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Anne Arundel County

Strength at the skill positions and a slew of returnees make Old Mill the favorite to dethrone Meade in the county. But defensive-oriented Broadneck cannot be counted out. The trio made the postseason last fall, with Meade and Broadneck losing in the state semifinals.

Old Mill seeks a fourth straight playoff appearance, Broadneck its third in a row and Meade its second.

Class 3A Annapolis is seeking its sixth straight playoff berth. Roy Brown is five wins (95-45) away from becoming the county's seventh coach to post 100.

Southern-Harwood, the county's only 2A school, had a record turnout of more than 100 players and won't be a pushover for the bigger schools.

Baltimore City

Defending East Division champion City gave eventual Class 2A state champion Hereford one of its most difficult games last fall when it lost, 9-0, in the state semifinals.

The Knights will have a more difficult time against improved teams from Patterson, Edmondson, Mervo and, from the West Division, Poly.

Poly, Dunbar and Forest Park will be the class of the West Division. Dunbar returns second-team All-City/County wide receiver Herman Hayes, quarterback Byron Selby, who passed for 1,171 yards and seven touchdowns, and 1,000-yard rusher Eric Valentine.

First-year varsity program Southside will play an independent schedule.

Baltimore County

Defending Class 2A state champion Hereford remains the county's elite team, having returned nine offensive starters from a team that outscored the opposition 565-75.

The Bulls' chief competition will be 2A-1A league rival Eastern Tech, which has eight defensive starters back from a team that lost twice to Hereford.

Eastern Tech's second loss to Hereford was a close one, 10-7, in the first round of the state playoffs.

Pikesville returns the bulk of last year's 8-2 squad, and Owings Mills, Lansdowne, Towson and Overlea will challenge.

Defending 4A-3A champion Randallstown will be challenged by Milford Mill, Woodlawn, Dundalk and Dulaney.

Carroll County

Westminster will be in good hands with the return of first-team All-County quarterback Brad Baer, who last year accounted for 15 touchdowns on the ground and in the air.

South Carroll returns both of its quarterbacks: left-hander Jake Mead and right-hander T.J, Swanson. Senior Jimmy Meetre leads a corps of running backs that goes five deep.

In the Monocacy Valley Athletic League, Francis Scott Key will try to chase down champion Middletown with another solid team. The Eagles are bigger but lack experience, especially on the offensive line.

Bowling Brook features a roster full of standout athletes, though few have football experience.

Harford County

After a 12-1 season that ended with a loss to Hereford in the Class 2A state final, defending county champion Joppatowne returns a strong unit to a league that offers many challengers.

Four offensive linemen, whose average size is 6 feet 3, 265 pounds, and two second-team All-Metro players are back for Joppatowne, which will be tested by Fallston, C. Milton Wright and Bel Air.

Among Fallston's first four games are those against Joppatowne, Calvert and Elkton -- teams that have won or played in the state final within the past two seasons.

C. Milton Wright returns five offensive and five defensive starters who will combine with those from a county-title JV squad.

Howard County

Defending champion Glenelg can win another county title despite graduating five first-team All-County players.

The Gladiators return Kevin Ganascioli, who rushed for 1,036 yards, and tight end/defensive back Randy Gardner, a second-team All-County performer.

Glenelg, which has a 15-game league winning streak, faces chief challenges from Long Reach and Wilde Lake.

Long Reach returns two prospective college linemen in Justin Pruitt and Ryan Pope, along with QB Trent Covington and running back Anthony Rogers.

Wilde Lake has an experienced offensive line led by Colin Quinn and Dane Randolph and 980-yard rusher Austin Merrills.

Private schools

Gilman goes after its fourth straight Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference crown against a field that should be overall more difficult.

Although its chief rival, McDonogh, graduated two-time All-Metro Player of the Year Joe Benson, along with two other All-Metro performers, the Eagles are still good enough to remain unbeaten heading into their season finale against Gilman.

Calvert Hall and Mount St. Joseph also have plenty of firepower in the A Conference.

In the B Conference, Archbishop Curley looks like a safe bet to repeat as titlist, but C Conference champ John Carroll likely will get a stiff test from Boys' Latin.

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