Quarterback Tim Bowerman desperately wanted to be the leader of Severna Park's football team last year. But his age, and the wealth of senior talent around him, made it unnecessary.
"Last year, we had something like 30 seniors, and they kind of took charge," said Bowerman, who was a junior. "I tried to do the best I could, but I was one of the youngest on the team, so it was tough for me to really be the leader.
"Now, it's more my role. I've got to step up, or at least try to."
He doesn't have many teammates challenging him.
As Falcons head coach Andy Borland sat in his office last Friday morning and recited the list of returning offensive players, he stopped after three names.
"Are those all the seniors," a visitor asked?
"No," he replied, smiling, "that's the offense."
One of his assistant coaches was equally surprised by the news, saying, "I knew we were hit hard [by graduation], but I didn't know it was this bad."
The comment drew a laugh from everyone in the office, including Borland, who doesn't seem too concerned about the turnover.
And this includes the defense, where only three names were given, as well.
"We're real young," he said, "real young."
But they're still a threat to win the county's 4A League, as any rival coach will tell you.
Borland considers North County to be "the class of the league," but Knights coach Chuck Markiewicz said, "That's what happens when you have a good team. You want to make sure to put the pressure on someone else."
The Falcons tied North County and Old Mill for the league championship, going 7-3, but didn't qualify for the state playoffs. And this was despite the presence of running back John "Teddy" Jennings, who moved on to Salisbury State University, and four other first-team All-County performers.
One of those players, defensive back Sean Miller, returns for his junior season. He led the county with eight interceptions and was a standout on special teams.
The rest of the "honor roll" group has moved on, leaving Severna Park with a decidedly different look this fall.
At least, you would think so.
"We'll still try to be a ball-control team, whether it's in the air or on the ground," Borland said.
"We look good," said Bowerman, a second-team All-County pick. "We've got a big offensive line, everybody's intensity is up. We're going to be young, but we had a lot of young guys playing last year. Even the people who didn't start still got a lot of playing time."
Severna Park always seems to be deep at running back, with one workhorse and a large supporting cast. Replacing the 225-pound Jennings (1,061 yards, 11 touchdowns) should prove impossible, but Bowerman is impressed by the backs accepting the challenge.
"We have four or five tailbacks right now who can run the ball," he said. "They're not big like Jennings, but they have good speed and they're tough kids. They should do all right."
They will if Borland can come up with enough blockers up front.
"We're real light at tackle," he said. "The ones we have are pretty good, but we don't have very many kids."
If the Falcons can get close to the goal line, senior John Milisitz, a second-team All-County pick last year who also plays split end, can put it through the uprights.