Francis Scott Key Eagles
1994 record: 2-8. Coach: Mike Coons (career record: 10-70).
Top players: Cortney Woodyard, Sr., HB/CB; J.T. Chiaruttini, Sr., QB/S; Scott Compton, Sr., FB/LB; David Norwood, Sr., OG/LB; Tim Puckett, Sr., OG/DE; Eric Stonesifer, Sr., C.
Outlook: Last year the Eagles were expecting to turn the corner after two straight three-win seasons. With the emphasis more on wins and losses, they instead dropped to 2-8. This time around, Coons has his team taking it one day at a time.
"I made a pledge to myself not to say anything about winning and losing and just talking about getting better and improving every day. I think they've taken to that," the seventh-year coach said. "We thought last year was going to be a breakthrough year and myself and the coaching staff may have overdone that. This season, whatever we are today, we're going to be better tomorrow -- that's how we're approaching it."
The offense will rely on Woodyard, a 5-foot-6, 155-pound halfback who makes defenders miss. Last season, he carried the ball 62 times for 412 yards and finished with four touchdowns -- including a punt return. "He's the guy carrying the mail this year. I'd like to have him touch the ball 20 times a game combined with carrying the ball, catching it and on returns," Coons said. "He's a jitterbug, water bug-type runner who finds places where there's not. Our offensive linemen know if they can just sustain a block and stay on it awhile Cortney will find a way to get through."
There's more to the Eagles' offense with Chiaruttini returning at quarterback and showing improved mechanics. Compton, an honorable mention in the county last season at fullback, led the team in receiving with 14 catches for 337 yards and four touchdowns. The offensive line -- anchored by Stonesifer and Puckett -- doesn't have a lot of size, but makes up for it with intelligence and quickness. Some size was added with the addition of Brian Watkins, a 280-pound tackle who transferred from South Carolina last spring.
Puckett is the only two-way player on the line, also playing defensive end. Senior Ted Daigle and juniors Mark Plank and Brett Cowan also will play up front defensively. "The ends are the key to our defense this season. If they can make you run inside, we got the kids who can tackle in there. The ends will need to contain," Coons said. Norwood, Compton and Bobby Bollinger are the linebackers with Chiaruttini (strong safety) and Woodyard (corner) working double duty in the secondary.
L 1994 record: 4-6. Coach: Ken Johnson (career record: 78-41).
Top players: Bill Shaffer, Sr., FB; Tyrone Ellis, Sr., SE/LB; Josh Denning, Jr., HB/LB; Jim Smutek, Sr., C; Gaelen Cross, Sr., G; Ryan Pagels, Jr., QB; Scott Taylor, Sr., LB; Steve Bartosik, Sr., DT; Justin Barnowski, Jr., CB.
Outlook: There was no secret as to what the Lions' strength and weakness was in 1994. The Lions scored 38 points against Westminster and racked up 46 more against Frederick only to come up with two losses. "We figured if we could have been 10 percent better on defense we would have had won three more games. The key for us this year is going to be defense, we need to improve," Johnson said.
The offense loses the county's leading rusher from last season, Brandon Scarborough, who transferred to Milford Mill for his senior year. There still remains plenty of weapons to keep the offense moving. "The offense is a confident well-oiled unit," Johnson said. Shaffer and Denning will pick up the slack running the ball out of the wing-T and Pagels has a big-play receiver in Ellis. Last season, Ellis caught 12 passes for 275 yards with four touchdowns. Pagels, another threat to run the ball, completed 30 of 75 passes in 1994 for 570 yards and six touchdowns. He'll need to cut down on the nine interceptions he threw last year. The line returns Cross, a first-team All-County selection, at guard and honorable-mention Smutek at center. Look for the Lions to throw the ball a little more with Pagels looking more comfortable after a solid sophomore campaign. Johnson said he was doing a great job of finding the different reads and making good decisions. Junior tight end Luke Vrizen is another target in the Lions' potent attack. He'll also handle the punting and kicking duties. And what about the defense? Johnson said the Lions have upgraded their strength and speed at every position. He's particularly impressed with what he's seen from his linebacking corp. Three linebackers return in Denning, Ellis and Taylor with Mount Hebron transfer Jim Sawyer also expected to contribute. Bartosik returns to anchor the line at tackle. Ryan Jones, who started out as a quarterback, is one of the team's strongest players at end. Barnowski will handle one cornerback spot with Jason Wilder at the other and Dave Johnson at safety.
North Carroll Panthers
1994 record: 1-9. Coach: Bill Rumbaugh (career record: 1-19).
Top players: Bryan Hall, Sr., FB/LB; Mike Green, Sr., FB/LB; Jason Gelb, Sr., SE/S; Randy Sullivan, Sr., C/DT; James Hesen, Sr., G/DE; John Etzel, Jr. QB; Scott Ryan, Jr., OT/DT.
Outlook: Rumbaugh, who last season earned his first career victory in his second year at North Carroll, offered a different perspective for his players as they continue to work hard on getting the program turned around: "The kids who come out understand the situation that the strong football tradition has just not been here. They are high-quality kids because if they weren't, they wouldn't be here," he said. "It takes a special kid to come out and work hard and we are sure to acknowledge that to the players."
The Panthers will have problems matching up with most of the county and Central Maryland Conference competition they will see, but Rumbaugh promises a squad that won't back down from anyone. Improved team speed will help.
The Panthers will employ a run-oriented offense out of the wing-T with Hall and Green carrying most of the load. Eric Giffi, a sprinter on the track team, also will get some carries. They'll be running behind a new offensive line. "The offensive line has been replaced from tackle to tackle. We'll average around 200 pounds and that's not bad for us," Rumbaugh said. "You don't need a 280-pound tackle when running the wing-T, you just have to be quick. I'm pleased so far, they've been playing together." Sullivan will move to center after starting at guard last season. He's the only regular back.
Etzel, in his first season at quarterback, won't be afraid to put the ball up and has a big target in Gelb (6-foot-3) at split end. "We'll primarily be a run team, but he throws the ball well. As he gains more confidence, we'll throw the ball more. When you have a receiver like Jason Gelb, you have to find ways to get him the ball," Rumbaugh said.
The linebacking corps led by Green and Hall will be the strength JTC of the defense. Rumbaugh is also counting on Gelb to make some big plays at safety with junior Shane Lettau an aggressive addition at the corner. Ryan, Hesen and Sullivan will see time on the defensive line with senior Kyong Pak also starting at tackle. Rumbaugh plans to rotate as many as seven players up front.
"One bright spot overall is we have more team speed than in years past," Rumbaugh said. "That's one thing we've always been missing and it should help us match up a little better.
South Carroll Cavaliers
1994 record: 5-5. Coach: Gene Brown (career record: 15-15).
Top players: Bryce Baker, Sr., FB/LB; Mike Chenoweth, Sr., TB/DE; Dan Barnes, Sr., C; Tom Lewis, Sr., TE/DE; Lee Windsor, So., QB; Shaun O'Neill, Jr., WR/DB; Dan Richardson, Jr., WR/DB.
Outlook: Graduation losses, a shortened preseason camp and a tough schedule doesn't have Brown and the Cavaliers down. Only a handful of regulars return from last season's county championship team and all the skilled position players on offense will be new. "Yes, we've lost a lot of weapons," Brown said.
Replacing the likes of halfback Greg Mihalko, split end Tom Lapato and tight end Jeremy Esworthy -- all first-team All-County selections in 1994 -- along with second-team quarterback Tom Luster is the primary concern.
Brown is confident he's found some answers. He's handing over the running chores to Chenoweth and Baker, who will work out of the I-formation. Chenoweth was in and out of the lineup last season with a leg injury, but is ready to carry the load this season. "In the I-formation, defenses key on the tailback with the fullback doing the blocking. We have an advantage there with Bryce being a pretty good runner," Brown said. "Mike's a workhorse who doesn't need any rest."
Windsor (6-3, 175 pounds) will start at quarterback. He'll look to Lewis at tight end along with ends Richardson and O'Neil. Brown said Chenoweth and Baker also will be catching the ball some out of the backfield. "If you're one-dimensional in this league you might as well forget it," Brown said. "[Windsor] can throw the ball and he's going to be a good one. I like his intelligence and focus on football."
Barnes, right tackle Will Selby and left guard Charlie Gallagher are expected to be the senior leaders on the offensive line.
Brown is pleased with what he's seen so far from his defense. It starts at linebacker with Baker, a first-team All-County choice last season who twice ran back fumble recoveries for touchdowns. Chenoweth and Lewis anchor the defensive front. Richardson and senior Eric Taylor will need to take control of the inexperienced secondary.
Look for some good special teams play from the Cavaliers with Taylor doing the punting and junior Richie Stewart handling the kicking duties.
1994 record: 5-5. Coach: Tim Ebersole (career record: 5-5).
Top players: Denny Bowers, Sr., TE/LB/DE; Andy McGettigan, Sr., TB/CB; Dominic Vonella, Sr., OG/DT; Ryan Krauss, Sr., FB/LB; Corey LaPrade, Sr., TB/LB; Billy Mays, Jr., QB/S; Brooks Wagner, Jr., WR; James Unglesbee, Jr., WR; Randy Stull, So., OG/DT.
Outlook: About the only familiar name returning from last season's offense is Mays, and it's not last year's Carroll Player of the Year,
Steve, but his younger brother, Billy.
"The difference between this year and last year was we were a big-play team, averaging 27 points a game, where this year we're young on offense," Ebersole said. "We're working hard, gaining confidence and will get better each week. We'll need to grind it out and nickel and dime it. Field position will be big." Billy Mays has a lot of the same natural athletic skills and instincts as his older brother, but will need some time and experience to get adjusted to the varsity level. Bowers will be a big key at the tight end spot, both catching the ball and blocking. LaPrade and McGettigan will be the two to carry the ball with Krauss at fullback. Ebersole plans to spread the ball around in his multiple-I offense and Mays will look at wide-out newcomers Wagner and Unglesbee. The offensive line is not nearly as big as last year's, but Ebersole said its quickness should offset some of the lost bulk.
Ebersole said the defense appears a little more aggressive this year largely due to added quickness. Bowers, a first-team All-County selection on the line last year, mostly will line up at linebacker. Aside from Vonella, the defensive line will be made up of underclassman. Mays and McGettigan are the mainstays in the secondary.
"We have a young football team and will have to build on the confidence factor and emphasize the positive things we do," said Ebersole.