Jake Stevens

Senior Jake Stevens, who scored a county-best 71 goals to go along with 45 assists last season, is the all-time leading scorer in Mt. Hebron program history and will be one of the leaders for the Vikings this spring. (Staff photo by Jen Rynda / March 19, 2013)

There is a bit of buzz and mystery sounding the Mt. Hebron boys lacrosse program these days. The Vikings return nine starters — enough to get people talking even though the team finished with an 8-8 mark last season.

Mt. Hebron coach Mike McCarthy knows, however, that his team has a lot to prove before they can be considered a front runner.

“I'm not sure if (the kids) have heard anyone saying anything like that,” McCarthy said. “Our team expectations are the same as they always are. Our goal is to be the best team in the county. 

“Whether that is the case or not, we ask our young men to always play hard, compete to the highest level, and make the most out of the opportunities that are given to them.  If we are able to do those things we will be successful.”

Salisbury-bound senior attack Jake Stevens tied Glenelg’s Nick Wynne — the two-time Howard County Times/Columbia Flier Player of the Year —with 116 points to lead the county last season. Stevens’ 71 goals were a league-high as he is already the Vikings’ all-time leading scorer. 

Second team all-county selections Adam Huber and Connor Dubois are also back in the fold.

“Our experience will be a huge factor for us,” McCarthy said. “I have a great group of highly motivated and determined seniors. We will go as far as they lead us.”

While Mt. Hebron is hoping to be a contender in the league race, defending county champion and state runner-up Glenelg is still atop the summit of the mountain.

The Gladiators lost all-county attack Mikey Wynne (80 points last season), who transferred to Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) A Conference power St. Paul’s.

But the cupboard is far from bare for coach Josh Hatmaker, as six all-county picks including Mark Darden and Anthony Pagnotta are back to try and maintain dominance. The program hasn’t dropped a game to a county opponent since 2009 – a 7-6 loss to Marriotts Ridge. The streak spans 46 games including four postseason matches.

Marriotts Ridge and Howard are poised to remain at the top of the bunch after finishing second and third, respectively, in the standings a year ago. The Lions lost some key offensive players, but have plenty of firepower back in the mix, while the Mustangs lost a lot to graduation but look to get a boast from senior Sean Harrison, who returns after a torn anterior cruciate ligament last season.

“Glenelg is the best until somebody knocks them off,” Marriotts Ridge coach Anthony Incontrera said. “Mt. Hebron returns every starter, so they should be considered a top team. Howard has tremendous depth, and will create problems for all of the top teams.”

Atholton and Centennial each had seven county wins last season, while River Hill, Reservoir and Wilde Lake are young teams that are talented.

Here’s a look around the county:

Atholton

2012 record: 7-4 county, 10-6 overall

Top players: Seniors Kyle Courtney (MF), Kevin Guy (D), Brendan O'Malley (A), Graham Kantor (D) and Jake Mills (G); junior Tyler Shams (MF); sophomore Sam Smith (MF).

What you need to know:

The Raiders bring back six starters from last season and the vacant positions are being filled by players with several seasons worth of varsity experience. That experience should be a strength, led by captains Kyle Courtney (second-team all-county), Kevin Guy and Brendan O’Malley.

“This team is lucky to have tremendous senior leadership,” first-year head coach Erik Burnett said. “Beyond just the captains, there are a large number of kids who really care about doing things the right way, and being successful. I think that any success that we have this year can be partly credited to the example that the leaders have set for the younger guys.”