North County veteran cross country coach Ed Harte has put together another outstanding field for the 10th annual Knights' Invite at Baybrook Park in Brooklyn, 3: 30 p.m. Thursday.
"It keeps getting bigger and better," said Harte, who also coaches the Knights' indoor and outdoor track teams.
The number of participating schools has gone from 20 to 23, including all 12 Anne Arundel County public schools, Archbishop Spalding and the defending champions, Magruder (Montgomery County) and Loyola. Many of the teams are ranked in The Sun's boys and girls Top 10s.
Magruder was last year's girls champion on the 3-mile course, and No. 8 Loyola took the boys event.
Top-ranked Severna Park, with sophomore Liz Funk, No. 5 Broadneck and No. 7 Notre Dame Prep are expected to challenge Magruder. Also expected to compete is Spalding senior standout Kelly Zuknick.
On the boys' side, No. 3 Mount St. Joseph could be the team to beat rather than its Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association rival Loyola. The Gaels are deep, with Greg Zmijewski leading the way.
No. 6 Severna Park, and co-10th-ranked Arundel and Broadneck also hope to be in the boys hunt.
Ryan McGarry kept diving and sliding across the rain-drenched field in delight, while coach J.P. Hines got congratulatory hugs from Severna Park principal Mary Gable and others.
The post-game celebration was all over the field Thursday night at Severna Park after the Falcons dealt neighboring Broadneck a 24-6 defeat.
It was Broadneck's first county loss since Arundel prevailed, 27-17, in the third game of the '97 season. Broadneck had won 18 consecutive regular-season games, 12 of them over county foes.
More importantly for McGarry and the 23 Falcons seniors, it was the first time in their high school careers they had battled their neighborhood buddies on the football field.
The opening of Broadneck nearly 20 years ago resulted in many students who would have gone to Severna Park attending the Cape St. Claire school. A fierce rivalry in all sports, except for football, has ensued.
When Broadneck dropped from Class 4A to 3A after the 1992 season, the Bruins continued playing some 4A schools in football, but dropped Severna Park and Annapolis.
The Bruins had gone 0-6 against Severna Park and Annapolis. Severna Park made it 0-7 Thursday after a summer and recent couple weeks of ribbing among the players.
"I didn't have to remind them or say much about who they were playing," said Hines.
"It wasn't any problem getting them up for this game."
Big plays were the difference.
Derek Dixon was the leading ground gainer for the Falcons with 80 yards on 12 attempts, but 62 yards came on his fourth-period touchdown run.
Starke Mueller was 10-for-42 rushing, but 27 yards came on the Falcons' initial touchdown in the second period.
In addition to the big plays on offense, the Falcons made big plays defensively.
A highlight for Broadneck was the passing of quarterback Ryan Eslin, who displayed poise and accuracy under fire. After Broadneck fell behind 10-0 at the half and 17-0 seconds into the last quarter, it was obvious Eslin was going to throw.
Still, Eslin completed 10 of 15 passes for 150 yards in the second half to finish with 17 completions in 29 attempts for 247 yards.
Dixon, an all-county outfielder at Severna Park last year, also is playing that sport on weekends this fall with the Oriolelanders coached by Linthicum resident Dean Albany.
Albany also has Severna Park right-hander Josh Banks, second-team all-county as a junior, on the fall team.
Banks gave up football to concentrate on baseball after leading the Falcons in pass receptions with 20 for 461 yards and seven touchdowns last year.
It's paid off for Banks. The exposure has resulted in interest from several colleges, including Virginia Tech, Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth.
"I've been getting a lot of calls on Josh because he has thrown the ball so well for us this fall," said Albany. "He's really coming on and should be tough to beat next spring."
Severna Park athletic director Wayne Mook said the Falcons expect to name their new baseball coach to succeed the retired Jim Pitt in the next two weeks. Brooklyn Park 9-year-old Richard Lombardi, who attends St. Philip Neri, won the WBAL Radio rookie broadcaster contest and will do the Orioles' play-by-play in the second inning of today's home game against the Seattle Mariners. Deb Zuckerman Hoffman and Ronda Bowerman (410-647-3589) are back with their informative Field Hockey Newsletter. Call to subscribe. Have a note or idea for Sidelines? Call Pat O'Malley's 24-hour Sportsline at 410-647-2499.