Elite to play in Crab Bowl
There's a line in the movie "Top Gun" where one of the instructors, Viper, tells his incoming class, "You are the top one percent of all naval aviators. The elite, best of the best. We'll make you better."
Tuscarora High's Dominic Clarke has fought his way into that exclusive percentile. Verbally committed to Ohio State, the Titans' standout regards his selection for Saturday afternoon's inaugural Maryland Crab Bowl at Towson University's Johnny Unitas Stadium, as both an honor as well as an opening to get a jump on his collegiate preparations.
"I'm very honored that I get the chance to play in this game, with the best recruits in Maryland," said Clarke of the inaugural contest, which is set to kick off at 1 p.m.
Clarke hasn't donned shoulder pads in over a month. His last venture onto the gridiron ended in heartbreak as Tuscarora fell in overtime to Urbana 3-0 on a rain soaked afternoon in late November. He stood solemnly on the sidelines, nearly speechless accepting the melancholy notion that not only his season, but his Titans' career had reached its conclusion.
The words came easy for a decidedly more upbeat Clarke on Tuesday. He accompanied dozens of the state's premier scholastic pigskiners, as they descended on the University of Maryland's Gossett Football Team House for the Crab Bowl media's day. Although the lone future Buckeye, he did take the opportunity to kick off some friendly trash talking with fellow Big Ten recruits.
"All of these guys are top guys," Clarke said. "It's going to be harder than any game we played in during the regular season. Instead of having a couple of good players, everyone's good."
Titans' teammate Jakarie Jackson, a wide receiver-defensive back who's considering James Madison, Richmond, Delaware, Temple, Towson and Eastern Michigan joins Clarke on the Baltimore squad. Thomas Johnson wide receiver-cornerback D.J. Scott (Central Michigan), Linganore linebacker Canaan Metz (undecided), Urbana offensive-defensive tackle Lex Utt (Harvard, Princeton, Penn, Bucknell, William & Mary, Richmond , Syracuse) and Maryland School for the Deaf's Ryan Bonheyo (Towson) all earned a slot on the Charm City roster. Bonheyo will not play due to injury.
Frederick head coach Vince Ahearn has been named as an assistant on the Baltimore team. An old hand when it comes to all star games, he participated in many as a coach as well as administrator.
"It's a great opportunity for our state," Ahearn said. "I've been associated with many different all star games. It's about the experience and relationships you built in a short amount of time."
A Classic in the making?
The first paragraph on the official "Maryland Crab Bowl" Web site suitably sums up Saturday's inaugural event: "Chuck Harmon and his partner Sean O'Connor decided they were going to bring a state football all-star game back to the state of Maryland."
They picked the perfect year to do it. For the first time since 2004, when Maryland's top football talent competed against Virginia's in the now-defunct Super 44 All-Star Game, every area of the state will be represented in one game. But the first Crab Bowl will be different from any game the state has seen, dating back to the early 1980s and the Big 33 Football Classic against Pennsylvania.
Quite simply, the state has never been so rich in talent. Not even close.
"I looked Sean and said, If we're going to do it, we need to do it this year," said Harmon, who has been a player, broadcaster, scout and coach in the state for over 25 years. "Never have we seen anything like this; this is the most talent we've had by far. We've had maybe 25 kids go Division I before, but this year, we're looking at close to 60. Every kid on this roster will play college football."
The game's 90 participants, comprised of the top seniors across the state, are split into two sides: a D.C. team and a Baltimore team. The Baltimore team encompasses players from all over the state, while the D.C. team is confined to mostly Montgomery and Prince George's Counties.
The game was conceptualized roughly a year ago by Harmon and O'Connor, and given strong support by the Maryland Football Coaches Association. In late August, they named the head coaches: Dunbar coach Lawrence Smith for Baltimore, and Quince Orchard's Dave Mencarini for D.C.
Each team will have three short practices sessions training camp at Maryland.