The football season starts a week later this season for the three area public schools at Catonsville, Lansdowne and Western Tech, while Mount St. Joseph revs up its season Labor Day weekend on the road.
The Comets are shooting for their fourth straight postseason appearance and the Wolverines are trying to make it four winning seasons in a row.
Lansdowne aims to be more competitive, while St. Joe hopes to do some damage in the tough Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference.
Read on to see who will be on the gridiron for your favorite team.
Record last year: 7-4
First game: Sept. 6, 7 p.m. at Thomas Johnson
Offensive starters returning: 4
Defensive starters returning: 3
Fast fact: The Comets graduated a trio of running backs, DeAndre Lane, Joseth Hylton and Julian Singletary, who combined for 2,393 yards and 29 touchdowns last season.
Outlook: The Comets have been to the playoffs the past three seasons, but to get back to the postseason they will have to find someone who makes an immediate impact at one of the offensive skill positions.
One top candidate is senior tight end Teddy Crayton (6-1, 240) who was an All-County First Team selection last season after catching five touchdown passes and averaging 24 yards per catch.
He’ll be the top target for senior quarterback Joey Getzendanner (6-0, 175), a reserve last season.
“He has a good rapport with the receivers and he knows the offense very well,” coach Rich Hambor said.
Top receiver threats are senior Wes Burley (5-10, 165) and juniors Musa Wichhart (6-3, 180) and Sequan Smith (6-4, 180).
Replacing the vaunted backfield from last season will be the responsibility of seniors Calloway Lee (5-9, 235), Delray Ragland (5-9, 155) and Deonte Gardner (5-10, 175), junior Evan Rhodes (5-8, 175) and sophomore Dana Jackson (5-10, 160).
Junior Danny Bruno (6-3, 245), who played junior varsity as a freshman, but didn’t play last season, will fit into the offensive puzzle in some capacity.
The offensive line boasts three returning starters in senior tackle Julian Robinson (6-2, 260), junior guard Zach Delker (5-10, 235) and sophomore center Jake Faircloth (5-6, 220).
Rounding out the line are senior guard Alex Kellerman (5-9, 255), senior tackles Jacob Weiss (5-11, 200) and Brian Palacios (6-0, 210) and junior tackle Tavon Lofties (6-4, 220).
“Our offensive line is strong and our tight end and receivers are strong,” said Hambor, who is hoping someone from the new crop of running backs will leap into the spotlight.
Top returning defensive players are interior linemen Adam Dye (6-0, 210) and Lee, who will be joined by Lofties.
Gardner and juniors Antwan Pearson (6-4, 200) and Nate Merrill (6-0, 215) are slotted for defensive end.
Linebacking candidates include seniors Stephen Ruppel (6-1, 180) and Talil Rogers (5-9, 155) and junior Kadi Johnson (5-11, 220).
Ragland is the most experienced defensive back, where he’ll be joined by seniors Chris Coehlo (6-0, 165), Aaron Davis (5-11, 155), John Noppenberger (5-8, 155), Jake Smuck (5-10, 160) and Brandon Reitz (5-7, 150).
Senior Nathan Hines (6-5, 230) returns as long snapper and junior Garrett Wack (5-11, 165) is back as kicker and punter.
“We have a relatively new schedule, but we have a lot of new faces and I hope this is going to be the beginning of another good era in football,” Hambor said.
Mount St. Joseph
Record last year: 4-7
First game: Aug. 31, 2 p.m. at Bishop McNamara
Offensive starters returning: 8
Defensive starters returning: 5
Fast fact: Mount St. Joseph seniors Shane Lowman and Kyle Costabile were listed on the Big 33 Prospect Watch List for the Big 33 Football Classic that features players from Maryland against those from Pennsylvania.
The Gaels were winless in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference regular season last year, but the young roster, that included 20 combined sophomores and freshmen, defeated Archbishop Spalding, 19-13 in the MIAA quarterfinals before falling to Calvert Hall in the semifinals.
Those underclassmen have matured and are ready to make things happen on the Irvington campus this fall.
Returning junior running back Nevone McCrimmon (5-11, 210) led the MIAA A Conference with 1,382 yards last season, including 176 in the playoff win over Spalding.
He’ll run behind a veteran line that includes senior guard Lowman (6-2, 270), junior guard Nick Phelps (6-4, 270) and junior center Jake Dahl (6-0, 240).
Seniors Alex Barnabae (5-11, 240) and Jack Dennison (6-3, 235) add varsity experience to the line, where they’ll be joined by juniors JT Uhler (5-11, 230), Calvin Montgomery (5-10, 240) and Jimmy Moore (6-4, 215), who are up from junior varsity.
Wide receiving targets for senior quarterbacks Bryan Jango (6-0, 175) and Trey Busick (6-0, 190) include junior veterans Brandon Batts (5-9, 135) and Christian Heyward (6-2, 180) and junior tight end Kyle Offerman (6-2, 215).
Sophomore Kyree Cali (6-2, 180) helps at wideout and sophomore Alvonte Thompson (5-8, 195) is a solid running back.
“I like our offense because we are young, but a lot of guys contributed on varsity or they played a lot on junior varsity,” coach Blake Henry said.
Lowman and Thompson are the top returning defensive linemen and senior defensive backs Costabile (5-11, 180) and Kamau Bridges (5-9, 175) and junior Jeremiah McCullough (5-11, 200) are also returning starters on defense.
Junior Omari Woods (5-9, 170) and sophomore Manny Patterson (5-9, 170) aid the secondary.
“The strength of the defense is the defensive backfield,” Henry said.
The linebacking corps boasts a trio of sophomores in Connor Jangro (6-1, 210), Jalen Jones (5-10, 175) and Malik Carr (5-8, 185).
Junior James Nelson (5-9, 165) handles kicking duties and junior Collin McCabe (5-10, 170) is the punter, with junior Nick Willerts (6-1, 180) snapping on punts and Matthew Shallow (6-1,180) snapping on field goals.
Record last year: 6-4
First game: Sept. 6, 7 p.m. at Loch Raven
Offensive starters returning: 6
Defensive starters returning: 5
Fast fact: Western Tech’s third straight winning season last year was the first time the squad has done that in school history.
Outlook: The Wolverines will go as far as their passing game takes them and that bodes well with senior quarterback Jamal Pryor (6-3, 180) calling signals.
“He is maturing as an athlete and a person,” coach Alan Lagon said. “He has a lot of potential and he seems ready to reach that potential.”
The key will be finding reliable receivers for the All-County quarterback, who is receiving multiple Division 1A offers from schools such as James Madison, Towson and Old Dominion universities.
One of the top pass catchers could be athletic senior running back Tejon Anthony (5-7, 150).
Other pass catching threats are senior Sydney Mason (5-11, 175) and junior Anthony Payne (5-9, 180) and junior tight end DeMarcus Wirsing (6-2, 215).
Joining Anthony in the backfield is senior Jordan Carr (5-8, 185) and juniors Kenneth Moore (5-9, 210) and Anthony Pompey (5-10, 180).
They will run behind a line that includes veteran guards Necho Freeman (6-21, 230), a senior, and Sheriff Adewumi (5-8, 220), a junior, along with senior tackle Josh Miles (6-6, 265), junior tackle John Smith (6-0, 220) and sophomore center Shawn Kashlak (5-9, 200).
The defense is anchored by linebackers Moore, Carr and Adewumi and defensive backs Anthony, Pryor, senior Mike Williams (5-9, 155) and junior Darius Howe (5-10, 165).
Miles and Wirsing are mainstays on the defensive line.
Western Tech, who moved up to Class 2A, will have to negotiate through a tough schedule that includes Hereford, Eastern Tech and New Town to earn its fourth straight winning season.
“It’s going to be competitive, but it’s going to be fun,” said Lagon.