Don't blame me if it seems like I write the same old story every year about the county football league.
It's not my fault the league is so balanced. Blame the coaches for making things so unpredictable, especially in Class 4A Region IV where nine of the county's 12 public high schools play.
Last season North County, Old Mill and Severna Park shared the county 4A League title at 7-2. North County and Old Mill (both 8-2 overall) advanced to the state playoffs while Severna Park (7-3) stayed home.
In league play, Annapolis (6-4) followed the tri-champions in fourth place at 6-3 with Broadneck (5-5) at 5-4, and three teams at 4-5 in Arundel (4-6), Glen Burnie and Meade (5-5 each). Chesapeake (1-9) was at the bottom at 1-8.
More of the same kind of balance is expected in '92 with North County, Annapolis and Broadneck looking to be the top three teams in preseason.
North County coach Chuck Markiewicz, who brought the run-and-shoot to Anne Arundel County, has a solid nucleus returning, including two quarterbacks in senior Erik Howard and junior Reggie Moore.
Howard won the starting job last season and also led the county in punting with an average of 37.3 yards. He was named to the Anne Arundel County Sun's All-County defensive unit as a punter.
Moore established himself as one of the better secondary men in the county, and Markiewicz is counting on him for big things this season.
Gone is All-County and All-Metro linebacker/running back Anthony Walker, who is on a full scholarship at Syracuse University, but the Knights welcome back the metro area's premier pass receiver in senior split end Damon Martin.
Martin, a two-time All-County choice at his position and one-time (1991) All-Metro second-teamer, grabbed a county-record 54 passes in 11 games as a junior. In 10 regular-season games, Martin caught 52 passes (to lead the metro area), one short of the regular-season record of 53 set by Brooklyn Park's Tommy Butz in 1988.
With 95 career receptions going into this season, Martin should finish his career as the county's all-time pass receiver.
Broadneck coach Jeff Herrick played golf with his former Arundel High teammate Markiewicz recently, and said his good buddy was bubbling over with joy. A shifty transfer running back from Southwestern High in Baltimore has the Knights' coach licking his chops.
Another threat like Walker (786 yards rushing) in the vaunted run and shoot?
County opponents hope not, at least Herrick does. The Broadneck coach could be sitting on his best team in his four years at the Cape St. Claire school.
Broadneck has size to go with excellent defensive experience and its new look of throwing the ball more should establish the Bruins early as a team to watch. The Bruins have not had a winning season in Class 4A since moving up in 1989, Herrick's first season.
Herrick's willingness to change from the county's conventional three yards and a cloud of dust Wing-T offensive philosophy shows a commitment to do what it takes to win.
Markiewicz had the guts to introduce the run-and-shoot at Meade in 1989, the year before he came to North County. Sold on its productivity, Markiewicz stuck with it at North County, and last year, his first season in the county's ultra-conservative 4A league, defied his critics and made the 4A playoffs.
Now Herrick is showing the same kind of commitment to the pass, and it's not inconceivable that the two will be discussing their upcoming playoff opponents.
Of course, Annapolis hopes to have something to say about that, and Coach Roy Brown believes his Panthers will be right there with the contenders.
Brown has every right to be optimistic. After all, the four losses suffered by his army of underclassmen were by a total of 13 points.
Annapolis lost its opener to Randallstown of Baltimore County, 18-17, then dropped a 15-13 decision to Arundel, a 22-14 overtime verdict to Old Mill and a season-ending 16-14 thriller to archrival Severna Park with time expired.
Brown proudly points to the fact that since he took over for the late Al Laramore four years ago that the Panthers "have had a chance to tie or win the county league title in the final game of the season." The Panthers might make it four straight years, and a berth in the playoffs is not unrealistic.
What will be really interesting to see is if a very young and inexperienced Severna Park will be in the county and playoff picture going into that final game. Brown is 1-2 against the Falcons and has a shot at hitting .500 this November.
Coach Andy Borland's Falcons were hit hard by graduation on the offensive and defensive lines, but do boast a few skilled players in quarterback Tim Bowerman, place kicker/receiver John Milisitz and defensive back Sean Miller.
Seniors Bowerman and Milisitz, who were named All-County second team as juniors, hooked up for a six-yard touchdown pass with no time left to beat Annapolis. Whether the threat they raise to opposing defenses can be enough to keep the Falcons in flight until Borland finds the right combinations elsewhere remains to be seen.
Milisitz should be the county's premier kicker, and his athletic ability and that of Miller should give the Falcons a superior secondary. Miller was one of only two sophomores named to the Anne Arundel County Sun All-County first team after leading the metro area in interceptions with eight.
The other sophomore named first-team All-County, Meade running back Kenny Walker, should be a lot of fun to watch this season.
Walker led the county in rushing with 1,267 yards on only 126 attempts (10.5 average) and scored 12 touchdowns. The sky is the limit for Walker.
Mustang coach Hayse Henderson also has a strong graduation class from an outstanding JV team that should make the Stangs a threat.
Old Mill has made the 4A playoffs the last two years, but the Patriots are a lot like Severna Park -- hit hard by graduation. Coach Pete Regala and defensive coordinator Mike Marcus might spend countless hours watching horror films this year.
Arundel High quarterback transfer George Epps might put some spark in the Pats' offense, but he's going to need a lot of help. Call it a rebuilding year at Old Mill, but look for it to be competitive because of the great job Marcus does with the defensive unit.
They may have lost a quarterback at Arundel, but the Wildcats gained a new, but old, coach in Bill Zucco. Zucco brings new life to a program that has been asleep the last few years.
It seems that Zucco has been at Arundel forever as an on-again, off-again assistant, and now he has his first crack at head football coach. Don't be surprised if the Wildcats, who will be led by Division I prospect Richard Abrams, a 6-3 and 270-pound tackle, go .500 this fall.
The 4A contenders don't have to worry much about Glen Burnie and Chesapeake. A 5-5 season by either team would be cause for school closing and a parade.
In Class 3A, you can expect South River to be tough and a possible playoff team again. Coach Dave Summey's Seahawks were 9-2 a year ago and look to be of that caliber again with senior quarterback Greg Avery and a host of outstanding athletes both ways.
In a scrimmage at Severna Park a week ago, the Hawks more than held their own. In fact, if there is such a thing as winning a scrimmage, South River did, but as usual, it lacks depth and Coach Summey has to hope his starters stay injury free.
Northeast (5-5) and Southern (6-4) should be very competitive in Class 2A again, but because of their lack of size, physically and in numbers, they are always tough to gauge.
Among the private schools, Severn (7-3) looks like the one. When you return the All-County quarterback in senior Brad Fowler, potential All-County back Jamand Mack and a pretty good nucleus, your confidence level should be high. Coach Jim Doyle's Admirals should be a Maryland Scholastic Association C Conference contender with St. Mary's (7-3).
The Saints have one of the top young coaches in the metro area in Brad Best, who begins his fourth season. Best lost a lot to graduation, but his coaching will bring the new Saints along fast in the C Conference.
Archbishop Spalding (2-8) will improve under new head coach Del Hughes. Hughes is well-respected by the local coaching fraternity, but is not a miracle worker.
The Cavs might not improve in terms of wins and losses, but should in terms of stick-to-it-ness.
It's safe to say that what Hughes does with this team over the next two years will determine the future of football at the school.