While area prep squads prepare for new season, coaches are feverishly attempting to figure out the best way to put oomph into offenses and determination into defenses.
Look for your favorite team's most uplifting prospects below:
2010 record: 11-1
Returning starters (offense): 5
Returning starters (defense): 5
First game: Sat., Aug. 27, 1 p.m., at John Carroll
Fast fact: The Cardinals captured their first Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference title last season.
Key to success: On a team that returns almost every skill position player, new faces in the trenches must grow up in a hurry.
Breakdown: Coach Donald Davis is well aware that last year's dream season, which could have been a nightmare for a team that won a slew of close games, will be difficult to replicate.
"Last year, there were four games that we could have lost, but we found ways to win," Davis said. "The year before, we lost some close ones."
Knowing there can be a fine line between being a victor or victim, Davis is looking for enough blocking up front from seniors A.J. Belzner (5-feet-9, 240 pounds) and Ricky Walston (6-0, 290) and junior Mike Manoch (5-10, 230) to spring battle-tested senior running backs C.J. Williams (6-0, 200) and Brandon Neverdon (5-8, 170) and juniors Garrett Keene (5-9, 180) and Stephen Kelly (5-10, 170).
Senior quarterback Thomas Stuart (5-11, 165) runs the show with an accurate arm, terrific instincts and knack for making big plays.
He'll also have a trio of tall and talented wideouts — senior Trevor Williams (6-1, 180) and juniors Delando Johnson (6-1, 175) and Kyle Levere (6-1, 180) — at his disposal.
On defense, Johnson will move to rush end with senior Ky Reinhardt (6-1, 180) on the other side.
Senior Da'Quan Davis (5-11, 170) anchors the backfield while Williams and junior Garrett Epple (6-0, 190) man the inside slots and senior Travon Barnes (5-11, 180) and junior Tom Hollenback (5-10, 180) the outside for the linebacking corps.
As defending champs, Davis and company will be every conference rival's top target in 2011.
"We know we're the hunted, but don't approach the season any differently," Davis said. "It's the same as if we were coming off a 4-7 season. We know what we have to do to be successful."
2010 record: 11-2
Returning starters: (offense): 6
Returning starters: (defense): 6
First game: Sept. 2, 7 p.m., vs. City College
Fast fact: The Mavericks won a state championship in 2009 and lost in the state final the previous two seasons.
Key to success: How quickly Eastern Tech adjusts to moving from Class 2A to 3A will determine the team's playoff fate.
"We are really going to be tested," coach Marc Mesaros said. "It is going to be a challenge every week because there are no easy games on the entire schedule."
Breakdown: The Mavericks are excited to be playing Parkville and Perry Hall for the first time in about a decade.
"It's neat to have a new challenge," said Mesaros, whose team lost to Middletown, of Frederick County, in the state semifinals last year. "The last couple of years you play the same schedule year in and year out. You get to know the people you are playing against. But this new schedule is a bit of an unknown quantity."
Eastern Tech's offense could be very productive again with the return of senior running back Kenyon Crawford (5-8, 165), last year's leading rusher in the triple option wing-T offense.
Senior Milan Barry-Pollock (5-11, 196) is the leader at the fullback position.
The picture is even more promising further down the depth chart with junior Francis Massey (5-10, 190) and senior Mark Borunda (5-10, 190).
Mesaros especially likes what he has seen from senior quarterback Kyle Bosserman (6-0, 182). He will start after working as a backup last season.
"He can run like a deer," the coach said. "He is a really good option quarterback and he is much better at throwing the football."
Juniors Richard Diesenberg (5-11, 157) and Paul Walter (6-1, 155) should be enticing targets for Bosserman.
There is both size and experience on an offensive line that features senior tackles Josh Stevens (6-4, 272) and Aaron Skeen (6-3, 267), senior guards Hunter Oleszczuk (6-1, 260), Brandon Jones (5-11, 218) and Don Creswell (5-11, 215), and senior center Bill Hopka (5-10, 205).
The Mavericks are loaded with talent in the 5-2 defense.
All-county nose tackle Oleszczuk along with Rashard Smith (6-2, 228), Charles Rice (5-11, 194), Skeen, Stevens and Jones form an impressive line.
Mesaros has a lot of options at linebacker with Creswell, Borunda and Massally.
All-county cornerback Sayvon Norman (5-9, 165), Barry-Pollock, Bosserman, senior Daryn Davis (5-9, 165), junior Greg Stephens (5-8, 160) and Walter give depth to a solid secondary.
2010 record: 0-10
Returning starters: (offense): 4
Returning starters: (defense): 3
First game: Sept. 3, 7 p.m., at Our Lady of Mount Carmel
Fast fact: New boss Tom Gunn guided Loch Raven to its last playoff appearance in 2005 when he was interim coach for most of the season.
Key to success: No players will be more important to the Raiders' turnaround than junior quarterback hopefuls Adam Boudouris (6-3, 180) or Logan Countryman (5-11, 170).
Breakdown: Raiders fans can be assured of one thing this fall: It can't get much worse than last year.
Loch Raven should show improvement with Gunn making significant changes.
"The first thing to do is change the culture of losing," said Gunn, who replaced John Railey. "That means bringing organization and discipline to the entire (program). They have been down for so long. They have really forgotten what it is like to win."
For the Raiders to make strides, Gunn will be focusing on the development of his quarterbacks running the spread option offense.
Loch Raven will have a fresh look at the position since Boudouris' brother Steve graduated.
"Can we get the play out of the quarterback?" Gunn said. "That will be the variable. Both have picked up the picked up the offense very quickly. (Adam) Boudouris can run pretty well and is a good athlete. What Logan lacks in height, he makes up for in athleticism."
The quarterbacks must get the ball to promising wide receivers, senior Khirhy Hayes (5-11, 155) and junior James Staten (6-4, 150).
Junior running back Justin Rogers (5-10, 175) could emerge as the leading rusher. He will be working behind an offensive line anchored by senior tackle Peter Lang (6-1, 375) and junior center Ryan Memphis (6-2, 250).
Gunn will build the defense around senior end Roderick Barber (6-3, 255), senior linebacker Bernard Whitaker (6-2, 260) and Memphis, a linebacker.
"I don't underestimate these kids at all," Gunn said. "When we were winning before, we had the same type of kids. Loch Raven is never going to be bigger, faster or stronger than all the other teams. But they'll be in shape, have good attitudes, supreme effort and be prepared."
2010 record: 6-4
First game: Aug. 27, 1 p.m., Frederick County Christian at Lutheran
Offensive starters returning: 7
Defensive starters returning: 5
Fast fact: 2010 Lutheran graduate Jay Davis is playing football for Brown University this fall.
Keys to success: Keeping several two-way starters healthy and the veteran leadership of seniors Aaron Armes and John Nunes will determine how the Saints fare this season.
Breakdown: Armes is in his third season as quarterback and his athleticism makes the 5-feet-11, 165-pound C Conference all-star a true threat.
Nunes (5-9, 175), a conference all-star, is in his fourth season at linebacker and running back.
"He is an exceptional athlete," coach Brent Johnson said.
Senior wideouts Dave Dooley (6-2, 175) and Jordan Smith (6-1,175) are veterans who will also play in the defensive backfield.
Senior Scott Sweigart (6-1, 200) and two-way juniors Nick Barmoy (5-10, 175 ) and Patrick Curtis (5-9, 205) will play on the offensive line with Barmoy moving to linebacker and Curtis and Sweigart taking over in the trenches on defense.
Overcoming the loss of Davis and conference all-star linebacker Matt Brause will be the biggest challenge, but Johnson is supremely confident in his close-knit squad.
"We're a small program , but we've got some tremendous athletes," he said. "We are going to be bigger up front, but we are just inexperienced."
A tougher non-conference schedule should be exciting, including a Sept. 3 game with interstate rival Long Island Lutheran.
Baltimore Lutheran has won the last two meetings with its sister school.
Lutheran also has a meeting with decidedly local flavor when it travels a few blocks to visit Loch Raven, Sept. 9.
"That should be a good game," Johnson said.
2010 record: 6-4
Returning starters: (offense): 6
Returning starters: (defense): 5
First game: Sept. 3, 1 p.m. vs. Randallstown
Fast fact: John Marquette returns to the sidelines for his second stint as head coach after leading the Knights to three playoff berths from 2004 to 2007.
Key to success: Like many teams, the development of the offensive line will tell the tale for Parkville in 2011.
Breakdown: Marquette is feeling right at home. With a solid returning nucleus, he is gearing up for another winning campaign.
While senior guard Sean Greene (6-1, 240) is the only returning starter on the offensive line, junior tackle Chris Smith (6-2, 245) and senior tackle Ryan Patterson (6-2, 215) have the potential to become solid players.
"We have some young players that we think are going to step up," Marquette said. "They are tough and aggressive kids. They are football smart and have a good work ethic. They should be able to pick up what we do quickly.
"We have a unique team," he said. "This group of seniors won a (junior varsity) championship and went undefeated. It will be interesting to see how they develop."
Marquette is not prone to exaggeration. So when he says the Knights have an excellent quarterback, opponents better take notice.
Senior Andy Madore (5-7, 180) sparked the team to four straight wins to finish last season after working as the backup in the first half.
"He turned around our whole season last year," Marquette said. "He is by far the smartest quarterback I have ever coached. He is just a natural leader. If he is in a game, there is just no doubt we are going to succeed."
Seniors Ryan Davis (6-2, 170) and Colin Singleton (5-10, 175) have the most potential for standout seasons at wide receiver in the no-huddle, spread offense.
Senior fullback Desmond Tisdale (5-8, 180) will contribute as a runner and blocker.
Junior tackle Chris Smith (6-2, 245) and senior tackle Ryan Patterson (6-2, 215) have huge upside as new starters along the offensive line.
On defense, senior cornerbacks Davis and Donte Knight (5-9, 170 patrol behind senior Nolin Shacklett (6-2, 175) and Tisdale on the linebacking unit. Senior Jordan Cannida (6-3, 315) and junior DaQuann Pittman (6-2, 245), spearhead the line in a 3-5-3 alignment.
"I think our defense can be very good," said Marquette, who replaces Jackson Tarr. "We have good team speed and we are very aggressive. We can give teams a lot of problems."
2010 record: 7-4
First game: Sept. 2, at St. Paul's, 4 p.m.
Offensive starters returning: 6
Defensive starters returning: 6
Fast fact: Perry Hall has qualified for the playoffs in seven of the past eight seasons, including three of four under coach Keith Robinson.
Keys to success: The Gators must continue to limit mistakes in a no-huddle offense in order to stay a step ahead of their opponents.
Breakdown: The high-octane no-huddle attack returns two key offensive performers in senior quarterback Mike Debaugh (6-4, 200) and senior running back Pat Clemons (5-9, 180).
Debaugh, a first-team, all-division selection in 2010, threw for 1,600 yards and 17 touchdowns last season and Clemons, an all-county pick, rushed for 900 yards and 12 touchdowns in nine games.
Junior back Eric Latham (5-7, 175) ran for 450 yards in a limited role for the Gators last season, who lost in the regional semifinals to state champion Urbana.
Senior wideouts Danny Johnson (5-8, 165) and Jimmy Reed (5-6, 160) figure to get many looks along with senior tight end Trent Lundy (6-1, 185).
Senior guards Mike Soper (6-2, 240) and Xavier Worthington (6-1, 195), senior tackle Austin Robinson (6-6, 285) and junior center Chris Everest (6-0, 270) are the veterans on the offensive line on which Robinson is counting on former JV players to fill in gaps.
Soper was also an all-division defensive lineman last season and he'll be joined there by senior Churemi Osaro (6-0, 210).
Another all-division product, junior defensive back Quester Campbell (6-0, 180), joins strong safety Troy Poole (6-0, 185) in the secondary with Latham behind senior linebacker Matt Ruthke (5-11, 180), junior John Meyers (5-9, 190) and Clemons.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun