If history repeats itself, Howard County will have a state championship football team this year.
Each of the past two years, and in four of the last five seasons, a local team has hoisted the trophy at M&T Bank Stadium in December.
Of course, getting to that point did not involve luck or providence. It takes good coaches, good players and good football to rise above every other team in the state. It just so happens that lately, Howard County has had all of those things.
And 2012 will be no different.
River Hill, a winner of three of those state championships under coach Brian Van Deusen, will attempt to make its tenth straight playoff appearance this fall behind seniors Evan Griffin and Stephan Osong. But Glenelg, which lost to the eventual state champion Hawks, 21-20, in overtime last October but rebounded to win nine games and make the regional championship game, returns perhaps more talent than any team in the league, including quarterback Mark Darden and RB/LB Nick Crabill. And even though it graduated ten all-county players, including defensive Player of the Year Steve Whiting and starting quarterback Brian McMahon, Atholton has won 28 games over the past three seasons under coach Kyle Schmitt, making the Raiders a perennial contender.
"I think the county is loaded. For a couple of years we've been kind of a sleeping giant, a hidden gem in the state," said Schmitt, whose team ended River Hill's 48-game league winning streak in 2010. "The football is excellent program wide (across the county) and the committment of the kids is great."
Hammond, which returns senior running back Dionte Jones, who helped the Golden Bears to their best season in school history in 2010, and Wilde Lake, which won a state title in 2010, will both be looking to bounce back after a disappointing end to last fall, when each team lost three of its last five games to miss the postseason.
"We've got to live with that experience and we've certainly used it for motivation," Wilde Lake coach Mike Harrison said. "If you stop to take a breath you're going to lose, you don't get a break ... if someone's a football fan in the state of Maryland and doesn't understand that there is good football in Howard County, they haven't been doing their home work."
While Howard has not had much postseason success, the Lions have qualified for the postseason in three of the last five seasons under coach Bruce Strunk, and this season return Michael Anderson, the league's top returning rusher.
Long Reach has never had a losing season since the school opened in 1997 under coach Pete Hughes, and with six starters back on each side of the ball, the Lightning hope that this is the season that they break back into the playoffs for the first time since 2005.
Under first year coach Philip Zacharias, whose extensive coaching experience includes stints with the University of Maryland and the Baltimore Ravens, Mt. Hebron could be poised for its first winning season since 2004 with talented seniors Malik Gilmore and Jackson Porter leading the way at quarterback and running back, and junior Zach Nicholas, a three-year starter, in the defensive backfield.
"The good teams are the good teams, and they have been the good teams. We need to try to get into the mix," Zacharias said. "Howard County football has evolved: it's gotten better.".
Meanwhile, the county has also seen an influx of talent from the outside. Most notably, Atholton senior quarterback Luke Casey, who transferred in from Mount St. Joseph, and Wilde Lake two-way lineman Moise Larose, a Rutgers recruit who transferred in from Meade.
So while a state championship takes a special combination of talent, good coaching, teamwork and a lot of hard work, Howard County once again has all of the ingredients to make the dream a reality.
In fact, with local teams representing the 2A and 3A classifications, why not make it two?
2011 record: 9-1 county, 10-2 overall, Class 3A East regional finalist
Coach: Kyle Schmitt, fourth season
Returning offensive starters: 2; Returning defensive starters: 2.
Top players (offense): Seniors Pat Mullens (RB/WR), Brandon Anthony (WR/LB), Zach Plotkin (OL), Keyon Pinnock (WR) and Luke Casey (QB).