Calvert Hall and Hereford both have some unfinished business from last season, while Dulaney, Loyola Blakefield and Loch Raven shoot to get above .500.
The Cardinals lost a double-overtime thriller in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference and Hereford missed by a whisker of earning its 16th playoff berth in the past 18 years.
Meanwhile, Dulaney made significant strides under new coach Chris Fallon, while Loyola and Loch Raven hope to improve under new head coaches Brant Hall and Ryan Heaney.
Read on to find out who will be on the gridiron for your favorite team this fall.
2011 record: 10-2
First game: Aug. 24 vs. Maryland Christian Saints, 7 p.m.
Offensive starters returning: 3
Defensive starters returning: 3
Fast fact: The Cardinals graduated 31 seniors from last year's squad that lost to Gilman in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship game.
Replacing several of the talented skill players won't be easy, but coach Donald Davis can take comfort in the fact he has three returning starters back on the offensive line.
They include senior center Michael Manocheh (5-feet, 10 inches, 250 pounds), senior tackle J.P. McManus (6-5, 275) and senior tackle Jack D'Angelo (6-3, 215).
They'll be joined by senior guard Chris Kircher (6-1, 245) and junior guard Trevor Beam (6-4, 275).
Their goal is to protect junior quarterback Colar Kuhns (6-3, 205) and provide holes for senior running backs Garrett Keene (5-10, 180) and Stephen Kelly (5-10, 180).
Kelly is a University of North Carolina lacrosse recruit.
Keene and Kelly are trying to fill the void left by the graduation of CJ Williams and they'll get some help from solid senior fullback Robbie Jones (5-8, 185).
Kuhn replaces Thomas Stuart, who is playing for the same Junior College (Butte Junior College) as Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
"Kuhn has a very good arm," Davis said. "He's a big kid and he understands what he is stepping into."
The only returning target back for the Cardinals is senior wide receiver Kyle Levere (6-2, 185).
"He is probably the strongest wide receiver I've ever had," said Davis, noting he bench pressed 225 pounds seven times.
Defensively, the Cardinals return three-year starting senior inside linebacker Garrett Epple (6-2, 220).
Senior Cole Atkinson (5-10, 210) returns at linebacker.
Senior Orlando Johnson (6-3, 190) moves from defensive end to strong safety and senior Kennedy Frazier (6-1, 170) joins the defensive backfield after missing all of last season with a broken ankle.
Calvert Hall is 38-20 in Davis' first five seasons and have beaten Loyola the past three years in the Turkey Bowl, but the veterans from last season still have some unfinished business.
"It was a good football team and they felt like they were good enough to win the (MIAA) championship and it just didn't happen and our guys want that opportunity again."
2011 record: 3-7
First game: Sept. 1 vs. Kenwood, 1 p.m.
Offensive starters returning: 7
Defensive starters returning: 5
Fast fact: The Lions' defense improved immensely last year, when they gave up 191 points after surrendering a whopping 362 the previous season.
Outlook: Second-year head coach Chris Fallon seems to have the Lions headed in a positive direction.
Dulaney only won six games from 2004-2010.
"I believe we will take a step forward to at least a .500 record," Fallon said. "We really ramped it up at the end of last season. They were executing with minimal errors and really playing with some fierceness, confidence and speed. It just took a while to get there."
Fallon's next challenge is figuring out what offense the team will employ.
Dulaney used a Pro-I last year.
"We lost two linemen that we thought we would still have," Fallon said.
"It's put (the Pro-I) in limbo. If you don't have the horses, you can't run it."
Still, Fallon has plenty of talent on offense.
Senior quarterback Tre Lewis' (5-7, 165) biggest strength simply may be that he has no glaring weaknesses.
"He can really make things happen when he is running the ball," Fallon said of his three-year starter. "And he spent a lot of time in the offseason working on his release and accuracy."
Senior Chris Davis (5-10, 175) becomes the premier back after splitting time last year with D.J. Foster, now playing at Lackawanna College in Pennsylvania.
Davis will make a run at a 1,000-yard season.
"He had about 600, 700 yards last year," Fallon said.
Senior Jamarr Bailey (6-0, 165) is also in the tailback picture.
Bailey and Davis will be running behind an offensive line spearheaded by senior guards Jon Dordai (5-10, 210) and Cooper Manning (6-0, 185) and senior tackle Reily Trawinski (6-0, 240).
Senior Kashaud Bowman (5-8, 185) could make an impact at fullback.
Senior Greg Miller (6-1, 180) and sophomore Kevin Cockerham (5-11, 180) hope emerge as important factors at wide receiver.
If the Lions are to show more improvement in the 4-4 defense, the revamped line must develop quickly.
After all, Dulaney has lost four starters.
Fallon promoted sophomore Elmer Smith (5-9, 220) from the junior varsity and moved senior Raeqowan Scott (5-9, 220) into the starting lineup to help fill the vacancies.
Trawinski could be a significant part of the line after working as a reserve defensive tackle in 2011.
"We would like to put Trawinski at linebacker," Fallon said. "We may have to use him on the line."
The linebacking core features Bowman, Davis and senior Stephon Smith (5-9, 160), while Lewis and Bailey highlight the secondary.
2011 record: 6-4
First game: Aug. 31 vs. North Harford, 7 p.m.
Offensive starters returning: 6
Defensive starters returning: 8
Fast fact: Steve Turnbaugh is the longest tenured coach in Baltimore County, having taken over the Bulls in 1995.
Outlook: Can the Bulls return to the county's elite?
Hereford missed the playoffs for only the third time in the last 18 years last season.
The Bulls are certainly hungry to get back to the postseason.
"We are excited about this season," Turnbaugh said. "Our juniors and seniors are a talented group. We might not be as big as we have been in the past, but we have a tremendous work ethic."
Hereford's success could hinge on its improving 3-4 defense.
The unit was just too young last year, according to Turnbaugh.
"Last year, we started from scratch, defensively," the coach explained. "But all those guys gained valuable experience. We are very pleased with where the defense is right now. It's a very cohesive unit and everybody knows their role. And they are communicating very, very well."
Linebacker is the unit's strong suit with Turnbaugh's son Brock (5-10, 210), a junior, and senior Brennan Butz (6-3, 220) heading up the position.
Hereford did graduate the North County News Athlete of the Year, Austin Brown, who led the team in tackles (64) and finished second in sacks (6).
"Brock was our second leading tackler and Butz was our third leading tackler, so we have a good nucleus returning there," coach Turnbaugh said.
Turnbaugh also has high expectations for two other linebackers: senior Gavin Chiodi (5-11, 190) and junior Connor Williams (5-7, 160).
The line will feature seniors Patrick Weitzelberger (6-4, 245) and Gram Hensley (6-3, 240) and juniors Tristan Ferris (6-6, 240) and Amir Parker (5-10, 200).
Both Ferris and Parker were brought up from the JV.
Seniors Zach Sandusky (6-1, 170) and Patrick Elmore (6-0, 170) and two juniors elevated from the JV, Adam Cerebeli (5-9, 150) and Nick Salintino (5-8, 165), comprise the secondary.
The situation at quarterback isn't as clear. Seniors Jay Patti (6-3, 185) and Ryan Jones (6-2, 180) will both see significant playing time like last season.
Jones started nine games last year, but Turnbaugh frequently used Patti in the same game to run the triple-option offense.
"I guess I have a quarterback controversy just like they do up in New York with the Jets," Turnbaugh said. "It's a nice luxury to have two quality quarterbacks."
The Bulls will also be determined to run the ball with a staple of quality running backs, which include seniors Mike Swiger (5-11, 220), Jon Bauer (5-9, 170) and Andrew Fisher (5-10, 185).
The offensive line is another strength with seniors guard Butz and Cam Snyder (6-0, 200), senior tackles Chris Taurimo (6-0, 200) and Hensley and center Brock Turnbaugh.
Ferris and junior John Kurtz (6-4, 245) provide excellent depth.
"We are not as big as we have been in the past." Turnbaugh said. "But they are extremely quick and intelligent as far as making adjustments. We really like how they are coming together as a unit."
With Sandusky, senior Luke Quidley (6-0, 175) and junior Brooks Wilhelm (5-10, 160), wide receiver Is an area where the Bulls have depth and talent.
2011 record: 3-7
First game: Aug. 31 vs. Southside Academy, 7 p.m.
Offensive starters returning: 8
Defensive starters returning: 4
Fast fact: Rookie coach Ryan Heaney worked the last three seasons as the junior varsity coach at Franklin and the previous four at Western Tech as a JV coach and varsity assistant.
Outlook: The Raiders are certain they hit rock bottom two years ago with an 0-10 record.
And it looks like the direction Loch Raven will continue to go is up.
"This could be the year we turn the corner and really get the program headed in the right direction because of the senior leadership," said Heaney, who replaces Tom Gunn. "Those (16) seniors are ready to take the next step and have a winning record. I have been really impressed with their attitude and work ethic."
Senior Adam Boudouris (6-2, 185) and junior R. J. Cashen (6-0, 185), a transfer from Franklin who was a varsity backup, are batting to become the starting quarterback.
Boudouris might have the edge since he played for the Raiders last season.
He started the year at wide receiver and moved to quarterback late in the season.
"He has excellent arm strength and a great attitude," Heaney said. "It rubs off on the other guys. Adam certainly fits the type of quarterback we are looking for in our (Pro-I) offense. Last year, they had a couple of different guys there."
The three offensive linemen who return — senior center Sean Najmi (5-10, 190), senior guard Ryan Oeschler (5-10, 215) and junior guard Bobby Lease (5-10, 190) should give whatever quarterback starts ample time to throw.
Heaney likes the upside of senior tackle Tyler Sherrod (6-5, 300), who sat out last season after playing the previous two years on the JV.
Senior running back Logan Countryman (5-9, 180) and senior wide receiver James Staten (6-2, 175) should be key weapons.
Heaney can claim to have one of the best linebackers in the country in senior Ryan Memphis.
"The sky is the limit for his potential," the coach said. "He has done a great job of being a leader. I believe he has the ability to play at the next level. He has received some (college) interest."
The defense also boasts three other veterans: senior tackle Brandon Dismal (6-0, 300), senior end Tom Baxter (6-0, 190) and senior outside linebacker Darius Fulton (6-1, 190).
2011 record: 4-6
First game: Sept. 1, Loyola at St. John's, 2 p.m.
Offensive starters returning: 5
Defensive starters returning: 5
Fast fact: New Loyola Blakefield head coach Brant Hall played quarterback for the Dons from 1995-97 and went on to Lehigh University where he was named the All-Patriot League First Team quarterback in his final two seasons.
After nine seasons as a Loyola assistant, Hall takes over for Brian Abbott and is eager for the chance.
"It certainly was in the back of my mind, but I didn't think it would happen this fast," Hall said. "I've always wanted to take charge and I was certainly honored when I got the job."
Hall takes over a team that returns five seniors on offense, led by quarterback Jake Price (6-2, 205).
Price and senior fullback Alex Hunt (6-0, 200) bring the most experience to the backfield, while tackle Sam Evans (6-1, 265), guard Cole Luthy (6-1, 215) and tight end Cole Boozer (6-6, 217) provide senior leadership to the offensive line.
Tryouts are still ongoing for the starting running back spot, but the Dons do boast a trio of talented junior receivers in Mike Meurer (6-2, 190), Alex Isaac (6-0, 175) and Trevor Janoskie (5-10, 180).
Meurer, Janoskie and Danny Cameron (6-1, 180) will also be featured in the defensive backfield behind linebackers Hunt, Boozer and junior defensive ends Jack Kenny (6-6, 235) and Matthew Gillespie (6-2, 215).
As the pre-season unfolds, Hall hopes to find some more talented defenders to give his two-way starters some rest.
"Our lack of depth really showed last year," Hall said. "We had a core group of seniors who weren't able to get a break and some of the games we just wore down in the fourth quarter."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun