For Hereford, this fall could turn into a rerun of last year.
The Bulls lost to North Harford in the season opener, then went on to win nine straight games and earn a playoff berth.
Hereford coach Steve Turnbaugh said his squad may have to do the same thing — post a 9-1 record — to reach the postseason again after North Harford beat the Bulls, 28-24, on Sept. 2.
"I don't know if 8-2 can get you into the playoffs," Turnbaugh said. "We can play with anybody in the (3A/4A) league, but we have a heck of a schedule in front of is."
Expect Hereford to win a lot of those tough remaining games. The Bulls routed Woodlawn, 42-0, in their second game on Sept. 9.
Making the playoffs has almost been a given in Turnbaugh's 16 years on the job.
Hereford only missed the postseason once in that span — 2005.
Last year, the Bulls made the playoffs for the fifth straight season, but lost in the first round to Franklin.
"There was one time in early 2000s that we were feared," said Turnbaugh, whose team won Class 2A state championships in 1999 and 2001, but lost in the Class 3A final in 2007. "We are not feared anymore. We have lost that mystique, but people still get up for us. We have a ball game every week."
Turnbaugh's 2011 Bulls are probably less experienced than his best squads.
Hereford returned only three starters on offense and four on defense.
Junior quarterback Ryan Jones started the season opener, but Turnbaugh expects junior Jay Patti to get plenty of playing time running the triple option wing-T.
The two alternated at the position last year and the same thing could happen again this fall.
"If I could take the two of them and make one, I would have a hell of a quarterback," the coach said. "Jay is a bigger kid. Ryan is sort of on the quiet side. He needs to assert himself more and he is getting better. Jay is very athletic and has that command in the huddle. He doesn't lack confidence."
The promising and talented line in front of the quarterbacks may take time to jell.
It features senior tackles Luke Kurtz and Nick Maragos, senior guards Justin McClure and David Eldrdge, senior center Blake Moffett and sophomore center Brock Turnbaugh.
"The center and both tackles are new (starters)," Turnbaugh said.
But Turnbaugh adds: "When either one of those big tackles hook up with you, you are going backwards because they are both physically strong."
Those big bodies up front will be clearing chunks of yards for senior running backs Will Bittner and Richard Lee and junior fullback Mike Swiger.
Of the trio, Bittner should get the most carries.
"He is critical to the success of our offense," Turnbaugh said. "When he went down last year with an injury, our running game was not the same. He is a hard-nosed runner, who has good vision and can catch the ball."
Like the offense, the defense may be better later in the season.
Bittner, a safety, linemen Eldridge and Chris Vaillancourt and linebacker Austin Brown returned to lead the unit.