The first edition of the power rankings is the most difficult.
For starters, there is no empirical data to work from, save for last year’s results when the rosters were vastly different.
Also, I did not see the teams in preseason. (Let me point out that there was an earthquake and a hurricane.)
Finally, this will be the list that can be flaunted in my face for the rest of the season. The mistakes can be held against me for the next three months.
I have talked to every coach, waded through rosters, studied statistics and know who graduated, so I’m not exactly shooting blind here.
It should be noted that as part of the chages to our website, the blog archives are gone, so don’t bother trying to tease me about last year’s rankings.
Well, here goes nothing.
1. River Hill (Last year: 9-1 league, 10-2 overall, 377 points for-117 points against)
Many readers are probably thinking: ‘River Hill, AGAIN!?’
But the Hawks have the top returning rusher, Aaron Wells, and a lot of talent on defense. They’ve also won more games than any team in the state over the last decade. They were also the only local team to beat Hammond last year. It’s not an exciting pick, but it makes sense when you think about it.
This week: home against Reservoir (all games are Friday night at 7).
2. Hammond (9-1, 10-2, 303-196)
It has been a good story to watch the Golden Bears rise up from mediocrity. With Dionte Jones and Devon Paye back on offense, there’s no reason why they can’t duplicate last year’s success, if not improve upon it.
This week: home against Wilde Lake.
3. Atholton (8-2, 8-3, 283-131)
It might not seem fair, but Atholton starts the season with a loss because of a practice infraction that resulted in a forfeit. Although the Raiders are capable of finishing 9-1 with the players they have back, including all-county quarterback Brian McMahon, one more loss would drop them to 8-2, which would likely put them in this spot.
This week: at Glenelg.
4. Wilde Lake (7-3, 11-3, 364-168)
The Wildecats graduated a bunch of outstanding players, but they’re still the defending state champs. They don’t have any big returners in the glamour positions, but players such as TE/DE Tom Klotz go a long way toward building a good team.
This week: at Hammond.
5. Reservoir (5-5, 5-5, 225-216)
E.J. Montgomery might be the best QB in the league, and he has some solid receivers and a strong line to protect him.
This week: at River Hill.
6. Long Reach (5-5, 5-5, 210-273)
The Lightning finished .500 last year while losing a half-dozen players to injury. With a healthy squad that includes playmakers such as running backs Allen Cross and Eugene Swen, an improvement might be in order.
This week: at Marriotts Ridge.
7. Howard (5-5, 5-5, 252-230)
Coach Bruce Strunk is concerned about his line play, but a deep running back corps that includes Michael Anderson, Joey Bonavitacola and Brady Curley will make them a contender.
This week: home against Centennial.
8. Glenelg (5-5, 5-5, 218-192)
There will be a period of adjustment after graduating a player of Colin Osborne’s caliber, but coach Butch Schaffer has a proven track record of making the most of the talent on the field.
This week: home against Atholton.
9. Oakland Mills (4-6, 4-6, 251-292)
QB Kurtis Coleman will be throwing to the younger brother — Dominic Drew — of his best target last year — Terrance Drew — so the dropoff might not be what some expect.
This week: home against Mt. Hebron.
10. Mt. Hebron (1-9, 1-9, 133-379)
A tougher defense and a better running game should allow QB Malik Gilmore and wide receivers Tyler Anthony and Jackson Porter to stay competitive against more opponents this year.
This week: at Oakland Mills.
On the bubble: Centennial (2-8, 2-8, 193-290), Marriotts Ridge (0-10, 0-10, 76-359)