The new millenium may as well be the old one in terms of Anne Arundel's football balance of power.
Severna Park and Old Mill made last year's Class 4A playoffs and Annapolis qualified in 3A.
Old Mill and Annapolis were eliminated in the quarterfinals, but Severna Park edged Watkins Mill, 15-14, before losing 13-0 to Gaithersburg in the semis.
All three could be there once again, with Old Mill (7-4 overall) the front-runner in 4A, which has eight of the county's 12 public schools.
Experience-rich Broadneck (7-3), a 3A playoff team in 1997-98, and North County (7-3), an early to mid-90s power, will challenge graduation-riddled Severna Park (10-2) in 4A.
Annapolis (9-2) is clearly the county's top 3A team. The other two, South River (5-5) and Northeast (0-10) have new coaches and are in a tough East Region with Annapolis, Howard County's Wilde Lake and several Prince George's teams.
Joe Viola succeeds Dave Summey, whose contract was not renewed after 11 seasons, at South River. Mike Cotham, a longtime assistant in Pasadena who was an Old Mill assistant last fall, takes over at Northeast, replacing John Runk, who resigned. Cotham is the Eagles' third head coach in as many years and inherits the county's longest losing streak (31).
Southern (2-8) is the county's lone 2A team and is under duress with 4A teams Arundel, North County and Old Mill plus 3A Annapolis on their schedule.
Last year's postseason appearance was the first for Old Mill since their only other appearances in 1990-91. Coach Mike Marcus has the Pats on the move.
Nearly 140 candidates, the most in school history, came out Aug. 15. Old Mill has the quantity and quality to build a power around the likes of running back Kelvin Collins and defensive lineman-fullback Kerry Blake.
Collins has speed, benches 220 pounds and squats 385. Blake's intimidating presence will be felt on both sides of the ball.
A pair of lefties in Steve Johnson and Quintin Dixon are vying for starting quarterback job, and Marcus is excited about two seniors, linebacker Adam Dayton and tackle Aaron Dada.
Broadneck boasts nine returning starters from a defense that was the county's third best. Key returnees on offense include all-county place-kicker Tim Gappert, three-year starting guard Blaine Fairbanks and senior wide receiver Milton Somerville.
"We feel real good about our defense and the offense is coming together with senior QB Robert Adkins, who led our JV to an undefeated season two years ago," said coach Jeff Herrick (64-48, 12), whose Bruins missed the second season by a mere playoff point in 1999.
Senior linebackers Brysean Williams (second-team all-county) and Billy Smith, plus Stephan Sharps, a three-year starter at defensive end, lead the defense.
Coming into 2000, quarterback Mike Pfisterer guiding North County's run-and-shoot was a given, but a good front line to guard him was not.
Hard-hitting senior guard-linebacker Alan Sheffers (6 feet 1, 215) is the only returning starter in the trenches, but coach Chuck Markiewicz is not worried.
"I think we found our line in a scrimmage with High Point and we're pretty excited about our offense," said Markiewicz, in his 11th season in Ferndale, 14th overall (83-55).
Pfisterer (5-10, 165) is expected to break the state career records for yards passing (6,286) by Mount St. Joe's Lucas Phillips (1993-96) and most touchdown passes (67) by Al Neville of John Carroll (1967-69).
Pfisterer already owns the state career marks for most pass attempts (705) and most completions (391).
Severna Park lost three first team all-county players, including leading rusher Derek Dixon and two-time Defensive Player of the Year, linebacker David Wagner, to graduation along with four second-teamers, quarterback Chris Odom among them.
Coach J. P. Hines is counting on three all-county seniors, defensive lineman Jimmy Burney, linebacker Todd Soroka and second-team guard Chris Blanchet.
"We lack speed, but as long as nobody gets hurt, we can play with everybody," said Hines.
Chesapeake (4-6), Arundel (2-8), Meade (2-8) and Glen Burnie (1-9) look to improve. Arundel returns fourth-year quarterback Paul D'Imperio in what may be coach Bill Zucco's final season.
A 52-man squad, including 10 returning starters on an offense, have Glen Burnie coach Brad Wilson optimistic. Quarterback Keith Williams, running back B. J. Wells and split end Donnie White head up the group.
In 3A, Annapolis graduated the county's all-time leading rusher, Rayvon Johnson (4,044 yards in two years) and three other all-county first-teamers, but the Panthers' parade to the playoffs should march on to a county-record 12th appearance.
Two all-county first-teamers, center Kion Mackell and guard-defensive end Brandon Gulley, and second-teamers James Forrester (defensive end-tackle) and Nick Good-Malloy (two-way tackle) return.
"We never seem to run out of backs at Annapolis," said 12th-year coach Roy Brown (76-40), who expects big things from senior running backs Kevan Simms and Neanders Nixon and sophomores Davon Watkins and DeMario Harris.
St. Mary's (4-6) is moving down from the MIAA A Conference and joining Severn and Archbishop Spalding in the B conference Silver division. The Saints appear to be the county's top private school team.
Coach Mike Codd would rather be in the A Conference and "hopes to get back up," but his Saints intend to make an impression in their new digs, where McDonogh rules. St. Mary's returnees are quarterback Tony Magnolia, running backs David Donohue (905 yards) and Matt White and linemen Ryan Beckner (6-3, 240) and Kevin Joyce (6-1, 230).
Numbers are up at Severn, where coach John Beckman has 30 on varsity, including10 defensive returnees led by linebacker Dave Roahen, defensive lineman Graham Mattonen and defensive back Brian Edgar. Sean Etter is tailback on a team that Beckman says is the fastest he's had in his six years.
Spalding is rebuilding after losing 13 players to graduation, (but had its largest turnout with 35 varsity players and 39 JV.
"We need experience, but things are looking up with a huge freshman turnout and the stability with our staff," said second-year coach Mike Whittles.
Key Cavs are Andy Eser (tight end-defensive end), Mike Duckett (running back-linebacker), Matt Hazen (quarterback-safety) and Cory Hudson (receiver-cornerback).