While we might see more passing this season, I'm afraid that old-fashioned game of keeping it on the ground and relentlessly killing timeis going to be the way to the county 4A football championship this fall.

It says on paper and on the scales that the blue-and-gold team that plays at George Roberts Stadium in Severna Park is the one.

With a bull and a moose in the backfield, there is no question that Severna Park is going to be the team to beat in county high schoolfootball this season.

"From what I've heard about Severna Park, they've got an NFL team down there and the rest of us will be playing for second place," said North County's run-and-shoot coach Chuck Markiewicz with a touch of sarcasm.

Markiewicz is moving his second-year varsity Knights up to the Class 4A "black-and-blue" league after ahighly successful 8-2 campaign playing mostly 3A schools.

The innovative Knights' coach, who brought the run-and-shoot to Anne Arundela couple of years ago when he coached at Meade, started a summer passing league and hopes his Knights can pass the Falcons.

But at this stage of the game, it looks like the Falcons will do the passing, but presumably by foot.

Severna Park coach Andy Borland welcomes back All-County workhorse John Jennings at fullback with fellow senior Gerald Cager at tailback. Jennings is the bull at 5-foot-7 and 225 pounds, while Cager is the moose at 6-4 and 210 pounds of speed and strength.

Jennings rambled for 1,350 yards and 13 touchdowns in the Falcons' 7-3 season, which included a 34-3 loss to Springbrook of Montgomery County in the state 4A playoffs.

Cager is quite an athleticspecimen, fast enough to have a few Division I schools touting him for track, and strong enough to be the No. 1 back anywhere else in thecounty. At Severna Park, though, Jennings will get the pigskin most of the time, and Cager also will be a defensive stalwart at cornerback.

If Borland elects to put the two of them together in the backfield at the same time, it could be awesome for opponents.

Severna Park is gunning for its fourth county 4A League title in five years, and Borland starts the season with a career record of 99-84. Borland would become the county's fourth coach to reach the 100-win plateau.

If he does it on opening day, he would do it on the night that his close friend, the late Al Laramore of Annapolis, has the football field named after him in the Cap City.

Laramore was the county's all-time winning coach at 156-68-2, followed by Joe Papetti, who at Glen Burnie and South River went 154-81. Late Arundel and Meade coach Jerry Mears was the other 100-game winner at 129-68. Laramore and Mears died within the last couple of years, while Papetti retired during that time.

Borland has carried the torch of those great coaches very well, and opponents have come to accept the fact that his Falcons will be big and show up with an army of about 60 players. The Falcons just keep coming at you, but Markiewicz is hoping his Knights can out-run them.

The summer passing league started by Markiewicz was very successful. What will be interesting to see is how many county teams pass the ball more.

The Knights don't have a lot of size, but Markiewicz's eyes light up when he says, "We've got plenty of speed."

Markiewicz knows that his All-County quarterback of a year ago, the graduated Johnny Ray, will be a tough act to follow. Ray threw for a county-record 2,020 yards and 16 touchdowns.

The big plus for Markiewicz is that his All-County split end Damon Martin is back for his junior year, and second-team All-County receiver Troy Ross is back forhis senior year. Those two will be the main targets in the exciting run-and-shoot.

The question is, will North County's speed offer a serious challenge to Severna Park's brute strength and quantity?

Markiewicz and the Knights don't get their chance against the Falcons until Friday, Oct. 18, at North County. By that time, Markiewicz willhave a good idea of how his speed shapes up with the rugged 4A league.

The rest of the 4A League includes defending 4A Region IV champion Old Mill, which went 9-2, Annapolis (5-5), Arundel (5-5), Broadneck (3-7), Chesapeake (1-9), Glen Burnie (6-4), Meade (1-9) and Queen Anne's (6-3).

Getting through that schedule with a winning record is a feat in itself, and making the playoffs is icing on the cake.

Besides what everyone has been saying about Severna Park and the newkid on the block in North County, there seems to be a lot of concernabout Old Mill and speculation about whether Coach Dave Rigot finally will open things up at Glen Burnie.

Old Mill lost the Player of the Year in all-purpose back William Beverly and a superb quarterbackin Eric Scott, but the Patriots have a boatload of talent and a goodgraduating class from their junior varsity.

Coach Pete Regala ledthe Pats to a 9-2 record last season and their first playoff appearance. With Beverly out due to an ankle injury, the Pats' postseason debut ended in a 17-7 loss to Thomas S. Wootton of Montgomery County.

What's important is that only 12 seniors were on Old Mill's 35-man roster and senior back Mel Carter could end up being another Beverly.Look for the Patriots to be a contender again.

After local youth coach Tom Harrison of the Gridiron Club Rebels led Glen Burnie's teamin the Summer Passing League to a second-place finish, Gopher assistants Dave Griffith and Lenny Thomas swore to me that Rigot would havea few surprises this year.

Known for his unimaginative offenses in 14 years as the Glen Burnie head coach, Rigot might not be ready totake on the Markiewicz run-and-shoot approach, but might throw the ball more than ever before. I sensed a lot of optimism in the sheepishgrins of Griffith and Thomas that this is going to be a very good Glen Burnie team.

It's just the opposite at Annapolis, where third-year head coach Roy Brown seems to be worried already. After a disappointing 5-5 campaign, Brown is concerned about lack of experience, especially at the skilled positions, and is hoping for another .500 season while rebuilding.

Arundel, another 5-5 team from a year ago, faces its usual problems of lack of size and numbers. Veteran coach Buddy Hepfer has problems getting guys to try out.

Hepfer, by the way, has a chance of reaching 100 wins if his Wildcats go 12-0. His career record is 88-55, and the chances of his team going 12-0 are as good as the New England Patriots winning the Super Bowl.

Meade has asgood a group of athletes as any team in the county, but second-year coach Hayse Henderson is fighting to rebuild the Mustangs' winning attitude after a dismal 1-9 rookie season. If Hayse can keep the critics away, he might enjoy some success.

Just 3-7 a year ago, Broadneck is hoping to show vast improvement under third-year head coach JeffHerrick, but the numbers just might not be there for the Bruins.

Chesapeake is in its annual rebuilding campaign, something it has been in since the school opened. The only place for the Cougars to go isup, but one wonders if that will happen any time soon.

South River (6-4), Southern (4-6) and Northeast (3-7) are the three non-4A county public schools with football teams, and each of them fights the size and numbers game on a yearly basis.

In two years at South River, Dave Summey, who succeeded Papetti, has gone 13-7, but this is a pivotal year for him. His job will be opened up to prospective candidates after this season, said Athletic Director Jim Haluck. Summey will have to reapply for the job if he wishes to return.

Southern coachBuck Gardner begins his 18th season in Harwood and could attain a dubious feat in the very first game -- 100 career losses. Gardner is 71-99 in 17 seasons and is destined to become the first county coach tolose 100 games.

Coaches don't usually stay around that long, and when you think about it, losing 100 might be tougher than winning 100.

At Northeast, Bart Rader is dealing with lack of numbers, size and school spirit as a result of the community's ongoing controversy with Principal Joe Carducci.

As for the private schools, Brad Best has things under control at St. Mary's, and the Saints (8-2, MarylandScholastic Association C Conference tri-champion) will be right there once again.

Severn School (8-2, MSA C Conference tri-champs withSt. Mary's and St. Paul's) might be hard-pressed to repeat, but new head coach Jim Doyle should do a great job.

Finally, what can you say about Archbishop Spalding's football team -- 0-17-1 the last two years?

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