Howard County football looks to continue reign of dominance

Baltimore is a football town. From the Colts dynasty of the 1950s through the 1970s, the Redskins to the south, the two-time world champion Ravens, and the transplanted Steelers and Eagles fans from Pennsylvania, Marylanders have plenty of reasons to appreciate their football.

And while Maryland doesn't have 20,000-seat high school stadiums or dozens of five-star recruits every season, high school football in the Old Line State is a source of pride as well, with Howard County leading the way.

With River Hill's 2013 state championship — its fourth since 2007 — Howard County schools have now won state titles in three consecutive years. The Hawks return only four starters on each side of the ball, but turnover is nothing new in Clarksville, and coach Brian Van Deusen has plenty of talent, including first team all-county selections Cory Daniel (TE/LB) and Logan Kirby (NG/OG).

Atholton, under first-year coach John Swigart, has won 41 games in the past five seasons, second only to River Hill (62), with four straight playoff appearances. The Raiders will be led on offense by senior running back Isaac Murray, who rushed for 1,181 yards and eight touchdowns last season, most among returning players.

A new arrival on the list of contenders, Reservoir — which made the playoffs for the first time in school history last year behind defensive Player of the Year James Simms — is looking to continue its upward trend this year.

“We have several new players in new positions,” coach Bryan Cole said. “They are hopeful for a great season and realize there are no more teams out there that will overlook them because of their success last season.”

Mt. Hebron, which made the playoffs for the first time since 2003 last season, is in a similar boat. The Vikings return University at Buffalo recruit Zach Nicholas (WR/DB), one of the top two-way players in the state. Last year, Nicholas made 75 tackles, intercepted a pass for a TD, had three sacks, caught 21 passes for 344 yards and four touchdowns, and rushed for more than 400 yards and seven more scores.

Throw traditional contenders Glenelg, Howard, Long Reach and Wilde Lake into the mix as well, and the 2013 season is shaping up to be a battle.

The season kicks off Friday night, Sept. 6, with all 12 local teams in action. Long Reach, Oakland Mills and Wilde Lake will debut their new turf fields this fall, joining Atholton, Hammond and Howard, which had their turf fields installed last year.

Follow @ACHoCoSports on Twitter for in-game updates every week, and check every Saturday morning for full results.

New coaches

Four new coaches will make their debut this fall.

At Atholton, John Swigart — a former Towson and Howard University assistant, and a coach with the Western Howard County Warhawks — takes over for Kyle Schmitt, who is now the head coach at Archbishop Spalding. Schmitt was 38-9 in four seasons at Atholton, making the playoffs all four years.

Schmitt's defensive coordinator at Atholton, Justin Carey, is the new coach at Hammond, replacing Dan Makosy. Carey played linebacker at Bowie State from 2005-2009 and now teaches Business Education at Hammond High.

“My main focus is on getting as many student-athletes into college as possible,” he said. “I am very passionate at what I do and try to develop young athletes to become leaders in society.”

Makosy led Hammond to a 24-18 record in his four years, including a co-county title and regional finals appearance in 2010.

At Long Reach, Jamie Willis takes over for longtime head coach Pete Hughes, who is now the defensive coordinator at Southwestern High in Baltimore. Hughes coached the Lightning to a career record of 109-64. Long Reach made the playoffs in 1997, 2004 and 2005, when it also won the county title. Willis, who grew up in Ohio, played tight end for Youngstown State, winning a national title as a senior in 1991. He was an assistant coach at several colleges and Long Reach High, under Hughes, before becoming head coach at Pikesville five years ago.

Marcus Lewis is the new head coach at Marriotts Ridge, relieving Tom Minard, who steps down after two seasons. Lewis was the Howard County Player of the Year as a senior at Oakland Mills in 1988, before playing running back for the University of Delaware. He began coaching at Oakland Mills in 1996, serving as defensive coordinator for the Scorpions' 1998 state championship team under head coach Ken Hovet.

* Returning first-team all-county; # Returning second-team all-county.

Atholton Raiders

2012 record: 9-1 county, 10-2 overall (Class 3A East regional finalist)

Last playoff appearance: 2012 (3A East regional finalist); Last state championship: NA; Five-year record: 41-16 (.719).

Coach: John Swigart, first season

Returning offensive starters: 4; Returning defensive starters: 6.

Top players (offense): Seniors Isaac Murray# (RB), Marquise Findlay-Smith (RB), Lamarre Whitlock (WR), C.J. Williams (WR) and Byran Barney (WR).

Top players (defense): Seniors Cody Stolar# (LB), Isaac Boateng (LB), Graham Broschart (LB), Jordan Mason (DB) and Bryan Gsell (DB).

Key losses: RB/WR Pat Mullens, WR/LB Brandon Anthony, OL Zach Plotkin, WR Keyon Pinnock, QB Luke Casey, LB Jamal Washington, CB Hunter Carter-Rimbach, DE Godfrey Ovia, S David Bell, DT Ben Mathews and LB Graham Kantor.

Scouting report: For the Raiders, it's new coach, new players, same expectations. The program has been on an upward trend for the last four years, and has designs on continuing its rise. Murray is the league's top returning rusher, and Barney (Marriotts Ridge), Whitlock (Reservoir) and Williams (Wilde Lake) are key transfers. The Mustangs will miss the multitalented Barney, who caught 25 passes for 244 yards, made 43 tackles and intercepted three passes last year as a junior. Findlay-Smith, with nine catches for 144 yards and three TDs last year, is a talented receiver and runner. The linebacking corps returns several experienced starters, led by Stolar. Mason, who intercepted three passes last year, is also a top kick returner. Team unity will be a key, as Atholton won five games by three points or less last year.

Key number: 269. Combined tackles by the quartet of Stolar (110), Gsell (71), Boateng (47) and Broschart (41) last season.

Centennial Eagles

2012 record: 3-7, 3-7

Last playoff appearance: 1980 (Class B semifinalist); Last state championship: NA; Five-year record: 14-36 (.280).

Coach: Todd Kriner, third season

Returning offensive starters: 9; Returning defensive starters: 9.

Top players (offense): Seniors Tyler Morris (QB), Walter Fletcher# (RB/DB), Chase Conley# (WR/DB), Quinn Western (RB/DB) and Damon Reaves# (WR/S).

Top players (defense): Seniors Michael Price (LB/RB) and Anthony Saunders (DE/TE); junior Patrick McKinnis (DB); sophomore Austin Kraisser (LB/RB).

Key losses: DE Alex Eason, LB Kyle Homens and DL Chris Sexton.

Scouting report: The Eagles regularly played only six seniors last year, so an improvement on last year’s three wins is definitely in order. Whether that improvement means a .500 season, or something more, will depend on the play and leadership of this year’s senior class. On offense, Centennial is fairly stacked at the skill positions. Morris (654 passing yards, 6 TDs), Fletcher (840 rushing yards, 5 TDs), Conley (318 receiving yards, 4 TDs) and Western (28 kick returns, 670 yards) were all team leaders at their positions last year, while Reaves led the team in sacks (3) and interceptions (4).

Key number: 103. Combined points allowed in a pair of losses to River Hill (56-0) and Long Reach (47-22) last year, almost 40 percent of Centennial’s total points allowed on the season.

Glenelg Gladiators

2012 record: 6-4, 6-4

Last playoff appearance: 2011 (2A South regional runner-up); Last state championship: NA; Five-year record: 32-21 (.604).

Coach: Butch Schaffer, eighth season

Returning offensive starters: 6; Returning defensive starters: 6.

Top players (offense): Seniors David Brookhart* (WR/DB), Jared Jacoby (RB/DB) and Pat Laport (OL/DL); junior David Robbins (OL/DL).

Top players (defense): Seniors Jordan Alexander# (DL/OL) and Craig Burris (DL/OL); junior Matt Baxter (LB/WR).

Key losses: TE/DE Ben Carta, QB/DB Mark Darden, LB/RB Nick Crabill, DL/OL Sean Twigg and LB/RB Drew Dziwulski.

Scouting report: The Gladiators have two of the top playmakers in the league, in Brookhart (759 yards from scrimmage, 8 TDs) and Jacoby (522, 3), so moving the ball on offense should be fun to watch. The Gladiators line is stacked, with second-teamer Alexander (62 tackles, 8.5 sacks) leading the way. The trio of Alexander, LaPort and Robbins average 6'2" and weigh in at a combined 770 pounds.

Key number: 10. Passes broken up by Brookhart last year. He intercepted four more, so teams will likely be discouraged from throwing in his direction this season.

Hammond Golden Bears

2012 record: 5-5, 5-5

Last playoff appearance: 2010 (2A South regional runner-up); Last state championship: NA; Five-year record: 24-28 (.462).

Coach: Justin Carey, first season

Returning offensive starters: 6; Returning defensive starters: 6.

Top players (offense): Seniors Tyler Martin (QB), Dre'Quan Reed (OG), Brendan Urban (TE) and Justin Wise (RB); sophomore DeAndre House (WR).

Top players (defense): Senior John Mbah (SS/LB); juniors Andrew Comeau (FS), Pierre Sylvert (LB) and Malik Wallace (LB/SS).

Key losses: RB/DB Dionte Jones, LG Derek Sicca, C Arnett Dorsey, LB Humphrey Anuh, FS/WR Garrett Kelley and DB/WR Chris Hall.

Scouting report: Carey, Atholton's defensive coordinator last season, hopes to lead Hammond down a similar path of success. The Golden Bears graduated a considerable senior class, but Martin (1,000 yards, 17 TDs in 2012) is one of the league's top returning quarterbacks. Martin also has a talented receiving corps led by Urban and House. Hammond lost three games last season by two points or less, so the 5-5 record could have easily been a playoff berth.

Key number: 8. Touchdown catches by Chris Hall last season, third most in the league.

Howard Lions

2012 record: 5-5, 5-5

Last playoff appearance: 2011 (3A East regional semifinalist); Last state championship: 1974 (1st); Five-year record: 29-23 (.558).

Coach: Bruce Strunk, sixth season

Returning offensive starters: 3; Returning defensive starters: 4.

Top players (offense): Seniors Peter Emery (C), Matt Von Neida (OT), Jon Chalfont (OG), Terrell Charles (RB) and Kyle Walker (WR/DB).

Top players (defense): Seniors Eric Martinez (DE), Mac Lee (LB) and John Travisano (DB); juniors Craig Brauer (DT), Nick Saunders (LB) and Isaiah Stokes (DB).

Key losses: QB Austin Blair, OL Jack Friedman, RB Michael Anderson, RB/WR Brady Curley, DL Zach Grasser, DL Brandon Addai, DL Dave Holland and DB Andrew Young.

Scouting report: Line play will again be a crown jewel for the Lions, headlined by DI recruit Von Neida (Maine, New Hampshire, Buffalo), and Emery. Travisano (4 INTs) and Walker, who combined to make 117 tackles last year, will again be leaders in the defensive backfield. The Lions averaged 27.7 points last year, third most in the league.

Key number: 1,394. League-leading rushing yards by Michael Anderson last year. Anderson carried the ball 193 times and scored 19 rushing touchdowns.

Long Reach Lightning

2012 record: 3-7, 3-7

Last playoff appearance: 2005 (3A East regional semifinalist); Last state championship: NA; Five-year record: 28-22 (.560).

Coach: Jamie Willis, first season

Returning offensive starters: 5; Returning defensive starters: 5.

Top players (offense): Seniors C.J. Smalley (QB), Brandan Barrington (WR), Chase Ferryman (OL), Eric Thomas (WR) and Deon Williams (OL).

Top players (defense): Seniors Rob Carter* (DB), Michael Conlan (LB), Tommy Montag (LB), A.J. Fobbs (DL) and Tommy Wilkinson (DL).

Key losses: OT Dominic Wiliams, OT Brendon Thomas, RB Daqaun Dixon, RB Darius Fisk, RB Xavier Haywood-Irani, LB Kyle Jones, DE Alex Nobleman, LB Eric Montag and LB Jack St. Hilaire.

Scouting report: Long Reach had just its second losing season in school history in 2012, and that didn't sit well. First-year coach Willis, a former protege of longtime coach Pete Hughes, has plenty of talent to put the Lightning back on track with a winning season. Carter, a first-team all-county selection last year, made 43 tackles and intercepted three passes last year. Long Reach allowed 348 points last year, second worst in the league, but a defense led by Carter, Conlan (102 tackles, 3 sacks), Montag (43 tackles) and Barrington (4 INTs) should do better.

Key number: 1,479. Combined rushing yards by the graduated tandem of Dixon and Haywood-Irani last season.

Marriotts Ridge Mustangs

2012 record: 2-8, 2-8

Last playoff appearance: NA; Last state championship: NA; Five-year record: 9-41 (.180).

Coach: Marcus Lewis, first season

Returning offensive starters: 3; Returning defensive starters: 2.

Top players (offense): Seniors Chase Sanchez (QB), Julian Heard (RB) and Markquice Stringfellow (WR); junior Cully DeSautelle (OL).

Top players (defense): Senior Austin Dorsey (LB); juniors Kyle Palacorolla (LB) and Erik Skogmo (FS); sophomores Bladen Miller (SS) and Chris Morath (DE/TE).

Key losses: WR Byran Barney, RB Marcus Smith, WR Duncan Campbell, LB Lyle Fugate, LB Jack Dawes, DL Nick Gelso and DE Ryan Austin.

Scouting report: Lewis looks to bring new energy to the beleaguered Mustangs program, which lost five games in a row to end last season. Sanchez (64/153, 675 yards, 5 TDs) could be one of the league's top passers. The Mustangs' lost their top tackler (Fugate) and rusher (Smith), but if the team's young talent can come together quickly, Marriotts Ridge could be in for a turnaround season.

Key number: 130. Combined points allowed by Marriotts Ridge last season in its last four games, each by shut out.

Mt. Hebron Vikings

2012 record: 6-4, 6-5 (3A East regional semifinalist)

Last playoff appearance: 2012 (3A East regional semifinalist); Last state championship: NA; Five-year record: 17-34 (.333).

Coach: Philip Zacharias, second season

Returning offensive starters: 6; Returning defensive starters: 5.

Top players (offense): Seniors Jake Snyder (QB), Brenden Chavis (OG/DT) and Ryan Hassan (C/NG); junior Josh Bryant (WR).

Top players (defense): Seniors Zach Nicholas* (SS/RB), Marty Stevenson# (LB/RB) and Antonio Vogt (LB/TE).

Key losses: QB Malik Gilmore, RB Jackson Porter, OL Alex Krynski, WR/DB Mike O'Rourke, DE Anthony Lewis, LB Brandon Leach and DT Steve White.

Scouting report: The Vikings broke a decade-long playoff drought last season, and they're not looking to regress back to those losing ways. Nicholas will be a force on the field at all times, but there is also talent around him. Stevenson can be a work horse in the running game, and was also the league's leading tackler, with 131. In limited time last year, Snyder completed eight passes for 103 yards. Chavis and Hassan should form a pair of devestating two-way linemen.

Key number: 5. Consecutive wins to begin the 2012 season. The Vikings also lost five of their last six, including the 3A East regional semifinal game.

Oakland Mills Scorpions

2012 record: 0-10, 0-10

Last playoff appearance: 2003 (1A South regional semifinalist); Last state championship: 1998 (1st); Five-year record: 7-43 (.140).

Coach: Tom Browne, third season

Returning offensive starters: 7; Returning defensive starters: 7.

Top players (offense): Senior Dershone Hayman# (WR/LB); juniors David Pindell (QB) and Rashawn Curbeam (WR).

Top players (defense): Seniors Javonte Rose (LB) and Ian McFarlane (LB); sophomore Tre Hopkins (DB).

Key losses: G Roy Kadje, QB Corbin Bailey and DT Jimmy Riss

Scouting report: Oakland Mills has won only one game in the last two seasons, but the Scorpions return a solid core of experienced starters. Oakland Mills allowed 368 points last season, 20 more than any other team. Hayman is one of the top all-around athletes in the league, having caught 32 passes for 614 yards and four touchdowns last season. Curbeam (449), McFarlane (353), Hopkins (95) and Rose (71) were the Scorpions leading rushers last season, combining for 968 yards. Pindell (40 completions, 617 yards, 3 TDs) returns as the team's leading passer.

Key number: 8. Games in which the Scorpions scored one touchdown or less last season. They scored 24 points in a 34-26 loss to Long Reach, and 13 in a 41-13 loss to Marriotts Ridge.

Reservoir Gators

2012 record: 6-4, 6-5 (3A East regional semifinalist)

Last playoff appearance: 2012 (3A East regional semifinalist); Last state championship: NA; Five-year record: 25-26 (.490).

Coach: Bryan Cole, fifth season

Returning offensive starters: 6; Returning defensive starters: 6.

Top players (offense): Seniors Avian White# (FB/DE), Max Schuster (QB), Jack Dudzinski (OT), Jordan Hawkins (OG), Rolando Bonilla (OT) and Mohamed El-Zein# (WR).

Top players (defense): Seniors Dominic Lopes (S), Max Hoffman (DT) and Austin Mitchell (DE); juniors Christian Lyles (S) and Jack Barry (LB).

Key losses: RB/DB Robert Armstrong, RB/DB Cameron Brooks, LB/RB Zack Hess, NG/OL Dario Burley and LB/WR James Simms.

Scouting report: Reservoir enjoyed its first playoff run in school history in 2012, but graduated a strong senior class, led by defensive Player of the Year Simms (98 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 INT, 524 receiving yards, 7 TDs). The Gators do return many top skill players, including Schuster (57 completions, 521 yards, 5 TDs) at quarterback, White (97 carries, 428 yards, 6 TDs) at running back, and El-Zein (487 return yards) at kick returner. El-Zein will miss the first few weeks of the season with a leg injury. Craig Jones, up from the JV, should give the running game a boost.

Key number: 91. Combined points scored by Reservoir in consecutive wins to close the regular season last year.

River Hill Hawks

2012 record: 10-0, 14-0 (Class 3A state champion)

Last playoff appearance: 2012 (3A state champion); Last state championship: 2012 (4th); Five-year record: 62-5 (.925).

Coach: Brian Van Deusen, 14th season

Returning offensive starters: 4; Returning defensive starters: 4.

Top players (offense): Seniors Drew Pritchard (QB), Cory Daniel* (TE/LB) and Tre Patterson (RB/CB); juniors Aiden Gelb (RB) and Robert Haid (OT).

Top players (defense): Seniors Logan Kirby* (NG/OG), Anthony Corrao# (DE/OG), Chris Galloway (CB/RB) and Cyrus Vaughn (LB/RB); junior Brian Kirby (LB/RB).

Key losses: RB/S Evan Griffin, QB Austin Altman, WR/DB Nick Ball, T/DE Justin Nestor, LB/RB Stephan Osong, LB/RB Justin Arn and CB/HB Noah Carter.

Scouting report: A 62-5 record over the past five seasons means that River Hill is the top dog in Howard County until further notice. Losing playmakers like Griffin, Altman, Arn, Osong and Ball will hurt, but the Hawks have been there before. The combination of Daniel, Corrao and the Kirby brothers on defense could be devestating, and Pritchard has proven more than capable of leading River Hill's prolific offense. Galloway, River Hill's fastest player, should have plenty of openings to move the ball down the field. Juniors Tyler Smith (T/DE) and Jon Kanda (SE) are the team's top JV call-ups.

Key number: 4,822. Combined yards from scrimmage gained by the graduated quartet of Arn, Griffin, Osong and Ball last season. The same four players also scored 62 touchdowns, not including defense or special teams.

Wilde Lake Wildecats

2012 record: 5-5, 5-5

Last playoff appearance: 2010 (3A state champion); Last state championship: 2010 (6th); Five-year record: 39-20 (.661).

Coach: Mike Harrison, fifth season

Returning offensive starters: 5; Returning defensive starters: 5.

Top players (offense): Seniors Spencer Ampofo (QB), Malik Jackson# (WR/LB), Danny Johnson (C), DeVon Groves (WR/DB) and John Radcliffe (RB/LB); junior Dana Dickerson (OT/DT).

Top players (defense): Seniors Kris Gough (DT/OG) and Kahlyl McClain (DT/OT); juniors Cuinn Mullins (LB/RB), Malik Holland (DB/WR) and Steven Jordan (LB/TE).

Key losses: OT/DE Moise Larose, TE/LB Nate Haase, RB/LB Wayne Long (RB/LB), LB/FB Eric Handy, LB/RB Shawn Winans, DE/TE Tola Morakinyo and CB/RB Trevon Jacks.

Scouting report: Wilde Lake has not had a winning season since it went all the way to a state championship in 2011. The Wildecats desperately want to reclaim their winning reputation in 2013, and a hungry crew of newcomers will be leading the charge. Sophomore Quez Bradley (RB/LB), junior DeAndre Henry (WR/RB/DB) and senior Khari Jackson (DB/WR) are the top call-ups to the varsity. Ampofo (296 passing yards, 3 TDs) is running the offense for the third straight season, and he has one of the league's best receivers in Jackson (256 yards, 2 TDs). Groves (38 tackles, 4 INTs) is the top returning playmaker on defense.

Key number: 14.9. Points per game allowed by the Wildecats last season, third best in the league. The offense, which averaged only 16 points per game (9th), was a little off the pace however. Wilde Lake lost three games by a touchdown or less.

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