Hey, look up in the sky, it's a bird ... it's a plane, it's ... it's ... what the heck is it?

That must be the reaction of many out-of-county prep football coaches and players this year, unaccustomed as they are to seeing Anne Arundel teams throwing the football.

Yes, that's a pigskin sailing downfield each Friday night and Saturday afternoon. Don't be alarmed. Stop with the reports of UFO sightings.

Many local gridiron coaches finally have pried the football loose from the bellies of their running backs, and they did so without the use of a crowbar.

Offenses are opening up. My God, it must be the '90s.

Heck, North County and St. Mary's went so far as to install the run-and-shoot offense, where the quarterback suddenly has more to do than just turning to the left or right and stuffing the ball in someone's gut.

North County coach Chuck Markiewicz showed his lust for passing last season while directing the Meade Mustangs. Quarterback Billy Maxwell set a school record by throwing for more than 1,000 yards in a single season. He finished with 85 completions, 49 into the talented hands of receiver Lonnie Pierce, who amassed 722 yards and was named The Anne Arundel County Sun's Player of the Year.

Last month, Markiewicz surprised many by saying the run-and-shoot was a simple offense to implement.

"It only took us about two days to put this offense in," he said. "We don't have that many plays, just a lot of formations. We're committed to the run-and-shoot. This is the offense of the '90s, and it's only 1990."

So far, it's only produced 14 points and one victory in two games for the Knights, but Markiewicz remains a firm believer in the offense. More power to him. Just keep that football airborne.

The question of whether the run-and-shoot really is the offense of the '90s, or just a passing fad, will be debated for quite some time. But it's nearly unanimous that seeing the locals passing more is a welcome sight.

Heck, Annapolis quarterback Darryl Foote threw for over 50 yards -- which seems more like 500 when you're talking about the Panthers -- in Saturday's 14-6 loss to Randallstown. Annapolis' lone touchdown came on a 21-yard strike to Roy Henson.

The week before, the Panthers' offense netted (gasp!) 144 yards through the air. Then again, they were trailing each time, but that's normally the scenario come state playoff time. And three runs up the middle when you're down 21-0 in the first quarter has yet to produce a comeback.

Maybe things will be different this year.

A balanced offense. What a concept.

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