Football preview: The poll

1. Loyola

Coach: Brian Abbott. Last season: 10-0, ranked No. 2. Postseason: N/A. MIAA A Conference regular-season champion.

Outlook: The Dons will be much younger than the team that won a third straight A Conference crown a year ago, but they have plenty of players to fill key roles and lots of senior leadership. Abbott said the key is how quickly the seniors can bring along 10 sophomores who will receive significant playing time.

2. Gilman

Coach: Biff Poggi. Last season: 6-4, No. 14. Postseason: N/A.

Outlook: A year ago, the Greyhounds were young, and Poggi said a tough schedule wore them down after a big early-season win over DeMatha. Don't look for that wear and tear to happen again - even against the area's toughest schedule - as a more veteran group with seven starters back on each side of the ball appears up to the challenge.

3. Arundel

Coach: Chuck Markiewicz. Last season: 11-2, No. 5.

Postseason: Class 4A state semifinalist.

Outlook: Offense wasn't a problem for the Wildcats last season, as quarterback Billy Cosh passed for more than 3,900 yards, but the defense wasn't as strong, giving up 59 points in the season finale. That should change this time around with a strong group of returning linebackers and a few transfers.

4. River Hill

Coach: Brian Van Deusen. Last season: 14-0, No. 1.

Postseason: Class 2A state champion.

Outlook: After two straight 2A titles, the Hawks should make a run at this fall's Class 3A crown. While some big names have graduated - including running back Michael Campanaro - the Hawks return five senior linemen who should hold things together as some promising skill players debut as starters.

5. Dunbar

Coach: Lawrence Smith. Last season: 11-1, No. 3.

Postseason: Class 1A state champion.

Outlook: The Poets were all about offense last year, as record-setting running back Tavon Austin, who has since graduated, led them to a third straight state title. Now Dunbar will focus on defense, with perhaps the strongest linebacker corps in the area and a huge line. It didn't hurt to gain six transfers, including standout defensive end Josh Alaeze.

6. Old Mill

Coach: Damian Ferragamo. Last season: 9-2, No. 11.

Postseason: Class 4A East semifinalist.

Outlook: The Patriots are raring to atone for a surprising season-ending loss to Severna Park and make a strong run at a 4A state title. They open their season Friday against Arundel, their top rival in the county and the region. Look for the veteran Patriots to have a solid running game with three top-notch running backs.

7. Eastern Tech

Coach: Marc Mesaros. Last season: 12-1, No. 4.

Postseason: Class 2A state finalist.

Outlook: The good news is that River Hill, which beat the Mavericks in the past two state finals, has moved to 3A. The bad news? The Mavericks graduated 10 All-Baltimore County players. Still, they should be able to reload quickly. Mesaros said it's just a matter of plugging the right players into the right positions.

8. Mount St. Joseph

Coach: Chip Armstrong. Last season: 7-2, No. 8. Postseason: N/A.

Outlook: The Gaels have been the fastest rising MIAA A Conference team the past few years, tying Loyola for the title in 2007 and finishing second last season. Young in a few spots - including quarterback and kicker - the Gaels have a solid core that should keep them in a crowded hunt for the championship.

9. Hereford

Coach: Steve Turnbaugh. Last season: 10-2, No. 7.

Postseason: Class 3A state semifinalist.

Outlook: The Bulls, who have posted more wins in the past 13 years than any other program in the state, don't have quite the numbers they've enjoyed in the past, so more players - especially linemen - will play both ways. Still, with a strong team chemistry and a good running game, don't look for much drop-off.

10. Edmondson

Coach: Dante Jones. Last season: 8-4, unranked.

Postseason: Class 2A North finalist.

Outlook: The Red Storm aims for a 2A state crown to add to the one it has from 2006. With seven starters back on defense, five on offense and plenty of senior leadership - especially in quarterback Jerry Lovelocke - the Red Storm has put together a tough schedule that includes Loyola and Mount St. Joseph.

11. Perry Hall

Coach: Keith Robinson. Last season: 9-3, No. 15.

Postseason: Class 4A North finalist.

Outlook: The Gators' strength starts with an offensive line averaging 290 pounds, which should give veteran quarterback Davonta Farrell plenty of time to find his receivers. Although the Gators graduated some talented seniors, especially at the skill positions, they have a core of seniors returning.

12. McDonogh

Coach: Dom Damico. Last season: 4-6, unranked. Postseason: N/A.

Outlook: The Eagles beat Gilman last season, but they were young and inconsistent. This year, they will still be young on the line, but the skill players have the experience to give the team a big boost in the MIAA A Conference. Quarterback Rudy Johnson and linebacker Bryan Ellis should lead the way.

13. Wilde Lake

Coach: Mike Harrison. Last season: 11-2, No. 6.

Postseason: Class 3A state finalist.

Outlook: The Wildecats have a new coach in Harrison, a former assistant who takes over a strong program from longtime coach Doug DuVall. There has been significant turnover - especially on the lines - but Harrison has been pleased with the youngsters who will step into key positions, especially junior quarterback Joe Kelly.

14. Poly

Coach: Roger Wrenn. Last season: 6-4, unranked.

Postseason: Class 2A North semifinalist.

Outlook: In his fourth season with the Engineers, Wrenn said he thinks this is his best Poly team. With 17 seniors who started or received a lot of playing time, the Engineers have the experience as well as the strength and athleticism - led by quarterback Antoine Goodson - to jump into the Baltimore City race.

15. Joppatowne

Coach: Bill Waibel. Last season: 9-4*, No. 9.

Postseason: Class 1A state semifinalist.

Outlook: Last fall, the Mariners overcame early adversity - forfeiting three games for using an ineligible player - to reach the state semifinals, where they fell to Fort Hill. There's a good returning corps, although three of five linemen graduated and some players will be in new positions.

Others considered: Atholton (3-7, unranked), Century (12-1, No. 10), City (6-4, unranked), Milford Mill (9-3, unranked), North County (8-3, unranked), North Harford (4-6, unranked)

* - Joppatowne's record reflects three victories that were forfeited because of an ineligible player. Note: The MIAA does not play a postseason tournament.

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