sentiment of many when he said, “I’m glad they have an opportunity to play.”
Because of a small roster, the Trojans will play iron man football, with players playing on both sides of the ball.
The offense is led by senior Thomas Goldsborough, who is back as the starting quarterback for a third year.
In 2019’s nine-game regular season, Goldsborough completed 56% of his passes for 600 yards and six touchdowns and rushed for 146 yards and six touchdowns on 40 carries.
Aikin, who has been a coach at the youth and high school levels for many years, said he believes Division I Long Island University-bound Goldsborough is the best quarterback in the conference.
The Trojans’ primary running backs are senior Tylante Wilson and sophomore Brandon Cannon.
Wilson was the top rusher for the 4-6 Trojans of 2019, totaling 594 yards and seven touchdowns on 68 carries. He also caught four passes for 149 yards and two TDs.
He led the team in touchdowns (nine) and total yards (743).
Cannon was the MVP on the junior varsity last season.
Freshmen LaShawn Moody, Tahzir Hicks and Landon Wallace, sophomore Matt Wade and senior Jahlil Henry are the receivers in what Aikin said will be a mostly throwing offense. This is Wallace’s first year of playing organized football.
Senior Dylan Conner, another first-year football player, also could see time at wide receiver and running back. Athletic, eager and hardworking, Conner is what the coaching staff is calling a “Swiss Army knife,” useful and adaptable to a number of positions, including safety on defense.
Goldsborough will take snaps from freshman center Ryan Myers. Offensive linemen are sophomores Liam Hopkins and Will Goetz at guard and senior Brandon Myers and sophomore Ryan Miller at tackle.
Aikin said the Trojans will throw the ball 90% of the time. The plan is to go with an up-tempo, no-huddle offense that will allow them to take advantage of their speed.
Key players on defense are linebackers Cannon and Brandon Myers, Henry and Hicks in the secondary and the do-it-all Wilson, who finished with 53 tackles and two interceptions in 2019.
Sophomore Will Maier, on loan from the soccer team, will do most of the kicking.
Aikin is hoping to add to the roster after interim grades are posted next week.
He said takeaways from the first two weeks of practice are, “We’re undersized and there aren’t many kids, but all the kids that are here are excited.”
That last part, about being excited, goes for Aikin too.
“Not only to see the players from KC but all the players within the Bayside take the field of play. Just for them to have the opportunity is awesome,” Aikin wrote in a text message Saturday as a follow-up to the phone interview.
A realist, given the challenges of a small team in numbers and size, Aiken said in the text: “We want to compete, but games are played to be won or lost. We talk about getting better each practice, each play, each game. ... I want them to leave the field of play as better people.”
Aikin’s coaching staff includes Kent County football alumni Jamil Wright, Eddie Myers and Chas Willis and teachers Justin Jenkins, Brett King and Kyle Dimichele.
Aikin’s football rèsumè includes playing at Southern High School in Anne Arundel County and returning to his alma mater as an assistant coach from 2004-11.
He also has coached youth football in Queen Anne’s County for 13 years.
He just completed a second year as the varsity girls’ basketball coach at The Gunston School near Centreville.
Aikin estimated he has put in about 30 years as a coach — basketball, lacrosse and football — at the youth and high school levels. He has re-upped for another year of coaching youth lacrosse in Queen Anne’s.
Aikin has lived on the Eastern Shore for 15 years and currently lives in Queenstown. He is a supervisor with Verizon.