Annapolis Panthers (last year's record: 10-2) If a somewhat inexperienced offensive line develops, fifth-year coach Roy Brown (29-14 career) and his Panthers should revel in another successful season.
After dropping its first game of the 1992 season by 18-16 to Randallstown, Annapolis went on to win the county 4A championship and 10 straight before getting hammered, 35-7, by eventual state champion Gaithersburg of Montgomery County in the state semifinals. The banner season earned Brown County and Metro Coach of the Year honors.
Finishing the season ranked ninth in The Baltimore Sun's final football poll, Annapolis made postseason play for a county-record eighth time and won its first playoff game since 1984, 21-6, over Friendly of Prince George's County.
All-County center Beau Watkins, a 6-foot-3, 180-pound junior, will anchor the offensive line with second-team All-County two-way tackle Jeff Ogle (6-2, 240).
Brown hopes to get senior leadership from Watkins and Ogle in (( the trenches, where the team lost two All-County and second-team All-Metro linemen in tight end Matt Criscimagna and tackle Brandon Tinker.
"No question, we have the potential to be a very good football team, but our question marks are on the offensive line where we have new people," said Brown.
Brown hopes any inexperience that shows on the offensive line will be compensated by the wealth of experience and skill in his backfield. Three-year starting quarterback Juan Johnson, who tossed 10 touchdown passes in the team's run-oriented offense, will guide a bevy of quick backs.
Senior Kenny Boyd (5-11, 175), whom Brown said "should have a good season," figures to be the workhorse in the Panthers' quick-trap-highlighted scheme. Boyd, second-team All-County as a junior, rushed for nearly 800 yards last season.
In addition to Boyd, Annapolis boasts senior backs Kevin Belt, Lamont Henson and Darnell Ravenell and juniors Orlando Downs and TeShawn Cooper. Every back is capable of breaking a long run from any spot on the field.
Henson (6-1, 185), who also plays linebacker, is expected to anchor what should be a typically quick, gang-tackling Panthers defense.
Arundel Wildcats (3-7) Despite going 3-7 in his debut season, coach Bill Zucco found a silver lining for 1993 -- the Wildcats won three of their last four, includinga 27-0 romp over Meade.
"We should be a better football team and need to get off to a good start because our schedule is murderous at the end," said Zucco, whose 'Cats wind down with 4A contender Severna Park, much-improved Old Mill and defending county champion Annapolis before traveling to upstart Meade.
Arundel is the only county 4A team that will play every team in the Class 4A East Region with the exception of Calvert High.
"If we can run the ball, our passing game will only get better," said Zucco. "I feel comfortable with our quarterback situation, no matter who plays."
Sophomore quarterback Pat Cilento (6-0, 170), who started the final four games after Casey Trout (6-0, 160) was injured, has the starting nod. Trout, a junior, could be more valuable as a running back if Cilento comes through at the controls. Another junior, Bill Clyburn, who led the JV to an 8-2 record last fall, is waiting in the wings.
Jeff Hedrick, an All-County and All-Metro defensive back as a junior and The Baltimore Sun's Male Athlete of the Year for Anne Arundel County, is the team catalyst. Hedrick (6-0, 190) returned two of his six interceptions for touchdowns last fall while making 57 tackles, 23 unassisted.
Zucco expects more of the same from Hedrick, who also returned 23 punts for 696 yards (30.3 avg.) and was a threat coming out of the backfield.
Other key senior players figure to be RB-LB Kevyn Dodson (5-11, 215), TE-DE Jamie Stoddard (5-11, 165), two-way tackles Todd Warble (6-0, 210) and J. P. Noon (6-3, 230), and junior nose guard Chris Eakins (5-10, 215).
Zucco also is excited about senior kicker/punter/end Chris Turner (6-0, 180), a lacrosse star who is playing football for the first time.
"We don't expect to contend with Annapolis, North County and Severna Park, but we will be better," said Zucco.
Broadneck Bruins (6-4) Coach Jeff Hedrick (16-24, four years) hopes the Bruins' step down to Class 3A from Class 4A results in a step up as they settle into the Class 3A East Region.
The Bruins showed marked improvement the past two seasons in the county's so-called 4A "black and blue" division, but 6-4 is not quite good enough for postseason play.
Broadneck never has been to the football playoffs, but now with a schedule that includes seven 4A schools and three 2As to go with a team full of 4A-quality players, the good possibility is there.
"I would say that 9-1 would get us into the playoffs," said Hedrick, whose team is in a region with perennial Baltimore City powers Poly and City and Eastern Shore power James M. Bennett.
Returning All-County split end Jason Smith (6-1, 165) and All-County defensive lineman Steve DePaul (6-1, 250) are expected to lead the charge. Smith set school records in receptions (31), receiving yardage (656) and touchdown catches five) last fall as a sophomore.
DePaul, a two-way tackle, was in on 52 tackles, 42 unassisted, last season. He is one of six returning starters on defense, where senior back Chris Fullam (6-0, 170) also should be a standout.
Hedrick switched to a run-and-shoot offense last year and is sold on the aerial show. Unheralded senior quarterback Alan Hartman threw for a school-record 1,913 yards and 11 touchdowns.
The reins have been turned over to 6-7, 195-pound senior Sean Ryan.
"Sean looks pretty good and should get the job done," said Hedrick.
Smith will no doubt be Ryan's main target, but Hedrick is banking on junior Brian Hannan (6-0, 160) and seniors Trey Rash (6-0, 165) and Fullam (6-0, 170) to catch their share.
Defensively, Hedrick has turned things over to Bob Beauchemin, an ex-Arundel coach whom he worked with for several years in Gambrills.
Chesapeake Cougars (3-7) Tom Kraning (12-38, five years) says he sat down with his staff last season and counted "six legitimate high school football players."
"This year we count 19 legitimate players and that gives us a chance to get better," said Kraning, whose team improved to 3-7 after two dismal 1-9 campaigns.
Among the top players are three juniors -- quarterback Matt Michalowicz (6-0, 160), offensive tackle Neil Huber (6-0, 250) and defensive end Chris Hite (5-10, 190) -- plus five seniors who started last year in running backs Brian Doyle (5-8, 150) and Matt Rush (5-5, 160), cornerback Keith Weaver (5-8, 155), defensive end Travis Martin (6-2, 195) and guard Joe Lee (6-0, 200).
"We should win some games with Matt at quarterback," said Kraning. "He's smart, makes good decisions and has quick feet."
Kraning also is counting on big things from the speedy Doyle.
"Last year our JV defense was outstanding while the varsity was not, but the varsity offense was better," said Kraning. "Hopefully we can combine the two this year."
Glen Burnie Gophers (4-6) What the Gophers lack in size, they hope to make up for in speed to improve upon last year's 4-6 record.
"We lack size with our biggest linemen at 220 pounds going against teams with guys 260 to 300 pounds," said 17-year head coach Dave Rigot (68-92).
"But this is one of the quickest teams we've ever had. In three scrimmages [St. Mary's, South River and Pallotti] we've moved the ball well and that's what we hope to do."
Rigot lost All-County second-team running back Butch Strong (1,015 yards) to a transfer back to Old Mill, but picked up Ricky Graves, a transfer from Old Mill.
Graves (6-0, 175) will share the football with Andre Walker (5-10, 170), Leroy McCowan (5-10, 175), James Newkirk (5-8, 165), Jay Sponaugle (5-8, 165) and Rocky Newton (6-0, 175). Newton has a broken wrist from the baseball season, but Rigot is hoping his second-team All-County defensive back soon will be healthy.
Seniors Keith Volkman (6-2, 190) and Jimmy Dulay (6-0, 200) give the Gophers two quick guards who also sparkle at linebacker. Volkman wasa second-team All-County defensive end last year, but moved to linebacker to help the team.
Two other outstanding offensive linemen figure to be senior tackle Eric Lee (6-4, 220) and junior center Ron Sisk (6-1, 200).
Meade Mustangs (2-8) As a career college football assistant for 21 years at Colgate, Purdue, Eastern Michigan and Navy twice (1983 to 1985 and 1990 to 1991), Jerry Hartman specialized in defense.
Hartman succeeds Hayse Henderson (8-22, three years) as the Mustangs' coach and inherits a team that gave up 288 points in 10 games last season, an average of 28.8, while scoring only 11.9 per game and being shut out twice.
"I coached defense [backs and linebackers] for 17 years in college, and a few years I coached backs and receivers," said Hartman.
"I'm really not interested in what Meade did last year, don't know how many points they gave up. I just care about the present."
Hartman will run a 4-3 defense and says his 'Stangs "will audible at the line of scrimmage, calling our scheme according to the [offensive] formation."
Senior middle linebacker Doran Brown (6-2, 250) will direct the defensive unit, and Hartman is expecting big things from linebackers Kenny Walker (5-11, 195) and Shane McNaboe (6-1, 185).
Walker, a four-year starter at running back, and McNaboe, a second-team All-County tight end, also are counted on to make big contributions on the other side of the ball. The 'Stangs are hoping Walker will return to the form he displayed as a sophomore, when he led the county with 1,267 yards rushing.
"Kenny is a very talented kid, and if we can get him channeled in the right direction, he could do some great things," said Hartman of Walker.
Hartman also is excited about senior quarterback Mike Ellis (6-0, 185).
RF "Mike has lots of talent and just needs to refined," said Hartman.
North County Knights (10-2) Despite losing All-Metro players quarterback Eric Howard and ace back Frank Brown, who contributed more than their share to an offense that produced more than 4,700 total yards and 427 points (35.6 per game), coach Chuck Markiewicz is not looking for sympathy.
Seniors Justin Rice (6-0, 170) and Mike Drocella (5-11, 190) are expected to fill the big shoes of Howard and Brown rather admirably.
"Rice could end up being the best we've ever had, because he gives us a dimension we've never had at quarterback. He can run the ball," said Markiewicz (43-20, four years).
Markiewicz said that Brown, who exploded on the scene in the Knights' vaunted run-and-shoot after transferring from Southwestern in Baltimore, called him recently from Montgomery-Rockville, where he is now playing.
"Frank said he's glad he got the chance to be the ace back first last year before Mike [Drocella]," said Markiewicz. "He [Brown] said he has no doubt that Mike will put up big numbers for us."
Rice and Drocella will operate behind a front line that features returning All-County guard Jarryn Avery (6-4, 235).
On defense, always a Knights strength in the shadow of the prolific offense, North County boasts linebacker Troy Fowlkes (6-0, 240) and tackle Cory Fowler (6-2, 255).
Fowlkes was an All-County and second-team All-Metro nose guard as a junior, making 111 tackles (100 unassisted), three sacks, two fumble recoveries and one interception. He has moved his 4.5 speed and huge frame to linebacker, where he
should do more damage to opponents.
"People think because of our big scores [six times 39 points or more] that we just play the first team, but what they don't realize is that we give a lot of people playing time, especially on the line, so that graduation doesn't hurt us," said Markiewicz.
Northeast Eagles (3-7) Going 3-7 is not what 11-year veteran coach Bart Rader (47-53) hopes for each fall, but this season it might be the best his Eagles can do because of dwindling numbers at the Class 2A school.
"We've only got 21 players on our varsity roster, and two of them are hurt and two more academically ineligible," said Rader.
"I don't think we can compete this year with Broadneck [3A], South River and Southern [both 2A]. Hopefully, we can go 10-0, but realistically, I don't think so."
Because of the small numbers, the burden to over-achieve will lie on the shoulders of talented junior quarterback Jeff Dolch (6-0, 140), who started as a sophomore.
"We may try a little run-and-shoot because Jeff throws well, but because of lack of time to work on that, we will probably go back to keeping it on the ground," said Rader.
To run successfully, the Eagles need to hasten the return of senior Todd O'Brien (5-11, 165), who is out with a separated shoulder.
Bright spots should be the senior linemen -- center Joe Bender (6-1, 190), guard Kenny Fowler (6-0, 210) and tackle Tim Scanlon (6-0, 210).
Rader expects junior linebacker Adrian Spears (6-2, 200) to lead a respectable defense.
"The problem in our football program right now is that we are not getting players who have played before," said Rader. "Only five of our 23 JV players have ever played before coming to Northeast."
Old Mill Patriots (2-8) Six seniors who got a lot of playing time last year -- plus an outstanding running back transfer from Glen Burnie -- will play key roles on what is the biggest varsity ever assembled by 11-year coach Pete Regala (51-51).
"We've got 50 kids on the varsity and that is the most we've ever carried," said Regala. "We should be a lot better than last year [2-8]."
Butch Strong, who began his high school career at Old Mill, has returned. Two years ago, Strong received an administrative transfer to Glen Burnie and last season he was the county's fifth-leading rusher with 1,015 yards for the Gophers on 197 carries.
"Butch wanted to graduate in his neighborhood and we're glad to have him back," said Regala of the second-team All-County back.
Fullback/linebacker Mike Longazel (5-11, 195), back/cornerback Lenny Wilson (5-9, 175), defensive back Issiaga Soumah (5-11, 165), tight end/tackle Nate Oliver (6-3, 240) and Step Roussy, (6-5, 190), an offensive tackle who is academically ineligible until the fourth game, are other key seniors.
The quarterback position could end up in the hands of an underclassman. Sophomore Chuck Manns (6-0, 170) and junior Rob Stout (6-1, 175) are vying for the position with inexperienced senior Jimmy Christensen (6-0, 160), who also plays end.
Severna Park Falcons (6-4) Junior running back Mark Frye (6-0, 170) paces a pack of four speedsters and an army of returning players (30) as the Falcons hope to regain their playoff form of 1990, when they last made the 4A playoffs by going 7-3, including a 34-3 quarterfinal loss to Springbrook.
"Depth is our biggest concern,"said 21-year coach Andy Borland (112-90).
One would think with 30 veterans back and a typical Falcons contingent of 50 to 60 players total, that depth would not be a concern, but playing experience is lacking.
"If we can stay healthy, we can go right down to that last game [Annapolis] with everything on the line," said Borland.
Borland loves to run the football, so with Frye, who averaged 8.6 yards per carry as a sophomore, and seniors Matt Almes (5-10, 190), Matt Long (6-0, 180) and Mike Fleming (5-11, 170), he's happy.
"They're all 4.5 [in the 40-yard --] runners, so we'll find out who the fastest is, but Frye can do a lot of things," said Borland.
Coaching the men in the trenches is Borland's forte, and the lines should be brilliant and huge on both sides of the ball. Senior two-way lineman Ron Green (6-4, 260) is being heavily recruited by several Division I schools.
Junior linebacker Jermond Davenport (5-11, 190) and seniors Chad Moran (6-2, 225) and Sean Miller (6-1, 160) team with Green to give the Falcons a hard-hitting veteran nucleus. Davenport started as a 14-year-old sophomore and is a bona fide hitter.
Miller, who re-injured a bad knee in baseball this summer, is expected to lead the secondary, and Moran, a tight end on offense, is a lineman on the other side.
"We hope to be there with Annapolis, North County and Meade at the end," said Borland.
Southern Bulldogs (6-4) The ups and downs of coaching high school football is something that Buck Gardner got used to a long time ago. In 19 seasons in Harwood, his Dawgs have gone 83-107.
After a 6-4 season last fall, the only coach in county history to lose 100 games, Gardner is in an unfamiliar situation. Usually a 6-4 campaign in Harwood means a tractor-load loss of seniors and a subsequent season on the other side of the ledger, but not so this fall.
"This is as good a group as we've ever had since I've been here," said Gardner.
"A lot depends on us staying healthy, because losing one player here is like losing two, because most of our guys go both ways. It's a veteran crew with 14 returnees, 11 of them legitimate starters in '92."
The word "legitimate" most certainly applies to senior two-way back Jamar Mullen (6-0, 165).
Gardner says Mullen, who was named All-County second-team all-purpose back as a sophomore, runs the 40 in a blazing 4.3 seconds.
Using baseball vernacular, Gardner said Mullen is the team's fastball and Nolan Ryan, and senior back Cory Contee (6-0, 155) is his knuckleball and Charlie Hough.
At quarterback, the Dawgs boast another three-year starter in Joe McCafferty. Gardner says he "moves the team, doesn't make mistakes and is a competitor."
"We've got enough experience and talent to win and have another good season, maybe even better," said Gardner, whose Dawgs are in the 2A East region with Northeast and South River.
South River Seahawks (7-3) The move down from Class 3A to 2A this year "makes no difference" to coach Dave Summey, but "a lack of senior leadership" does.
"It doesn't make much difference because a lot of 2A teams are as good as the 3A schools, and we were one of the smaller 3A schools when we were in that classification," said Summey (68-73, 15 seasons), who was coach at Brooklyn Park before coming to Edgewater five years ago.
"My concern is our seniors. We have eight with 14 juniors and seven sophomores. When you are young like that, it's very important to get that senior leadership and we're not getting that right now."
Summey hopes that running back/safety Craig Hopkins (5-10, 155) and Mike Sheehan (5-11, 195), a center/linebacker, might ,, step forward to show the way to the underclassmen.
Unfortunately for the Seahawks, their best underclassman, Russell Tongue (6- 1, 175), a junior back/linebacker, is academically ineligible until the fourth game.
"Russell is the best natural athlete I've ever coached and we're anxious to get him back," said Summey.
Two other juniors expected to make big contributions are guard/linebacker Andy Myers (5-10, 170) and back/nose guard Andy Tydings (5-9, 175). Each started last year, but Myers, who is recovering from mononucleosis, will be out until mid-September.
Senior Mac McAdams (5-9, 165) is vying for the quarterback position with sophomore Phil Tayman (5-11, 170).
"Our kids are working hard and we have to make up for our lack of experience with repetition on the practice field," said Summey, adding that he hopes his team "matures in a hurry."