What a difference a year and the graduation of three two-time All-Metro players has made for McDonogh's football program.
McDonogh (6-3 last year) is 0-3 after losses to Palotti, 21-0, and Episcopal, 33-6 -- teams they beat by a combined 65-6 last year -- and to Severn, 22-20, last weekend.
Last year was the final season for three Eagles' players who earned Division I scholarships -- quarterback Bobby Sabelhaus (Florida), defensive back Dwayne Stukes (Virginia) and wide receiver Dennis Badham (Troy State). Also gone is wide receiver Jason Taylor (Virginia Tech), who made his college team as a walk-on.
Together, they carried the Eagles through last year's runner-up effort in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference after being champs at 9-0 under Mike Working, now at No. 1 Mount St. Joseph.
They left a void that second-year coach Dom Damico doesn't expect to fill in the near future.
"Without them, we're a B Conference team. We just can't compete with the A Conference schools," said Damico, who said athletic director Jack McMullan was denied in the preseason by MIAA coaches on his petition asking to be dropped into the B Conference.
"We realized that this year that we weren't going to have that same caliber athlete. My first responsibility was the safety of the kids," said McMullan. "If we get 10 percent of our kids out, we have 25 kids out. We line up better with St. Paul's, Severn and Boys' Latin."
But the B Conference has become tougher with No. 10 St. Paul's and No. 13 Boys' Latin.
Still, said MIAA executive secretary Ricky Diggs, "I think some of the A Conference coaches thought that it might look a little funny, or at least not particularly good, if McDonogh were to drop all of a sudden.
"Last year was the first official year of the MIAA, and since we had not clarified specifically in our constitution how long you should remain in each conference, we kind of went back to the old Maryland Scholastic Association league rule on that one," said Diggs.
"The thinking was that they should stay up for a least another year, and they can petition again after the season. We felt that it would be best for the credibility of the league."
McMullan's next chance to petition the league is at the realignment meeting in mid-November.
Can't win for losing
Kenwood's Steve Kelley ranks second in the area with 905 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns, and Havre de Grace's Billy Jackson has thrown for an area-leading 15 touchdowns and 796 yards.
Yet Havre de Grace is 2-3, and Kenwood 1-4.
Using mouth guards
If Kirsten Lebsack were playing soccer today, she'd wear a mouth guard, she said.
"It's not something that's required for that sport," said Lebsack, "but I know that a lot of injuries are prevented when you're wearing one."
Lebsack, a publicist with the Chicago-based American Academy Pediatric Dentistry, quoted AAPD publications as stating among other things that more than 200,000 injuries are prevented by wearing mouth guards and mouth guards not only protect teeth, but reduce the force of blows that can cause concussions, neck injuries and jaw fractures.
"The National Federation requires mouth guards to be worn in football, boys and girls lacrosse and field hockey," said Ron Belinko, president of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association and Baltimore County's coordinator of athletics.
However, they are optional in such sports as soccer, volleyball, basketball, wrestling, baseball and softball.
"I'd love to see mouth guards become mandatory to reduce the number of injuries where collisions to the head occur," said John Lopez, director of Towson Sports medicine.
"Many sports are not considered contact sports, but cause injuries nearly as often," said Dr. Barry Lyon, a Pikesville resident with a pediatric practice based in Glen Burnie.