With the high school football underway for the private schools and the public schools set to kick off their seasons on Friday or Saturday, The Baltimore Sun is rolling out its Top 5 teams leading up to the full preview on Thursday. This morning, We go back to Anne Arundel County for our No. 4.
The Sun will count down the Top 5, leading to No. 1 on Wednesday evening. The entire Top 15 poll along with players to watch will be published Thursday in The Baltimore Sun and on baltimoresun.com.
Coach: Rich Holzer
Last season: 10-3, No. 3
Postseason: Class 4A state semifinalist
Key Players: CB-RB Travis Chidebe, Sr.; OL Will DaFoe, Sr.; TE Will Huff, Jr.; DE Nate Randolph, Jr; S Terian Fort, Sr.; QB Bree Hart, Sr.
First game: At Glen Burnie, Friday, 6:30 p.m.
Outlook: Any time a team graduates 32 players and has a new offensive coordinator (Will Bell) and a new defensive coordinator (Steve Erxleben), all of that upheaval could mean a rebuilding season. Not at Meade.
The Mustangs bring back seven starters on offense and seven starters on defense from a team that lost to Old Mill and Arundel during the regular season and then knocked Arundel out of the playoffs to reach the state semifinals for the second year in a row.
Their ability to continually reload and finish at the end of the season -- they won back-to-back regional championships for the first time school history in a region that includes Anne Arundel County's top four teams -- makes the Mustangs the team to beat in Anne Arundel County. Still, it should be a tight race with Old Mill and Arundel as the top challengers.
The biggest -- and fastest -- shoes to be filled are those of All-Metro running back Kyle Evans, who ran for 2,179 yards and scored 20 touchdowns, including two in the state semifinal. His 367-yard performance against Southern is the second-highest single-game rushing total in Anne Arundel County history.
Chidebe will do his best to fill that role as he did a few times last season. He carried the Mustangs in two wins over Broadneck when Evans was hurt. In the regional playoff opener against the Bruins, Chidebe ran for 81 of his 100 yards in the second half. In the 46-25 state semifinal loss to Suitland, he ran for 32 yards and caught six passes for 107 yards and a touchdown.
"That last game, we moved him out to slot and he did run a few times, but he had five or six catches and took one to the house for about 45 yards," Holzer said.
The Mustangs picked up a transfer quarterback from St. Vincent Pallotti who Holzer said might be the best he's coached. Hart, 6-feet-1, 195-pounds, joins his cousin Cliff Eubanks, a senior who is one of the Mustangs' starting wide receivers.
Two senior starters return at linebacker: Daniel Butler, who runs a 4.48-second 40-yard dash, and Troy Brown. Although this is the area the Mustangs most need to bolster, Holzer said, he has talented players moving up from junior varsity.
"I think a lot of people are going to be surprised when they see us come on the field this year," Holzer said. "I think someone said we were decimated by graduation and I just kind of chuckled to myself. We have a lot of speed and a lot of size on our line."
If the Mustangs can control the line of scriimmage, they should again have a strong running game. Their speed on defense also gives them an edge against opponents' ground games.
Meade doesn't hit its toughest competition until travelling to Old Mill Sept. 19 at 6:30 p.m. The Mustangs play Broadneck on Oct. 31 and Arundel on Nov. 7, the last game of the regular season.