To bolster both lines, which would have been a lethal weakness for St. Frances in the A Conference with only two returning starters — 5-foot-11, 200-pound center Mike Berry and 6-foot, 300-pound guard Kyshawn Cherie — Hailemariam needed to bring in more players. Among those he added: 6-foot-3, 270-pound offensive tackle-defensive end Julian Lynn from Oakdale in Frederick County; 6-foot-2, 285-pound guard-defensive tackle Dalonte Jenifer from Mervo; and 6-foot-4, 285-pound tackle Shamdu Nalls from Owings Mills.

The main position that remains untested is quarterback, where the top two are senior transfers. The starter likely will be David Bryant, from Marriotts Ridge, with Quantaye Battle, from Edmondson, as the backup.

"We'd be lying if we didn't say we needed to replenish the program," Hailemariam said. "We inquired if some kids were available, but a lot of kids came to us because of the success we had, although at a lower level. And the kids were recruiting each other. There's a misconception among some coaches that we wanted to steal their players, but that's not necessarily the way it happened."

Hailemariam, 40, played high school football at Wootton in Montgomery County and walked on at Maryland, and he understands the challenge his players and all-volunteer coaches face by jumping to the A Conference and loading up the nonconference schedule. No matter what happens, he sees the move as "a platform" to build the program and generate enrollment at St. Frances, which has 98 of its 135 boys playing football.

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"My mission is for them to go to school, and that's really the ultimate reason we do what we do," he said. "The winning is awesome. Don't get that twisted. I'm a coach and I like to win. I like to compete and show them what it takes to win, but I would like to be challenged as a coach and as a coaching staff and these will be the best teams we're playing against.

"It's going to be a growing process for all of us, but the challenge is worthwhile. If you're going to sacrifice, you might as well try to do it at a level that makes sense."

St. Frances schedule

Aug. 23: vs. Nease (Fla.) in Orlando, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 1: vs. Friendship Collegiate (D.C.) at Byrd Stadium, 1 p.m.

Sept. 6: at Good Counsel, 7 p.m.

Sept. 13: vs. DeMatha at P.G. Sports and Learning Complex, 7 p.m.

Sept. 20: at Wythe (Richmond, Va.), 7 p.m.

Sept. 28: at Calvert Hall, 2 p.m.

Oct. 4: at Archbishop Spalding, 7 p.m.

Oct. 12: vs. McDonogh at Utz Field, 4 p.m.

Oct. 19: at Loyola, noon

Oct. 26: vs. Mount St. Joseph at Utz Field, 4 p.m.

Nov. 2: vs. Gilman at Utz Field, 4 p.m.

Nov. 28: at Eastern Christian, noon