By Craig Clary, email@example.com
10:36 AM EDT, August 22, 2012
Even after watching their team rack up an unprecedented 12 victories and a state semifinal berth last fall, Catonsville High fans won't get many opportunities to catch the Comets at home this season.
With only four home games, Catonsville will have to thrive in hostile environs in order to earn another playoff invitation.
Meanwhile, Western Tech backers will also have to make travel plans, although in their case it will mean forgoing the usual trip to the Community College of Baltimore County, Catonsville for home games and finding the Wolverines at their new "home" digs at Lansdowne High.
Mount St. Joseph gets the local prep season underway at home Aug 25, at 1 p.m. against Bishop McNamara, but fans will get to season league powerhouses Gilman (Sept, 29) and Calvert Hall (Oct. 6) in Irvington on back-to-back weeks later in the season.
Read on to see who will be on the gridiron for your favorite team.
2011 record: 12-1
First game: Aug. 31 at Boys' Latin, 4 p.m.
Offensive starters returning: 4
Defensive starters returning: 3
Fast fact: Catonsville's 12 victories last season was the most in school history. They also won the school's first regional and county championships
Outlook: Reaching a dozen victories again will be quite a challenge for the Comets, who have only four regular-season home games. The first comes against Woodlawn, Sept. 14, at 7 p.m.
Four starters from the offensive line graduated from a juggernaut that steamrolled opponents during the regular season and produced an amazing 31 touchdowns of over 50 yards.
All-County First Team and Second Team All-State running back DeAndre' Lane (5-9, 180) led the scoring.
Lane, who has orally committed to play football at the University of Maryland next year, had 1,728 yards rushing and scored 21 touchdowns.
"He's intense, focused and he likes to have fun like everyone else, but he knows when to turn it on," coach Rich Hambor said.
The speedy senior will be joined in the backfield by classmate Julian Singletary (6-2, 235) and senior back Joseth Hylton (5-6, 155).
Both had breakaway ability last season in limited carries.
"I just think we have three great running backs and we are blessed in that respect," Hambor said.
Senior quarterback Justin Sprankle (5-8, 170) takes over for graduated senior Aaron Jones (16 touchdown passes) and he'll have a new group of targets after the departure of senior standouts Deniko Carter and Julian Jones.
Senior wide receivers Tyrone Ali (6-1, 170) and Sy Rivera (5-10, 180) and junior tight end Teddy Crayton (6-0, 205) hope to emerge in the passing game.
"He's a good quarterback for our offense," Hambor said.
Guard Brandon Dixon (5-10, 195) had a banner season on the offensive line last year where he earned All-County First Team and All-State Second Team honors.
Mason Klompus (6-1, 255) also returns to an offensive line that features senior veteran T.J. Henry (6-1, 225), junior Julian Robinson (6-2, 245), sophomore Zach Delker (5-10, 220) and freshman Jake Faircloth (5-9, 190).
Singletary is the top returning defender (73 tackles) from a defense which graduated talented ends Sean Lipscomb (90 tackles) and Julian Jones (85 tackles).
That defense produced eight returns for touchdowns (6 interceptions) and Hambor hopes this year's group can be just as explosive.
Henry will start at one defensive end slot with the other candidate up for grabs.
Defensive back Lane and linebackers Singletary and Hylton are fixtures on the defense.
Robinson and seniors Darius Wiiliams (5-10, 215) and Cheldon Simon (6-0, 220) should bolster the defensive line while senior Devin Ray (6-0, 235) could bolster the linebacking corps.
The defensive backfield has a host of prospects in seniors Keon Webb (5-4, 150), Andre Henderson (5-5, 145) and Nigel Minter (5-6, 150) and Delray Ragland (5-10, 160), a junior transfer from Woodlawn High.
Long snapper Nathan Hines, a senior, is back and sophomore Garrett Wack takes over kicking and punting duties.
Hambor knows his team will be targets for some of the powerhouse programs the Comets dominated last year.
"If we do well enough we could have a playoff game at home," Hambor said. "That's really up to us."
Mount St. Joseph
2011 record: 3-6
First game: Aug. 25 vs. Bishop McNamara, 1 p.m.
Offensive starters returning: 5
Defensive starters returning: 4
Fast fact: The 20 combined freshman and sophomores are the most coach Blake Henry has seen in his prep coaching career that spans five years as an assistant at Loyola Blakefield, before taking the head job at Mount St. Joe in 2010.
Outlook: The Gaels have three freshmen and 17 sophomores on varsity, but the key will be how well the veterans keep the team together while the younger talent develops.
Henry is confident in a veteran offense that returns starting junior quarterback Bryan Jangro (6-0, 170) along with his favorite target, senior tight end Marcus Alston (6-2, 240).
Alston, who has drawn interest from the University of Maryland and Virginia Tech, was an All-Conference selection last season.
"He's a very good receiving tight end and he got a lot better blocking toward the end of last season," Henry said.
The offensive line also returns senior starting tackles Pat O'Connell (6-2, 265) and Matt Lindner (6-4, 210) and junior guard Shane Lowman (6-2, 265), who moves over from center this year.
Nick Phelps (6-3, 250) moves into a starting guard slot after being a varsity reserve as a freshman last season and sophomore Jake Dahl (6-0, 220) takes over at center.
Two receiver spots are available from a trio that includes sophomore Brandon Batts (5-9, 135) and freshmen Kyree Calli (6-2, 180) and Christian Heyward (6-1, 180).
Senior Carey Wells-Jowers (5-10, 205) is the slotback with senior Taylor White (5-9, 170) in reserve.
Sophomore running back Nevone McCrimmon (5-11, 205) and freshman back Alvonte Thompson (5-8, 195) are talented young backs with size.
"Our strength is in the offensive line and quarterback position," Henry said.
The leader of the defense starts with Wells-Jowers, an All-Conference inside linebacker last season.
Senior linebacker Matt Tyler (5-11, 211) fills the other inside spot with sophomores McCrimmon and Jeremiah McCullough (5-11, 180) on the outside.
Lowman and senior Garrett Tignall (6-2, 230) and ends Lindner and senior Danny Shea (6-4, 220) man the defensive line.
All-Conference junior Jacob Forrest-Jones (5-9, 135) leads a secondary that includes juniors Kamau Bridges (5-9, 135) and Kyle Costabile (6-0, 175).
Besides the talented youth, Henry likes his team's work ethic.
"It's the hardest-working team I've had as far as workouts," Henry said. "They have bought into it."
He also expects his freshmen and sophomores to develop.
"They will be a lot better at the end of the season than they are right now," he said.
2011 record: 6-4
First game: Aug. 31 at. Lansdowne, 7 p.m.
Offensive starters returning: 7
Defensive starters returning: 5
Fast fact: Western Tech, which has no home field, will play at Lansdowne High this season.
Outlook: The Wolverines are trying to avoid the fate of the three other Western Tech squads that attempted to log three consecutive winning seasons. All of them failed.
Coach Alan Lagon hopes to avoid that pitfall this season and he feels they could with a veteran offense.
"We have a lot of potential on offense," said Lagon, in his 10th year as head coach. "We have everybody back in the backfield."
Junior quarterback Jamal Pryor (6-3, 170) is poised for a big season after learning on the job as a sophomore.
"He throws a pretty ball and he's willing to learn the position," Lagon said.
Veteran senior fullback Payton Beachum (6-1, 220) made the 2011 All-Division team after rushing for over 600 yards.
Senior back Evens Cross (5-7, 160) is a viable scoring threat along with senior receivers Blair Awkward (5-8, 175) and Tyree Starks (6-2, 170).
Senior Tony Simuel (5-9, 160), a Lansdowne resident, could also challenge for a receiving slot.
Other backfield candidates include senior running backs Chris Freeman (5-6, 150) and Justin Streater (5-7, 160) and junior Tejon Anthony (5-6, 130).
Senior tackles Andre Small (6-1, 240) and Ryan Ashley (6-3, 260) and senior guard Wasem Mansour (5-10, 230) are returning starters on the offensive line.
Senior guard Kristian Simon (6-0, 240) gained varsity experience last year and junior center Josh Miles (6-3, 220) will join the battle in the trenches.
Senior Duane Lucas (6-3, 350) will offer a huge presence on the defensive line where he's be joined by Necho Freeman (6-0, 220), Ashley, Simon and Miles.
Senior Alan Royal (5-9, 190) and junior Jordan Carr (5-8, 190) are slated for middle linebacking duty with junior Austin Harrison (6-1, 170) and Streater on the outside.
Seniors Jerome Sheldon (5-10, 152) and Tre Beverly (5-8, 170), Awkward and Cross will be in the defensive backfield mix.
After going 11-1 in 2010, the Wolverines fell a game short of the playoffs last season, although Lagon thinks they may be back in the postseason this year.
"It could if all the chips fall right and we stay healthy and our senior leadership takes hold," Lagon said.
The opener (Aug. 31. 7 p.m.) will be the only home night game.
The rest of the home contests will be held on Saturdays at 1 p.m., including dates with Loch Raven (Sept. 15), Owings Mills (Oct. 6), Sparrows Point (Oct. 20 ) and New Town (Oct. 27).