Big-play potential has long been part of Cambridge-South Dorchester High’s football tradition.
The tradition enjoyed a rich chapter in 2019, as running backs Khalik Beasley, Malik Ennals and Camren Lake, along with wide receiver Logan Middleton, made a habit of electrifying their fan base while helping the Vikings to a 10-3 season that included their first road playoff victory since 1999, and their first state semifinal berth since 2014.
Though that fab four has graduated, head coach Gaven Parker knows the next wave is ready to take its turn in a COVID-19-shortened season that is slated to kick off Friday when Cambridge-SD hosts Wicomico at Fleetwood Field at McWilliams Stadium at 6 p.m.
“We’re Cambridge,” Parker said. “We traditionally have a handful of athletes, and this year’s no different. We’ve got quite a few guys that we’re going to figure out how to include as much as possible; some guys who have been patient and waited for it to be their turn to be the main guy. I’m excited about what we have.”
And while that excitement could come from a variety of playmakers, the return of senior quarterback John Henry gives Parker not only another creator of big plays, but a sense of calm on the field.
“I think it makes a big difference when you talk about game management, when you talk about remaining calm as the ebb and flow of varsity Friday night happens,” Parker said of Henry, who threw three first-quarter touchdowns in a 48-14 rout of Fallston in the second round of the 2019 Class 1A playoffs. “John’s been there for two years now. He understands you might be losing, but you’re not out. You’re going to make big plays. You’re going to make mistakes. But you’ve just got to stay together and keep moving forward.”
Cambridge-SD certainly appears to have the talent for an 11th straight winning season, the last two coming on Parker’s watch.
Junior running back Dario Belizaire could be the Vikings’ next big-time game-breaker, and leads a running attack that includes seniors Tim Johnson and Donald Banks, and sophomore Nasiim Hawkins, any one of which could supply the big play on any snap.
“Dario Belizaire’s been on varsity since (he was) a freshman,” Parker said. “Now, he’s a junior. Now, he’s going to be the feature guy. It’s going to be his time to shine. He’s put in the time and energy, so I’m excited to see how he takes it and makes it his own.”
The Vikings look to have an offensive line that can again open lanes for the run game and offer Henry time to throw.
Senior Dwayne Batson (6-foot-4, 250) is at left tackle, while classmate Ira Nichols (6-4, 225) starts at right tackle. Sophomore center Logan Dukes (6-0, 200) will have sophomore guard Zachary Gorsuch (6-0, 200) on his left, and junior Kiambre Taylor (6-1, 250) on his right.
Senior Jay’zon Roberts and junior Jayden Jones hope to develop into the type of deep threat Middleton afforded the Vikings last season. Henry also has the option of passing to his younger brother, sophomore tight end Ryan Henry.
“Numbers are down, but I like the group of kids we have,” said Parker, who has 26 on varsity and 25 on junior varsity. “We’ve brought a lot of kids back from last year’s team. Missing a few of the horses, but (we have) a lot of kids who got a lot of playing time last year. Mix that in with a few sophomores who were chomping at the bit for an opportunity, and I like what we’ve got. We’ve got a hard-nosed group of kids who’ve been extremely flexible and who are just excited to play the game.”
The defense will transition after two years under defensive coordinator Al Waters, who was named head coach after Parker announced he was stepping down in February 2020, then left to become head coach at his alma mater Queen Anne’s in late May — a move that prompted Parker’s return as head coach.
Cambridge-SD has a talented cast for defensive coordinator Eric Otey to work with. Nichols, Batson and senior Darrien Gabriel (6-4, 250) are at the tackles. Kiambre starts at nose guard, though sophomore Jack Lindsay (5-9, 185) figures to see his share of action.
Banks and Dockins are at outside linebacker, while Belizaire and Fletcher handle the inside-backing chores. The secondary will have Johnson and Roberts at the corners, and Hawkins and Jones at safety.
“We’re replacing probably three starters on defense,” said Parker, one of which was linebacker Dillon Meekins, who transferred to Queen Anne’s. “So we’re pretty excited about what we’re able to do. Obviously changing over from what Al was doing and continuing to build on that success that we had last year, has been the focus.”