Glenelg senior Troy Spurrier

Glenelg senior forward Troy Spurrier made first-team all county last season while helping the Gladiators go from the bottom three in the county to the top three. (Staff photo by Jen Rynda, Patuxent Publishing / December 2, 2011)

The trend officially started four years ago.

A Marriotts Ridge squad that had finished 10th in the county with a 4-14 league record during the 2006-2007 season came back the following year to finish alone in third with a county mark of 15-3. It was the first time since 1999 that a county squad had gone from bottom three to sole possession of a spot in the top three in one year.

Since then, though, two other squads have accomplished the feat.

Hammond went from 10th to second in 2008-2009 and Glenelg went from 10th to second last winter.


Submit a Letter to the Editor for the Laurel Leader, Columbia Flier and Howard County Times

This year, with some significant talent turnover among the top county squads, the opportunity for another team to make the jump appears to be there for the taking.

That means keep a particularly close eye on Long Reach (2-17 county record last year), Howard (4-15) and Atholton (5-14) this fall.

Still, don't count out some of the familiar faces.

Centennial, which brings back nine players from last year's 3A state finalist team, has the look of an early favorite. Mt. Hebron brings back six of its top eight after going 12-7 in county play last season, while Glenelg has the only returning first-team all-county player in Troy Spurrier (14.1 points a game and 8.2 rebounds).

Also don't sleep on Hammond, Marriotts Ridge, Reservoir and Wilde Lake as middle tier teams from a year ago with enough talent to contend.

The bottom line, though, is that no one expects an undefeated run through the league like Oakland Mills put together last year.

"I don't see anybody running away with it, that's for sure," Centennial coach Chad Hollwedel said. "Everybody knows each other pretty well and the talent is fairly evenly spread out."

New coaches are taking over at Marriotts Ridge (Mike Coughlan) and Wilde Lake (Deonne Wingfield). The county's two private schools are undergoing some changes as well, with Glenelg Country making the jump to the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference and Chapelgate moving up to the MIAA B.

Opening tip

With the season starting for the public schools on Dec. 5, here's a look at what to expect:

Atholton

2010-11 record: 5-14 county, 8-17 overall

Top players: Seniors Darren Fitzpatrick (F), Brian McMahon (F), Gavin Stephenson (G).

What you need to know: After a down campaign last winter, the Raiders will be taking the court with an entirely different look. McMahon, who averaged eight points and 5.5 rebounds, is the only consistent starter back and is really the only true post player on the roster.

But what Atholton lacks in size, they'll more than make up for in quickness and athleticism. Stephenson is a transfer from Mount St. Joseph and will be charged with running the show from the get go. The 6-foot-3 point guard is a match-up nightmare and is getting looks from Division I colleges. Fitzpatrick came on strong at the end of last season and will be taking on an even bigger role from his wing position.

The team's other three seniors, Dan Bezold, Brett Haas and Josh Martin, all have varsity experience and should be part of the regular rotation. Also keep an eye on sophomore guard Brady Acker as a breakout candidate.