Returning starters (offense): 7

Returning starters (defense): 6

First game: Sept. 2, 4 p.m., Perry Hall

Fast fact: 2008 St. Paul's graduate Troy Jones is a backup quarterback for the University of Maryland. He played at Kiski School in Pennsylvania and the University of Connecticut before transferring to College Park.

"Like" explorebaltimorecounty's Facebook page

Key to success: The Crusaders will have to beat their elite B Conference rivals to a have better shot of reaching the championship game. They lost to Archbishop Curley by eight points, eventual champ Archbishop Spalding by seven and archrival Boys' Latin by 16 last year.

Breakdown: If the Crusaders continue to make the same kind of progress this season that they did the last two years, coach Paul Bernstorf's team could be in the running for a title.

St. Paul's improved from 3-6 to 6-3 last year — and the Crusaders expect to take another step forward in 2011.

Bernstorf will rely heavily again on an aggressive 4-3 defense, which gave up only 90 points last year and is well-stocked with proven veterans this season.

Depth and experience are the name of the game in the front four with seniors Hunter Lee (6-2, 291). AJ Koi Koi (6-0, 200) and junior Ben Linkous (5-9, 200) back for another season.

Nobody is happier to see the bigger bodies up front than two linebackers: Will Ensor (5-7, 180) and Travis Wood (5-11, 180).

The return of junior safety Dale Harris (5-10, 180), junior corner back Teddie Martinez (6-0, 165) and senior cornerback London Fitzhugh (5-7, 170) are more reasons for Bernstorf to feel optimistic.

The Crusaders should get plenty of productivity from senior quarterback Spencer Parks (5-10, 175) running the spread offense.

"He is a phenomenal athlete and very well respected by his peers for temperament and presence on the field," Bernstorf said.

St. Paul's graduated leading rusher Taylor Michel, but Harris could be spectacular as his replacement.

"I would be surprised if he wasn't one of the best players in all of Maryland," Bernstorf said. "He is getting a lot of interest from colleges. Last year, he was coming off a foot injury right before the season and this year he has worked his butt off."

Lee and senior Will Rego (5-10, 240) lead an improved offensive line.

Martinez and Fitzhugh are the most proven receivers.


2010 record: 6-4

Returning starters (offense): 8