Last season, Southern football coach Buck Gardner compared his team to a fairy tale, but this year he has likened his squad to a frustrating jigsaw puzzle.
"It's like putting a puzzle together," he said, "but we can't find some of the pieces yet."
Those "pieces" Gardner is referring to are his offensive line, which all but graduated last year.
"The big question right now is what we'll do on offensive line," Gardner said.
"The quicker we can find a unit on the offensive line, the better chance we have down the road of being a consistent ballclub."
And there's one more thing on his mind while he's on the subject of rebuilding the offensive line.
"If I had to beg a question this year, it would be: 'Can guards tackle?'" he asked.
Gardner said his line is pretty much average in size (165-180 pound range), compared to linemen at other high schools, "but that might even be stretching it."
Even so, in their first scrimmage against Leonardtown High last Saturday, the Bulldogs outscored their opponents. Two of Southern's four touchdowns were off of defensive plays.
"We did pretty good on Saturday," said quarterback Joe McCafferty. "We learned a lot in a week."
McCafferty, a junior, will be in his second year starting at quarterback. He already has gotten a good start in the preseason games, throwing for two touchdowns against Leonardtown.
"He got his experience under fire last season," Gardner said. "He did a very good job on Saturday. He's a very good technician, he's not real flashy and he doesn't make mistakes."
Last year in his first year at quarterback, the Bulldogs went 6-4 and missed the playoffs by one game, which was a loss to Calvert High in the first game of the season.
"If we had beaten them, we would have gone to the playoffs," McCafferty said.
Ironically, Southern will play host to Calvert in its first game of the season on Sept. 4.
"We know pretty much what to expect this year," McCafferty said. "We have a good nucleus of return ing players."
McCafferty said he has put on about 15 pounds since last season. He's also found two receivers he's comfortable with -- junior Jamar Mullen (tight end/cornerback) and senior Troy Dennis (wide receiver-safety).
"I'm a lot bigger and stronger and I feel more confident that I can do it right," said McCafferty, hoping the team can pull off wins against Wilde Lake and McDonough, two teams that have troubled Southern in the past.
"We're on schedule as far as conditioning goes, and we've all got the same number of days before the first game," Gardner said.
"The attitude is real good. We're looking forward to a successful season."