Coach: Biff Poggi. Last season: 7-3, ranked No. 4. Postseason: N/A, MIAA A Conference regular-season champion.
Outlook: With much of their starting lineup back, including the area's top recruit in quarterback Darius Jennings, the Greyhounds boast the experience, running game and defense to make a run at their 10th A Conference title in 15 years. Ranked seventh in the East region by USA Today, they face a stellar out-of-conference schedule, opening with perhaps the best team in Maryland, Good Counsel, on Saturday night at Towson University.
2. Old Mill
Coach: Damian Ferragamo. Last season: 12-2, No. 1. Postseason: Class 4A state champion.
Outlook: The Patriots have some huge holes to fill after graduating 13 starters. Their entire backfield is gone, including co-Offensive Player of the Year Josh Furman, but they should continue to run the ball well behind an experienced offensive line. The defense is small but experienced. Look for the Patriots to be in the thick of a tough Anne Arundel County race.
Coach: Chuck Markiewicz. Last season: 11-1, No. 3. Postseason: Class 3A East regional finalist.
Outlook: The Wildcats bring back only four starters each way, but that's deceiving, because most guys saw action as they outscored the opposition by an average of 29 points. Gone is record-setting quarterback Billy Cosh, a co-Offensive Player of the Year, but the Wildcats won't change their offense and Nick Rosati will step in to run it.
4. River Hill
Coach: Brian Van Deusen. Last season: 12-1, No. 2. Postseason: Class 3A state semifinalist.
Outlook: A turnover-laden 10-7 state semifinal loss to Huntingtown ended their 40-game win streak, but the Hawks have dusted themselves off and aim for an eighth straight Howard County title and a third state crown. Most of their backfield returns, but they will need to reload their line after graduating four exceptional starters.
Coach: Jeff Herrick. Last season: 8-2, No. 13. Postseason: None.
Outlook: The Bruins finished strong last season with a win over Old Mill, which went on to win the state Class 4A crown, but it wasn't enough to get them into the playoffs. With loads of experience (32 seniors), an exceptional defense and a strong kicking game, they are aiming for their first playoff berth in three years.
6. Archbishop Spalding
Coach: Mike Whittles. Last season: 10-1, No. 10. Postseason: MIAA B Conference champion.
Outlook: The Cavaliers avenged their only regular-season loss with a 12-0 B Conference title-game victory over Boys' Latin. They boast a cadre of strong running backs and a veteran quarterback among their 13 returning starters, but there are some questions about the line. The tests come early with Gilman, Calvert Hall and Loyola within the first four weeks.
7. Calvert Hall
Coach: Donald Davis. Last season: 9-3, No. 11. Postseason: N/A.
Outlook: Despite graduating half of their starters, the Cardinals have a nest full of talent and should be a prime contender to take the A Conference title from Gilman, which they beat last season. They have a lot of speed and an experienced defensive line — and the offensive line gets a boost from a pair of Cardinal Gibbons transfers.
8. Boys' Latin
Coach: Ritchie Schell. Last season: 10-1, No. 12. Postseason: MIAA B Conference finalist.
Outlook: Expectations are high for the Lakers, who return 15 starters from a team that went undefeated before falling to Archbishop Spalding in the B Conference title game last season. They should once again have a strong running game, but it will be more balanced with more speed. The line has experience, but the Lakers are unproven at quarterback.
Coach: Roger Wrenn. Last season: 9-2, unranked. Postseason: Class 3A North regional semifinalist.
Outlook: Injuries to their quarterback and top running back helped doom the Engineers to a 10-8 loss to Franklin in the regional semis, but they should bounce back quickly with 11 returning starters and two solid transfers. They look strong in the skill positions on offense and, Wrenn said, "in the trenches" on defense.
Coach: Dom Damico. Last season: Last season: 8-2, No. 5. Postseason: N/A.
Outlook: The Eagles graduated key players but return strength on both lines and on defense. Despite lacking a lot of explosive offense, they could win a lot of low-scoring games if the defense lives up to its potential. Without the depth of some of their A Conference rivals, they must stay healthy.
Coach: Anthony Burgos. Last season: 9-3, unranked. Postseason: Class 3A North regional finalist.
Outlook: The Indians were young last season, starting a lot of juniors and five sophomores, but they should reap the rewards with these older and wiser players. In addition to one of the most versatile players in the area, Navassa Brown, enough guys return to make the Indians two deep at every position.
12. Eastern Tech
Coach: Marc Mesaros. Last season: 13-1, ranked No. 6. Postseason: Class 2A state champion.
Outlook: After graduating 15 starters from their first state title team, the Mavericks have some rebuilding to do, especially on the offensive line. A few offensive workhorses graduated, but the Mavericks still have a solid backfield led by running back Marquiese Bannister. Mesaros said building chemistry is key.
Coach: Lawrence Smith. Last season: 11-2, No. 9. Postseason: Class 1A state semifinalist.
Outlook: The Poets' run of four straight state titles ended last year despite a talented team's late-season surge. Few starters return, but talented youngsters are primed to take over. The secondary and the wide receivers appear to be the strengths, while offensive line and quarterback development will be critical.
Coach: Brian Abbott. Last season: 7-4, No. 15. Postseason: N/A.
Outlook: The Dons have lots of experience with seven starters returning each way, but several key positions need to be filled, including quarterback, where first-time starter Mike Fafaul takes over. With only 10 seniors, Abbott will be looking for leadership to emerge quickly to keep the Dons in the A Conference race.
15. Wilde Lake
Coach: Mike Harrison. Last season: 7-4, unranked. Postseason: Class 3A East regional semifinalist.
Outlook: The Wildecats return 17 starters and a lot of potential in the running game, but they will need to bolster their offensive line, which suffers the most from graduation. Without a lot of depth, especially at linebacker, they need to stay healthy to take a run at River Hill in the Howard County race.
OTHERS CONSIDERED: Annapolis (8-3, unranked), Atholton (10-2, No. 14), Chesapeake-BC (10-2, unranked), Hereford (10-2, No. 8), North Harford (8-3, unranked), South Carroll (9-3, unranked)Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun