It is a new season in Howard County football, and anything can happen. Take, for example, last Friday night, when the 2013 season kicked off.
River Hill, which has won four state titles since 2007, scored a touchdown with three minutes left to edge Glenelg, 7-3. Centennial, which had won only six games in the last three seasons combined, defeated 2012 3A East regional semifinalist Reservoir, 28-7. And Oakland Mills ended a 17-game losing streak by routing Long Reach, 44-6.
To put the unlikelihood of that last result into perspective, Oakland Mills had scored only 64 points in all of 2012, and had not scored 44 points in a game since 2010. The Scorpions had allowed double-digit points in 47 consecutive games, dating back to 2008.
"They put a lot of points on the board," said Centennial coach Todd Kriner, whose team will host the red-hot Scorpions on Sept. 12 at 7 p.m. "We've got to limit the scoring. Oakland Mills took advantage of some turnovers and we can't be doing that."
This week's games will be played on Thursday night instead of Friday night because of the Yom Kippur holiday.
Kriner knows that his team will have to slow Oakland Mills down by protecting the ball on offense.
Last Friday, the Scorpions scored five touchdowns in the first quarter, including a pick six (Javonte Rose) and a 20-yard fumble recovery (Joey Celtniek). Junior quarterback David Pindell scored on a 75-yard run, a 50-yard run and a 20-yard pass to Dershone Hayman.
If the game does become a high-scoring affair, though, Centennial will be well-equipped to return fire.
The Eagles regularly played only six seniors last year, and return almost all of their offensive skill players from 2012, including quarterback Tyler Morris (654 passing yards, 6 TDs), running back Walter Fletcher (840 rushing yards, 5 TDs), wide receiver Chase Conley (318 receiving yards, 4 TDs) and kick returner Quinn Western (28 kick returns, 670 yards).
"We got a lot of experience under our belt last year, so there isn't as much of a learning curve this season," Kriner said.
Fletcher rushed for 180 yards and three touchdowns in the win over Reservoir, and Damon Reaves, who scored a touchdown on a kickoff return last Friday, led the Eagles in sacks (3) and interceptions (4) last year. Austin Kraisser, a county champion and state finalist wrestler last year as a freshman, led the Eagles defense on Friday with 6.5 tackles.
"I had seen our guys in practice and a few scrimmages, but the first game is always a challenge. You don't know where you stand until you get out there on the field," Kriner said.
So while established teams that graduated massive senior classes last year race to break in a large crop of newcomers, teams like Atholton, Centennial, Oakland Mills and Hammond — a 27-0 winner over 3A East regional semifinalist Mt. Hebron last week — have hit the ground running in 2013.
"Every season is something new and this is a good example of that," Kriner said.
There are several other compelling games on Thursday night. Glenelg and Wilde Lake, a pair of traditional powers that lost by a combined seven points last week, will face off in a struggle to avoid falling to 0-2. Reservoir and Mt. Hebron, two teams hoping to return to the playoffs, will be competing to avoid that same fate. And perennial contenders Howard and Atholton will meet in a contest between 1-0 teams.
Follow @ACHoCoSports on Twitter for live updates from Thursday night's games.
Friday, Sept. 6 results
Atholton 35, Marriotts Ridge 7
Centennial 28, Reservoir 7
Hammond 27, Mt. Hebron 0