Coach: Biff Poggi
Last season: 7-2, ranked No. 2
Postseason: N/A, MIAA A Conference regular-season runner-up
Outlook: The Greyhounds stumbled once last year against
A Conference opposition, falling, 26-21, to Calvert Hall, but after that they rolled through their final three conference games by an average margin of victory of 44.7 points. With
12 Division I-caliber players and 14 returning starters — including perhaps the area's best player in versatile WR-DB Cyrus Jones — the Greyhounds are ranked No. 47 nationally in ESPN High School's Powerade Fab 50.
2. Calvert Hall
Coach: Donald Davis
Last season: 11-1, No. 1
Postseason: N/A, MIAA A Conference regular-season champion
Outlook: The Cardinals came from behind to beat Gilman, 26-21, in midseason, and that game decided the A Conference title. Look for the Cardinals to be in a bruising title race again this season with nearly all their offensive skill-position players back. Davis said the key will be carving out a new identity rather than relying only on what worked last season.
3. River Hill
Coach: Brian Van Deusen
Last season: 10-2, No. 10
Postseason: Class 3A East regional finalist
Outlook: The Hawks missed the state tournament for the first time in six years but won a share of the Howard County championship — their eighth in a row. Workhorse RB Aaron Wells will continue to lead River Hill's patented running game. With half their starters returning, the Hawks should be the team to beat in an increasingly tight Howard County race.
Coach: Dom Damico
Last season: 6-4, unranked Postseason: N/A
Outlook: With seven or eight starters back on each side of the ball, the Eagles look like a team on the rise. They won the 7-on-7 tournament at M&T Bank Stadium, beating Washington-area power Good Counsel, and have an experienced line, which could spell trouble for A Conference foes.
Coach: Lawrence Smith
Last season: 13-1, No. 12 Postseason: Class 1A state champion
Outlook: The Poets won their fifth state title in seven years with a young team, and 17 returning starters should set the stage for another title run as well as bid for the Baltimore City championship. The defense, which returns a stellar corps of linebackers, shut out six teams and allowed only 47 points in winning its final 12 games.
6. Old Mill
Coach: Chad McCormick
Last season: 9-2, No. 5
Postseason: Class 4A East regional semifinalist
Outlook: The Patriots return nine defensive starters for first-year coach McCormick. They also bring back an experienced quarterback and running back but need to rework the line. Looking to avenge a 16-14 playoff loss to Broadneck in the season opener, the Patriots will vie for the Anne Arundel County title.
Coach:: Chuck Markiewicz
Last season: 10-2, No. 4
Postseason: Class 3A East regional finalist
Outlook: The Wildcats will simply reload the quarterback spot and keep the passes flying with plenty of experienced receivers to catch them. Old Mill gets the edge in the preseason with so many starters back, but Arundel returns 13 and could come away with its sixth straight Anne Arundel crown.
8. Archbishop Spalding
Coach: Mike Whittles
Last season: 9-3, No. 7
Postseason: MIAA B Conference champion
Outlook: After two B Conference titles, the Cavaliers move up to the A Conference, where they have had some success (they pushed Calvert Hall to three overtimes before falling last season). With a senior-laden team, the question is whether they are ready for a steady diet of A Conference competition.
Coach: Kyle Schmitt
Last season: 8-2, unranked
Postseason: Class 3A East regional semifinalist
Outlook: Fifteen starters return from the team that dealt River Hill its first Howard County loss in 48 games last season. Now, the Raiders face an uphill battle after being forced to forfeit their season opener for a summer practice violation. Still, they have the skill players to stay in the county race.
Coach: Roger Wrenn
Last season: 7-3, unranked Postseason: None
Outlook: The Engineers missed the playoffs last season by
22 hundredths of a point, and they might have a tougher time qualifying this fall after moving up to Class 4A. Still, with
10 starters back on offense and eight on defense, they will make a run at a regional berth and a city championship.
Coach: Anthony Burgos
Last season: 11-3, No. 6 Postseason: State Class 3A finalist
Outlook: Calvert Hall transfer Jackson Thorton filled the biggest hole in an Indians lineup that lost half its starters — at quarterback. Other holes appear to be plugged as well, but using a strong corps of receivers, led by Ian Thomas, will be critical to a run at Baltimore County and state titles.
Coach: Brian Abbott
Last season: 6-5, unranked Postseason: N/A
Outlook: With 16 starters back, the Dons look to steady the ship after an up-and-down season a year ago. The line and the skill positions look strong with a battle going for the starting quarterback spot. The Dons also have a near-automatic kicker in Jamie Dubyoski.
Coach: Dan Makosy
Last season: 10-2, unranked
Postseason: Class 2A South regional finalist
Outlook: The Golden Bears fell to River Hill in last season's opener but shared the Howard County title with the Hawks after winning 10 straight before dropping the regional final to eventual state champ McDonough. With a pair of stellar running backs, they should again have a lot to say about the county race.
14. Wilde Lake
Coach: Mike Harrison
Last season: 11-3, No. 5 Postseason: State Class 3A champion
Outlook: The Wildecats graduated half their state title team but return a lot of strength at the skill positions, especially on defense. The line needs some rebuilding, but the Wildecats seem to reload every year with a squad of blue-collar players like the ones who came together in a big way last fall.
Coach: Rob Harris
Last season: 10-3, No. 3
Postseason: State Class 4A semifinalist
Outlook: The Bruins have come on strong the past two years with late wins over Old Mill, last year in the regional semifinals, but they graduated 36 players and 18 starters. Still, speed and talented skill players should keep the Bruins, under first-year coach Harris, in a tight Anne Arundel County race.
OTHERS CONSIDERED: Archbishop Curley (9-3, No. 13), City (7-3, unranked), Edmondson (6-4, unranked), Maryland Christian (13-0, unranked), North Harford (11-1, No. 9), South Carroll (11-1, No. 15), Westminster (6-4, unranked)