1. Mount St. Joseph -- See capsule.

2. North County -- The 4A state champion Knights begin the year ranked higher than ever and for good reason. Offensively five two-year starters return in receivers Corey Wright (Jr., 19 receptions, 248 yards, one TD), Ryan Ross (Jr., nine receptions, 158 yards, two TDs), Chris Mangum (Jr., 27 receptions, 349 yards, three TDs) and Maurice Bowie (Sr., 15 receptions, 219 yards, one TD), along with junior G Richard Allen, one of three 230-pound junior linemen. Junior QB Mike Evans is a Glen Burnie transfer whom sixth-year coach Chuck Markiewicz calls "technically the best we've had." Defensively, Bowie and CB Cornelius Burley are three-year starters. Two-year starting S Toney Fowlkes, younger brother of 1993 All-Metro Defensive Player of the Year Troy Fowlkes, is an All-Metro track performer. Markiewicz, who is 46-11 at North County (63-24 overall), said, "At this point, we're better than we were last year."

3. City -- See capsule.

4. Dunbar -- See capsule.

5. Poly -- See capsule.

6. Gilman -- See capsule.

7. Oakland Mills -- The Howard County champs and 2A state semifinalists are loaded with talent, beginning with second-team All-Metro QB Irving Conwell, one of four returning All-County players and 10 starters. Conwell passed for 1,301 yards and nine TDs. RB/DB Fardan Carter rushed for 291 yards, had 321 more as a receiver, and had 292 yards on kickoff returns. FB/LB Brian Howard (51 tackles, 202 yards rushing) and DB Casey Moffett (four interceptions, 46 tackles) return.

8. Patterson -- See capsule.

9. C. Milton Wright -- See capsule.

10. Aberdeen -- See capsule.

11. Severna Park -- The Falcons (8-3 last year) were 4A state quarterfinal losers to Largo. They have lost All-Metro RB/DB Mark Frye to graduation. So for the first time in the 23-year tenure of coach Andy Borland, the Falcons will implement a one-back offense that centers around sophomore QB Greg Korwek (a reserve last year) and junior QB Mike O'Malley. Senior WR-RB Craig Cohen and sophomore WR Josh Cornett will be their primary targets. Senior RB/LB Jihad Morris will be a key on both sides of the ball.

12. Loyola -- See capsule.

13. Wilde Lake -- The Wildecats featured a young team that took its lumps early last season but won its last four games (two by shutouts) to finish 6-4. Based on the strength of that finish they are expected to challenge Oakland Mills for the Howard County title. The Wildecats return 11 starters, including QB Jeff Johnson, OT Josh Vanderwagen, RB Dain Lewis, FB Kyle Leibe, RB Sean Jefferson and TE Tony Jackson. Lewis, Jackson and Vanderwagen, all juniors, are touted by coach Doug DuVall as potential Division I college players.

14. Perry Hall -- See capsule.

15. Arundel -- The Wildcats (8-3 last year) made the 4A state playoffs for the first time in nearly 10 years and return second-team All-Metro LB/RB John Norsworthy (110 tackles) from a squad that split with North County last season. Second-team All-County DE/RB Joe Williams is back to bolster the defense. The Wildcats have junior QB Erik Lipton back to run the Delaware wing-T. Second-team All-County DB Mike McKnight is back, along with DB Bill Clyburn to anchor the secondary.

How the poll is conducted: The Top 15 is compiled by the local sports staff of The Baltimore Sun.

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