“I will utilize that opportunity right up to the last letter of the rule,” Swigart said.
“For me, it will definitely be a benefit because I have the manpower in place to take advantage of new technology. For other teams with not as much resources, this could put them at a disadvantage.”
— Jacqueline Kantor
Thanks to a Maryland rule change this year, schools can play teams outside their classifications — a decision that sets up some interesting matchups that may sharpen the lines that separate 4A schools from smaller programs. Few schools scheduled such matchups in the rule’s debut season; large 4A schools often want to use nonleague games to strengthen their schedules with powerhouses from outside the region, and smaller schools could be risking player safety given the numbers disparity among the levels.
But in Prince George’s County, where 1A and 2A schools often feature just as many potential blue chip recruits as their larger foes, the change will let smaller, talent-heavy schools in the 3A/2A/1A division see how they stack up on the county’s biggest football stages.
Gwynn Park (2A), which tied for first in its league with a 10-2 record, will open Sept. 7 against 4A contender Eleanor Roosevelt, which went 6-3 in conference action in 2012. Potomac (3A) and Tennessee-bound linebacker Jerome Dews will get a shot at perennial 4A powerhouse Suitland and highly recruited WR/DB Nick Nelson on the same day.
Surrattsville of 1A, which went 3-5 in league last season, gets its shot against 4A Laurel, a team looking to bounce back from a 1-9 season in 2012. Largo, a 3A up-and-comer, will play Bladensburg (4A ), which went 3-6 in league last year.
The new-look schedules also create never-before-seen matchups of natural rivals. Class 2A state finalist Douglass will take on 4A state champions Wise in a highly anticipated, previously impossible battle of the two Upper Marlboro schools that draw players from bordering districts.
“We’d relish the opportunity [to play a bigger school],” Forestville Coach Charles Harley said. “I’m the second-longest tenured coach in P.G. County, and I can tell you 4A vs. 3A/2A/1A is a lot more competitive than people think. We just don’t get the opportunity to play.”
“It’s something new, and anytime there's something different, it’s interesting,” Wise Coach DaLawn Parrish said, though he was sure to add that his Pumas will approach the game no differently than any other.
Without the rule change, Wise likely would have headed out of the region for its opener, using its state title clout to set up a date with a prominent out-of-state foe. Douglass, on the other hand, likely will be eager to prove itself. Either way, interclass matchups such as that one will give Prince George’s County football fans a chance to see just how much size matters in their talent-rich county.