Change is the order for area football this season.
The Maryland Scholastic Association has been divided into separate leagues for the public and private schools.
In Baltimore County, six of 21 schools have new coaches, including playoff qualifier Chesapeake, which lost popular and successful Ken Johnson to Carroll County.
MSA private schools will be divided into the Armstrong A and B divisions, with the A including former MSA C Conference team St. Mary's, McDonogh, Gilman, Calvert Hall, Loyola and Mount St. Joseph.
"Being limited to six teams and assuming St. Mary's is good, the league could be very competitive," said Gilman coach Sherm Bristow, whose team retains one of the few matchups against a city public school when it faces Poly next month.
McDonogh, which ended 1992 ranked No. 15, and Gilman (No. 8 last year) are the favorites, but challenges should come from Calvert Hall -- which returns 17 starters from last year's 2-9 team -- Loyola and Mount St. Joseph.
"We had gone 9-2 the year before and we had a lot of players graduate," said Calvert Hall coach Bill Mackley. "But I think we'll be competitive this year against anyone we play."
Four-time MSA champion St. Paul's is favored in the B Division, which features former A Conference contingent Cardinal Gibbons, Boys' Latin, Archbishop Curley, Severn and Archbishop Spalding.
Gibbons struggled through a 2-8 A Conference campaign last year and returns 10 starters. St. Paul's, 9-0 and ranked No. 11 at season's end, will rely heavily on the leadership of All-Metro defensive end Shawn Bean.
"Last year's team would have been better prepared to face this type of schedule, but every team is different, and maybe we can do it," said St. Paul's coach Mitch Tullai, whose program has the first 10-game schedule in its history.
Meanwhile, the city public schools will crown champions in the 4A, 3A and 2A leagues before joining the state association's playoffs, where Poly or City -- both in the East Region -- have the best chance of dethroning 3A state champ Seneca Valley of Montgomery County.
In the city's 4A league are Edmondson, Lake Clifton, Mervo, Patterson, Southern, Southwestern and Walbrook; in the 3A are City, Carver, Douglass, Northern and Poly; and Dunbar, Forest Park and Northwestern are in the 2A.
"I'll miss playing the Calvert Halls, the St. Joes and the Loyolas, but now we've got to play teams that we know little about," said Poly coach Augie Waibel. "We haven't played Mervo since 1964, Carversince '65, Douglass since '71 and Southwestern since '74."
Northern coach Ike Hemphill said his players have missed neighborhood rivalries with two-time MSA A Conference champion City.
"That's a game that we want to be up for," said Hemphill. "All of the players know each other and they can't wait to play."
In Baltimore County, Rick Zentz takes over Chesapeake, and Johnson left him another strong team headed by Lamar King, probably the county's top player.
Perennial power Woodlawn has Brian Scriven taking over a young but talented array, and veteran Ron Shultz returns to coaching at Dundalk, where he must rebuild last year's mammoth line.
Woodlawn already has suffered a tragic loss. Omar Johnson, its leading rusher last year, died in a bicycle accident, and the Warriors' season will be dedicated to him.
Newcomers have tough assignments at Lansdowne (Terry Brooks) and Milford Mill (Rob Mehno), winless teams in 1992, and at Patapsco (Al Bennetta), which won once.
However, the power bases should remain intact.
In the 4A-3A league, the major contenders loom as Perry Hall and Kenwood -- both playoff teams last year -- and Randallstown and Woodlawn.
The Gators (9-2) were ranked 12th in The Sun's final poll and the Warriors (8-2) finished 15th.
Only one player returns from The Sun's All-Metro squad, Perry Hall punter/kicker Jason Bloom (second team).
In the 2A-1A division, Overlea (10-2) will be the team to beat with Chesapeake (8-3) and Towson (5-5) the probable threats.
Overlea -- ranked seventh in the final poll -- went to the state 2A semifinals and is overflowing with ability again despite the loss of Tyrese Barmer, its outstanding runner.
Towson has 12 seniors back, including its ground-eating backfield that features Tex DeLeon and Scott Carpenter.
One major change is the slaughter rule, which the state has adopted to avoid routs.
If a team is 35 or more points behind at halftime, running time will be instituted. If the gap is narrowed to less than 35, the clock reverts to normal operation.