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Howard County 2021 football preview

A preview of the 2021 Howard County football season, with team-by-team capsules and players to watch.
A preview of the 2021 Howard County football season, with team-by-team capsules and players to watch. (Karl Merton Ferron)

Football was the sport most affected by the coronavirus pandemic in Howard County this past spring.

With several dozen players on each roster and social distancing impossible, multiple teams had COVID cancellations that shortened an already condensed season. The result was one county team, Glenelg, playing just three games compared to the four or five that other area programs did.

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Although the upcoming campaign will still likely be impacted by the pandemic in some way, the county’s coaches are yearning for a closer-to-normal football season.

This past spring, River Hill, Glenelg and Howard were the top teams in the county. The Hawks (5-0) and the Gladiators (3-0) both went undefeated in a season in which a county champion was not crowned, while the Lions were 4-1 behind Offensive Player of the Year Curtis Eley. The Defensive Player of the Year award went to Wilde Lake’s Ramal West, who led the playmaking Wildecats to a 4-2 record.

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This season, the county’s coaches believe Glenelg and River Hill will be the top teams in the league, while Howard and Atholton are expected to have competitive squads.

The regular season starts with a full slate of games on Friday and finishes Oct. 30. The MPSSAA football postseason begins Nov. 5 and ends Dec. 4.

Here’s a look at the 12 county teams entering the 2021 season:

Atholton

Atholton football head coach Eric Woodson talks to his team during a game in the spring 2021 season.
Atholton football head coach Eric Woodson talks to his team during a game in the spring 2021 season. (Photo courtesy of Brian Jamison)

Coach: Eric Woodson (second season)

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Spring 2021 record: 3-2

Offensive scheme: Spread

Returning offensive starters: Seven

Top offensive players: Seniors Charlie Decelles (RB), Harrison Feldman (QB) and Kevin Smitson (WR/RB); juniors Miles Scott (QB) and Dillan Watkins (RB).

Defensive scheme: 4-2-5

Returning defensive starters: Six

Top defensive players: Seniors Tra Evans (DB), Malik Hemmeian (DB), John Prajka (LB), Korede Sogbesan (DL) and Deacon Watkins (DL).

Kickoff: The Raiders showed well against some of the top teams in the county this past spring by losing to River Hill by only one score and defeating Marriotts Ridge. This fall, Woodson returns 13 of 22 starters. Included among the returners are quarterbacks Feldman and Scott, who Woodson said will each get opportunities to lead the offense.

Centennial

Centennial running back Praise Bright carries the ball in a game during the spring 2021 season.
Centennial running back Praise Bright carries the ball in a game during the spring 2021 season. (Photo courtesy of Israel Carunungan)

Coach: Billy Martin (fourth season)

Spring 2021 record: 2-3

Offensive scheme: Balanced spread

Returning offensive starters: Five

Top offensive players: Seniors Praise Bright (RB), Evan Miller (OL) and Jake Thomas (QB); junior Martin Dedrick (OL).

Defensive scheme: 4-3

Returning defensive starters: Five

Top defensive players: Seniors Mofe Adewole (DL) and Jalen Eudell (DB); junior Jayden Marcus (DL) and Carter Watson (DL); sophomore Nisola Adebanjo (DB).

Kickoff: This past spring, the Eagles enjoyed their best season since before their forfeited 2017 season due to being unable to field a team. Martin’s squad played close in four of five games and won its last two contests for the program’s first winning streak since 2013. This fall, the Eagles return Bright, the fourth-leading rusher in the county last season. Thomas is replacing graduated quarterback Sam Bussink.

Glenelg

Glenelg quarterback Bisi Owens throws a pass in a game during the spring 2021 season.
Glenelg quarterback Bisi Owens throws a pass in a game during the spring 2021 season. (Photo courtesy of Israel Carunungan)

Coach: Tim Cullen (third season)

Spring 2021 record: 3-0

Offensive scheme: Spread and shred run/shoot/run attack

Returning offensive starters: Two

Top offensive players: Seniors Dominic Magnolia (OL), John Masterman (TE), Bisi Owens (QB) and Michael Robbins (TE); junior Ethan Sotka (RB).

Defensive scheme: 4-2-5

Returning defensive starters: Three

Top defensive players: Seniors Zach Dubois (DB) and Kian Payne (RB); sophomores Christian Chen (LB), Will Piwowarski (DB) and Logan Pusheck (DB).

Kickoff: The Gladiators’ spring season was impacted by COVID, but that didn’t stop Cullen’s squad from sporting the best offense in the county with an average of 41.3 points per game. While Glenelg will have several new starters on both sides of the ball, the Gladiators do bring back one of the top quarterbacks in the county in Owens. As a junior last season, Owens threw for 404 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 179 yards and six scores in three games this past spring.

Hammond

Hammond running back Nathaniel Lamb carries the ball during a game in the spring 2021 season.
Hammond running back Nathaniel Lamb carries the ball during a game in the spring 2021 season. (Photo courtesy of David Thomas)

Coach: Will Bell (third season)

Spring 2021 record: 1-5

Offensive scheme: Multiple spread

Returning offensive starters: Six

Top offensive players: Seniors Kai Conaway (OL), Kyle Jeffers (OL), Zach Johnson (WR) and Nathaniel Lamb (RB); junior Jordan Campbell (QB).

Defensive scheme: 3-4

Returning defensive starters: Four

Top defensive players: Seniors John James (DB), Daniel Ordonio (LB), Austin Stewart (DL) and Nick Thomas (DB); junior J’Marcus Hines (DB).

Kickoff: Some people believed the Golden Bears would take the next step as a program this past spring in Bell’s second season, but inconsistent play and injuries led to a losing record. This fall, Hammond brings back several starters on both sides of the ball, including Campbell, who took over the signal calling duties midway through last season. If the Golden Bears make the playoffs, they’ll be in Class 2A, down from 3A, in the West Region alongside Oakland Mills and Glenelg.

Howard

Howard's Brady Cheung leaps into the arms of teammate, Kyle Perry after scoring the first touchdown during Friday night's game between Reservoir and Howard won by the Lions, 19-14 in Ellicott City in Week 1, 2019.
Howard's Brady Cheung leaps into the arms of teammate, Kyle Perry after scoring the first touchdown during Friday night's game between Reservoir and Howard won by the Lions, 19-14 in Ellicott City in Week 1, 2019. (Doug Kapustin/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Coach: Ross Hannon (fifth season)

Spring 2021 record: 4-1

Offensive scheme: Pistol REID offense

Returning offensive starters: Two

Top offensive players: Senior Harsh Shah (OL); juniors Logan Boone (OL), Blake Stolarik (OL) and Ben Ward (OL).

Defensive scheme: 3-5-3

Returning defensive starters: Two

Top defensive players: Seniors Ryan Addai (LB), Kyle Betenga (DL) and Brady Cheung (LB); sophomores Troy Burker (LB) and Nick Formica (DB).

Kickoff: The Lions were one of the top teams in the county last season with their only loss coming in a thriller against Glenelg. In June, Howard graduated spring 2021 Offensive Player of the Year Curtis Eley, who finished first in the county in touchdowns and receiving yards and second in rushing yards. Entering this season, Hannon is excited about his offensive line led by Shah, Stolarik, Boone and Ward. With football playoffs returning for the first time since 2019, Howard is moving down from Class 4A to 3A this fall in the East Region alongside eight other Howard County teams.

Long Reach

Long Reach's Julius Saunders (1) in action during a football match between Howard and Long Reach during the spring 2021 season.
Long Reach's Julius Saunders (1) in action during a football match between Howard and Long Reach during the spring 2021 season. (Daniel Kucin, Jr. / For Baltimore Sun Media)

Coach: Jamie Willis (eighth season)

Spring 2021 record: 1-4

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Offensive scheme: Spread balance attack

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Returning offensive starters: Seven

Top offensive players: Seniors Alexander Coffey (QB), Divine Rice (WR) and Julius Saunders (RB); juniors Daniel Ribalta (ATH) and Alexander Willis (OL).

Defensive scheme: 4-2-5

Returning defensive starters: Eight

Top defensive players: Senior Conner Perrigan (DE); juniors Abraham Kamara (DB), Michael Reid (LB) and Kyran Taylor (LB); sophomore Jaylen Etheridge (DB).

Kickoff: The Lightning opened the spring 2021 season with a win over Reservoir, but went on to lose their final four games. However, Jamie Willis’ squad is one of the most experienced teams in the county with 15 total starters returning, including proven seniors Saunders, Coffey and Perrigan and junior Alexander Willis, who is one of the top linemen in the county.

Marriotts Ridge

Marriotts Ridge quarterback Casey Pung scrambles for a first down run during a football game at Oakland Mills High School on April 1, 2021.
Marriotts Ridge quarterback Casey Pung scrambles for a first down run during a football game at Oakland Mills High School on April 1, 2021. (Brian Krista/Baltimore Sun Media)

Coach: TJ Welsh (first season)

Spring 2021 record: 3-2

Offensive scheme: Wing T

Returning offensive starters: Two

Top offensive players: Seniors Ethan Berry (WR), Carter Brown (RB) and Casey Pung (QB); junior Alan Zhao (K).

Defensive scheme: 3-4

Returning defensive starters: Three

Top defensive players: Seniors Tyler Gladstone (LB) and Nate Harris (DE); junior Martin Lunsford (LB).

Kickoff: Welsh is taking over as head coach for Marcus Lewis, who turned the Mustangs’ program around in his eight seasons. Marriotts Ridge brings back only five of 22 starters, but Pung — entering his third season as the team’s signal caller — and Harris — a talented defensive end — are among those back this fall. Brown and Stevie Jackson will lead a Mustangs’ backfield that lost leading rushers Kam Young and Quinn Kelley.

Mt. Hebron

Mount Hebron Vikings' Terry Tun (75) blocks, allowing Jake Nixon to cut past Oakland Mills Scorpions' Chris Coronel (5) during spring football Fri., March 19, 2021. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun Staff)
Mount Hebron Vikings' Terry Tun (75) blocks, allowing Jake Nixon to cut past Oakland Mills Scorpions' Chris Coronel (5) during spring football Fri., March 19, 2021. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun Staff) (Karl Merton Ferron)

Coach: Shawn Frederick (third season)

Spring 2021 record: 1-5

Offensive scheme: Hybrid Wing-T

Returning offensive starters: Three

Top offensive players: Seniors Jacob Nixon (QB) and Kam Wilson-Anderson (RB/WR); sophomore Aidan Hauf (RB/WR).

Defensive scheme: 4-2-5

Returning defensive starters: Four

Top defensive players: Seniors Everett Armstead (LB), Troy Galabuzi (DE) and Dennis Scott (DB); junior Elijah McKenzie (DB).

Kickoff: The Vikings are switching to a hybrid Wing-T offense this fall, with Nixon, Wilson-Anderson and Hauf expected to lead the ground attack. In his third season at the helm, Frederick has been happy with the culture change within the program, and he believes that will translate positively to the field this season.

Oakland Mills

Mount Hebron Vikings' Troy Galabuzi (8) zeroes in on Oakland Mills Scorpions' Aki Harvey (3) during spring football Fri., March 19, 2021. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun Staff)
Mount Hebron Vikings' Troy Galabuzi (8) zeroes in on Oakland Mills Scorpions' Aki Harvey (3) during spring football Fri., March 19, 2021. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun Staff) (Karl Merton Ferron)

Coach: Tom Browne (11th season)

Spring 2021 record: 3-2

Offensive scheme: Run and shoot

Returning offensive starters: Four

Top offensive players: Seniors Aki Harvey (RB) and Kylik Perry (WR); juniors Shane King (RB) and Trevin McHargh (RB).

Defensive scheme: Multiple

Returning defensive starters: Three

Top defensive players: Seniors Kanye Holland (DB) and John Tatum (DB); juniors Charles Ngansi (LB) and Xavier Patterson (LB).

Kickoff: Oakland Mills is tasked with replacing one of the most valuable players in the league in Antoine Holmes, who led the county in rushing this past spring as a senior. Browne said the goal for his offense this season is to get the ball in the hands of its athletes. If the Scorps make the playoffs, they’ll be in Class 2A, down from 3A, in the West Region alongside Hammond and Glenelg.

Reservoir

Reservoir wide receiver Destin Hill running after catching a pass during a game in the spring 2021 season.
Reservoir wide receiver Destin Hill running after catching a pass during a game in the spring 2021 season. (Photo courtesy of Ava Garrett)

Coach: Bryan Cole (13th season)

Spring 2021 record: 0-4

Offensive scheme: Multiple formation pro-style running offense

Returning offensive starters: Three

Top offensive players: Senior Will Egan (QB); juniors Matthew Cook (WR) and Orion Walker (QB); sophomore Destin Hill (WR).

Defensive scheme: 3-4

Returning defensive starters: Three

Top defensive players: Seniors Daniel Ellerbe (DL), Brian Keys (LB) and Dylan Weigert (LB).

Kickoff: The Gators are young this fall with only six of 22 starters returning. One of the graduates from this past spring who Cole has to replace is quarterback Malcolm Brown, who was a second-team All-County performer in 2019 and is now a freshman at Morgan State. Cole said Egan and Walker are in a quarterback competition and he expects both signal callers to take snaps this season.

River Hill

The River Hill football team celebrates its undefeated season after beating Marriotts Ridge 23-0 on Friday, April 16, 2021.
The River Hill football team celebrates its undefeated season after beating Marriotts Ridge 23-0 on Friday, April 16, 2021. (Jacob Calvin Meyer)

Coach: Brian Van Deusen (22nd season)

Spring 2021 record: 5-0

Offensive scheme: Hybrid Wing-T

Returning offensive starters: Four

Top offensive players: Seniors Karl Birzak (OL) and Devron Johnson (RB); juniors Matthew Behrmann (WR), Christian DeLauney (OL) and Bergen Remick (QB).

Defensive scheme: 3-5-3

Returning defensive starters: Four

Top defensive players: Seniors Daniel Fahmy (LB) and Arjun Singh (DB); juniors Ethan Burnett (LB), Dylan McCullough (LB) and Tyler Windsor (DL).

Kickoff: The Hawks dominated their competition this past spring, going undefeated and outscoring their opponents by 16 points a game. This fall, Van Deusen — who is six wins away from his 200th victory — has to replace Zach Igwebe, the best two-way player in the county this past spring as a running back and linebacker. While there are plenty of subtractions from last season, Van Deusen said this year’s roster has more team speed and depth.

Wilde Lake

Wilde Lake quarterback Kofi Boampong rolls out in a game during the 2019 season.
Wilde Lake quarterback Kofi Boampong rolls out in a game during the 2019 season. (Photo courtesy of Israel Carunungan)

Coach: Brian Henderson (third season)

Spring 2021 record: 4-2

Offensive scheme: Pro-style multi set

Returning offensive starters: Four

Top offensive players: Seniors Sean Barnes (RB), Kofi Boampong (QB) and Conlan Pierre (WR).

Defensive scheme: 4-4

Returning defensive starters: Six

Top defensive players: Seniors Keondre Dorsey (LB), Jordan Garnett (LB), Enosh Minney (DB/LB), Eli Queen (DL) and Max Richardson (DB).

Kickoff: The Wildecats turned playoff success in 2019 into a solid spring 2021 season. Wilde Lake sported one of the top defenses in the county behind Defensive Player of the Year Ramal West. Henderson brings back six defensive starters, including Dorsey and Minney, who combined for 10 sacks, eight interceptions and four forced fumbles last season. Boampong, Wilde Lake’s starting quarterback for half of the 2019 season, will be the team’s signal caller this fall.

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