Home Turf: 355 Ronsdale Road, Sykesville
Head Coach: Jim Holzman (fourth season)
2011 Record: 4-6 overall; 3-4 county
After making the playoffs in 2008 and 2009, the Century Knights have fallen short the past two years. Coach Jim Holzman's team might have made the Class 2A West Region field last fall, but a series of injuries to key players led to a four-game midseason slide that extinguished the Knights' postseason hopes.
If Century can avoid injuries and another untimely slump, it should be able to make a legitimate playoff run.
A huge and physical offensive line will be the key to a running game that must rebuild after losing the county's top rusher, Nick Schaffer, to graduation. The all-senior offensive line — Donnie Knox, Ryder Cavey, Matt Hunter, Oscar Callejas and Matt Pluta — should provide ample protection when second-year starting quarterback Brad MacFee drops to pass.
"The offensive line is the strongest part of our team this year," Holzman said. "We have five linemen who have seen significant playing time and been very dedicated to the program. I think we can definitely beat some teams at the point of attack."
MacFee, who threw for nearly 1,000 yards and nine scores last year, will have to find some new receiving targets. Dylan Lopez, C.J. O'Brien and Logan Ryder are gone, and the top candidates to replace them didn't break double figures in receptions.
"Brad has a year under his belt, and he's stepped up as a leader," Holzman said. "He got better as the season went on. ... His arm is much stronger, and his footwork is much better."
MacFee will throw to a cadre of receivers. Senior Shane Weidel, who Holzman plans to use at both tight end and wide receiver, will join with wideouts Mike Capparelli and Mike Ogle and slotbacks Mike Ashwell and Tyrice Rock to give Century several downfield weapons.
In the running game, junior fullback Deon Minor will team with Ashwell, Rock and Isaac Houston to create Century's new-look backfield.
"We won't necessarily have a feature back this year," Holzman said. "We will have four guys who each get the ball four or five times a game."
The Knights should be solid on defense. While Century lost standout linebacker Zach Green (61 tackles), six starters return to a unit that surrendered more than 26 points per outing. Weidel is expected to lead the defense from his free safety position. Knox, Cavey, and Logan Rill comprise a formidable front line, with inside linebacker Oscar Callejas (team-leading 62 tackles) providing plenty of support at the next level.
The Knights' first two games, against Frederick and Oakdale, will be important any playoff plans. But a tough midseason stretch against county contenders Winters Mill, South Carroll, Manchester Valley and Westminster will make or break the Knights' season. Century ends its campaign against local rival Liberty, a team it has beaten five consecutive times.
"We haven't won our first game in three years, and it would be big for our kids to get that opener against Frederick," said Holzman. "We need to beat South Carroll to become a playoff team. That's a stepping-stone game for us, because they always have good talent and are well-coached."