Thanks to realignments, the city's boys lacrosse season could be more action-packed than ever before, though squeezed into a few short weeks because inclement weather has hampered its start.
Edmondson and Forest Park, the Maryland Scholastic Association C and B Conference champs, respectively, both will vie for public school's 4A-2A league title. Southern, the runner-up to Edmondson last year, should be challenged by Southwestern in the 3A-2A division.
The Bulldogs (10-2 last year) are led by midfielder Chris Lewis, the conference's 1991 and 1992 Player of the Year, and attackmen Rob Turner, David Gurry and Tom Fleming, who combined for 135 goals last season.
The Foresters (13-1 last year) are 37-2 during the past three years under coach Obie Barnes Sr., and the Redskins are coming off a 10-0 campaign. City (a B Conference team at 9-3 last year), Poly and Lake Clifton will be tough to beat in 4A-2A.
"It's kind of a shame that it [the realignment] fell that way, but it makes it very, very tough," Barnes said. "But I think we have a pretty good shot at going all the way."
In the MSA A Conference, two-time champ St. Paul's (17-0) will compete again in Division II against Loyola, Severn, Gilman and McDonogh.
The Crusaders, behind first-team All-Metro and All-American Michael Watson (49 goals, 23 assists) will try to protect a 24-game winning streak in what Mount St. Joseph coach Drew Bowden's calls "the nation's most brutal conference."
Loyola returns All-American and second-team All-Metro attackman Bill Evans, who has 58 goals and 16 assists in his
Gilman, coached by John Tucker, will challenge rivals with nine returning starters, including honorable-mention All-Metros Mark Cornes and Bryan Smith.
Bowden's Gaels return nine starters, including top scorer Maury LaPointe (18 goals, 18 assists), as they try to dethrone Division I champ, Boys' Latin, along with Calvert Hall, St. Mary's and John Carroll.
The Lakers (18-2 last year) and the Cardinals (8-7) lost several starters to graduation, but each returns effective leaders.
In the MSA B Division, Friends and Curley will vie with Cardinal Gibbons and Park for the title. Friends edged Curley for last year's BB Conference title. Gibbons was a runner-up to Forest Park.
Park went 5-7 on the BB level last year and has Matt Weiner (31 goals) among its nine returning starters.
Friends' top scorer is Conference Player of the Year Spencer Deering (30 goals, 33 assists). Gibbons has keeper Dave Kelly and defender Brandon Holly back to improve on last year's 4.1 goals-against average.
Curley has a solid defense with three-year goalie Josh Sutherland and four-year defender Pietro Rallo.
Defending Class 2A-1A state champion Towson and Class 4A-3A runner-up Dulaney again should lead the pack in Baltimore County. Perry Hall and Franklin should not be far behind.
Towson, despite losing several key players to graduation, has a lot of talent. The midfield and defense is inexperienced, so coach Randy Dase moved midfielder Ian Wildey to goal.
The Generals' two top scorers, All-American Michael Ford (102 points) and Barry Heddings, return.
Dulaney also lost a lot to graduation and coach Gary Schreiber said untested goalies concern him. Midfielder Tim Speno is back after missing most of last year with a back injury.
Perry Hall brings back an experienced squad with a lot of depth and speed, including first-team all-county pick Nick Cowan, who leads a potent attack.
There's also an experienced squad at Franklin, including Jason Miller (21 goals, 18 assists) offensively and Jason Rockel defensively.
Hereford, Loch Raven and Eastern Vo-Tech also could contend, with Hereford's Bulls being led by high-scoring Greg Breeback.
Loch Raven should get a big-time performance from goalie Andy King.
EVT coach Chad Roeder calls his team the school's best in history, led by Mike Mrok (33 goals, 11 assists). Chesapeake begins its varsity program this season. Milford Mill dropped varsity lacrosse.