The coaches at Archbishop Spalding, Broadneck and Northeast are new. So is Severna Park's entire starting lineup. And, practically, Glen Burnie's entire team.
Welcome to the 1992 high school boys soccer season. Try not to become too disoriented by the unfamiliar surroundings.
Every member of the Anne Arundel County Sun's first-team All-County group has graduated, including Player of the Year Erik Washington from Meade. Only three athletes return from the second team.
Glen Burnie bid farewell to 17 of its 23 players, while Severna Park has eight returning lettermen -- each one a reserve on last year's region finalist. Northeast and Spalding each have just one returning starter.
But the biggest turnover occurred at Southern, which lost its varsity program because of a lack of personnel.
Rick Carlson (Spalding), Jon Braun (Broadneck) and Ron Price (Northeast) are the new coaches, with Braun moving over from Southern. Price served as an assistant to John Pappafotis at Northeast last year.
Meade coach Mike Dey likes to call last year's 11-4 season the "field of dreams." This season, the second-year mentor knows full well that things might be a lot different.
"I know everyone's going to be gunning for us. They're going to kick us while we're down every chance they get," said Dey, whose team defeated Severna Park in a shootout to garner the 4A Region IV championship. The Mustangs' dream ride ended when they ran up against defending champion Bowie, who handed them a 5-0 loss.
"At least I don't have to teach skills to the kids from last year, but we just don't have the experience, mainly because we lost 13 seniors. Everyone talks about Bryan [Mitchell] and Erik [Washington], but they scored just 12 out of our 34 goals. We had a lot of other nice players like J. J. Grewe, Jim Dey, Rodney Rawlinson and Jason Hall."
Junior strikers Andre Wise, Rob Dey and Jason Bylsma will be asked to convert their speed into scoring opportunities. Wise, who may be one of the county's fastest players, placed third in a recent national Amateur Athletic Union track meet in the 200-meter --.
Veteran defenders Steve Grewe and Jason Reese, midfielder Matt Brown and rookie goalkeeper Ben Hamilton (a junior transfer from Archbishop Spalding) shoulder the responsibility of anchoring the Meade defense.
The Mustangs did more than end Severna Park's season last year -- they closed the brilliant high school career of Falcons' striker Brian Peterson, who set school records for career goals (42) and assists (19).
Falcons coach Don Gregg has plenty of other voids to fill, like in goal, where Jason Zaks has departed in favor of sophomore newcomer Chris Rippel. This job will be made easier with the return of senior strikers/midfielders Mark Casper and Glen Groseclose, both members of the state Olympic Development Program team, and senior fullback Ryan Voegtlin, an ODP alternate.
Gregg expects four newcomers -- sophomore striker/midfielder Kelley Harris, junior midfielder Bob Habicht and junior fullbacks/midfielders Bill Habicht and Bryce Poland -- to step right in and contribute.
"It will be more of a group effort," he said. "I think we're going to be very competitive."
The Falcons' balance was evident in a recent scrimmage with Bowie, when goals were scored by a midfielder, striker and back.
"That's the first time we have scored on Bowie since '83, in a game or a scrimmage," Gregg said.
North County's offense is ahead of schedule, as well, but this shouldn't come as a surprise.
The Knights welcomed back leading scorer Shawn Moyer (nine goals), a senior forward who made the state ODP team, and Mike Hoskins. Hoskins, also a senior forward, missed last season with a knee injury.
North County finished a disappointing 6-6 last year and failed to make the playoffs, and Coach Steve Malone said, "We didn't lose to anyone who wasn't better than us."
But there won't be many teams better than the Knights this fall.
"What you see now doesn't really mean a whole lot until you see yourself against the other schools you'll have to fight it out with," Malone said. "I'm sure we'll be better than we were last year, but if everyone else is good, we'll be in the same dog-fight as last year."
Add Annapolis to the list of schools taking part in that dog fight.
The Panthers boast an outstanding senior fullback in exchange student Till Luschert, who comes to Annapolis via Germany, plus 11 returning players to a team that barely missed the playoffs last year.
"We have a really strong nucleus returning," said Panthers coach Dave Gehrdes.
Seven starters are back, including 6-foot-4 junior sweeper David Winegrad, whom Gehrdes says "will dominate the high balls inside because of his height."
The Panthers lost a stellar goalie in Jak Karl, who made 161 saves last fall before leaving for Anne Arundel Community College. But Gehrdes is confident that sophomore Lars Jorgenson, up from the junior varsity, will prove "more than adequate."
Old Mill looked like world-beaters in its last two games of the 1991 season, when the Patriots shut out Severna Park, 2-0, and )) Chesapeake, 1-0 in overtime.
The Patriots didn't make the playoffs for the second straight year, but with 14 seniors on the team, and nine players who started in more than half the games, they are among the favorites to win a regional title this fall.
"We're pretty solid. It's just a matter of fine-tuning," said Patriots coach Don Hobbs. "We're very optimistic. If we play together and don't get senior-itis or big heads, we'll be OK."
The midfield is especially deep with seniors Steve Smith, Don Yost, Dan Knight, Chris Fischer and Chip Hornbeck. And the two seniors keepers, Mike Mullen and Aaron Speight, made separate starts in the season-ending shutouts.
Old Mill lost its leading scorer from last year, Mike McNally (six goals), but Hobbs said the offense is "more balanced. There's not just one player to watch."
Broadneck was a team to watch last year, until Severna Park bounced the Bruins from the regional playoffs. And with three first-team All-County players gone, Broadneck will be hard-pressed to return there.
Jon Braun takes over the Bruins (8-4-1 last season), who had 10 highly successful years under Kevin McMullen, who took the head coaching job at Thomas Johnson Middle/High in Frederick.
"This team is a very hard-working group. No real superstars have emerged, but I think this team will get by on teamwork and togetherness," said Braun.
Braun's bunch includes seven returning seniors and three junior vets. Letter-winners Dave Terry (senior) and Greg Frietag (junior) give Broadneck depth at goalkeeper. Other senior returnees include midfielders Rob Eckman, Kevin Davis and Brian Berger; defenders Billy Samples and Ian Brooks, and striker Chris Williams.
With just five seniors back and its leading scorer from last year off to college, Chesapeake would appear to be in for a long season.
Such is not the case. The defense-minded Cougars return standouts at what Coach Earl Eckhardt refers to as "working positions." Senior fullback Eric Daniels, midfielder Chris LeCron and goalie Scott Mulkey are among those who should make life miserable for opposing attacks.
"We shouldn't let teams score too many goals and we should be in every ball game to the end," said Eckhardt, whose team went 9-2-1 last season before bowing to Meade in the region semifinals. "I think scoring is a question mark for us. We have to score by committee.
"We have to work hard the entire 80 minutes out there, and we have the team to do that. If a team beats us, fine. But we won't beat ourselves."
Glen Burnie has its own problems, with only six players back, including four starters.
"Most of them are on defense, so that will probably be our strength," said Gophers coach Jon Van Orden.
The four starters -- seniors Victor Cserer (stopper), Jim Gloede (midfield) and Shawn Behegan (fullback), and junior Jose Arjona (midfield) -- "are extremely valuable and are players we can build around," Van Orden said.
Gloede was his team's leading scorer with five goals last year. He's been moved from striker.
"They're a good group, but thin," Van Orden said. "We could go in any direction. It depends how things break for us early in the season. If we get a couple breaks early in the season and the kids get some confidence about themselves, I think we'll do well this year because we have some talent. We're just lacking in experience. The potential's there."
Northeast also is lacking in experience, with one returning starter, senior C. J. Pelino.
"He is the entire program, a quiet leader who the kids respect and listen to," Price said. "He's a pretty skilled player."
The Eagles could use a few more of those after going 2-10 last year -- their only wins coming against Arundel and Key School.
The goalkeeper position is up for grabs, with senior Vernon Brumfield battling junior Jason Lorch, a transfer from Mount St. Joseph. Brumfield started as a sophomore before going down with an injury in the first game and never regaining the job.
A young midfield corps will be forced to gel early at South River. Fifteen-year mentor Greg Carroll is loaded with experience at the striker and defensive spots; as seniors Jaime Trimmer, Tom White, Neil Smith and Lou Schrum will attempt to put the Seahawks back in the 3A playoffs after a disappointing 7-5 mark last season.
"We can't be inconsistent like last year," said Carroll. "We started out well, then dropped off a little toward the end. I'm planning on getting a steady performance from the fullbacks and the front line. Our halfbacks are going to have to support both of them."
Team dissension led to an early collapse by once-powerful Arundel. The Cats dropped five of their first seven games, before winning the last three out of five, including a 1-0 upset of Broadneck.
"Last year was not a fun season at all," said Wildcats coach Nick Jauschnegg. "This year, we don't have the attitude problems. We're not looking too bad so far."
Senior striker John Nichols (three goals in 1991) is the leading returning scorer, while senior transfer Javier Rivera (Spalding) will add ball-handling and play-making skills.
Rick Carlson inherits an Archbishop Spalding ballclub with only one returning starter, but a host of young talent has the first-year coach itching to get the season started.
Carlson, who expects to insert eight of his underclassmen in starting roles, has been encouraged by the Cavs' performance in the preseason, and the former assistant coach at Annapolis likes his team's chances in the Maryland Scholastic Association A Conference.
Sophomores John Coppola, Chad Langville, Charles Ross and Matt Weibe are a big part of the youth movement. They will be joined in the field by veterans Jamie Collins (forward), Jamie Collins (midfield) Todd Carrick (sweeper) and Zachary Wood (stopper).
Steve Cahoon will be counted on to control the midfield for Spalding, while junior goalie Danny Watts will return once he recovers from a hand injury. Minding the cage in Watts' absence is senior Fabian Diliamy.
With eight starters back and a goalie who is "four or five inches taller than last year," Severn second-year coach Rick Lenfest believes his team should have no problem in matching last year's record of 8-8-3.
Much of Lenfest's confidence stems from the fact that he returns the county's third-leading scorer of last season in Rex Vogan. Other reasons for the Lenfest's optimism include senior midfielders Chris Accinelli and Todd Fletcher, and the taller -- and much-improved -- goalie Brian Zaks.
St. Mary's second-year coach Brent Boone is also in high spirits these days.
Senior midfielder Justin Dunbar returns for the Saints after a year of refining his skills as a member of the Olympic Development Program's state and region teams.
"He's got an all-around game," said Boone. "He's got great footwork, an incredible shot and great soccer instincts. He's the entire package and a definite Division I prospect. I've seen good soccer players before and he's the best I've ever seen at this level."
Complementing Dunbar is a host of talented returnees and newcomers.