Home Turf: 1400 Panther Drive, Hampstead
Head Coach: Matt Martello (first season)
2011 Record: 2-8 overall; 2-5 county
Matt Martello has been here before.
As North Carroll's head coach in 2002, he guided the Panthers to a 3-7 record. Martello hopes for better results in his second stint in Hampstead.
"We're really emphasizing the weight room," said Martello, who was an assistant to the retired Jeff Oeming last year. "I feel like we're in great physical condition.
"We were more of a spread-offense team last year, but I don't think that really fits our personnel," he said. "We'll be more of a run-oriented team, and we'll still run the same '40' defense that we had last year. This is a great school and a great situation, and now we just have to go out and win some football games."
The Panthers' new coach should have an impressive offense to work with. Senior running back Dan Gebhart, who led the team in rushing and receiving last year, returns to the North Carroll backfield. Gebhart finished sixth among county rushers with 601 yards, and placed seventh in receiving with 23 catches for 350 yards.
Gebhart will run behind an offensive line led by seniors Andy Barynauskas and Nick Sherman.
"Dan and Andy played a big role with their off-season leadership, particularly in the weight room," Martello said. "They both have great character."
Gebhart isn't the only prominent pass-catcher in the Panther lineup. Kyle Fiedler, a senior tight end who was the county's second-leading receiver in 2011 with 38 catches, will team up with Mike Godwin (22 catches) to form a potent downfield combination.
The key to North Carroll's offense may be senior quarterback Terin Kelsey. As a junior, Kelsey threw for 1,326 yards and 13 touchdowns, mainly to the same receivers that he will be playing catch with this fall.
"We have some quality receivers and a good quarterback in Terin Kelsey," Martello said. "Right now, we have Terin and two other players fighting for the position. Eli Unger (429 passing yards in 2011) is a great athlete who scored very high in the weight room."
On defense, the Panthers lost leading tacklers Keegan Farley and Austin Maloney from a unit that improved significantly in the second half of last season. Martello sees linebacker Sean Floto and cornerbacks Godwin and Tyler Whitehead as defensive leaders. Barynauskas and Matt Morgenbesser, who return from last year's unit, will also figure in the defensive game plan.
"I want to find players who can get off their blocks and run to the football," Martello said. "That's what we're looking for on defense. Last year we were on defense a lot, and we need to get off the field more often."
The Panthers start the season with challenging out-of-county opponents, including 2011 playoff teams Boonsboro and Brunswick. For the first time in many years, defending county champ Westminster isn't on the schedule.
"I would love to play Westminster every year," Martello said. "They were always a rival. But I understand why they're not playing us, because they don't gain anything from it. If we do well in the county and in the MVAL, a team at our level (Class 1A) will do well in the region standings."