Area public school football teams start practices today for a season that will open with three restructured leagues.
Baltimore County, addressing competitive imbalances of the past, has realigned its league into three divisions, from two.
But Baltimore City's league has been condensed into two conferences, from four, also to create "more competitive balance and allow the newer schools to grow," said Bob Wade, the system's director of athletics.
The Monocacy Valley Athletic League and Central Maryland Conference have merged to form a 22-team, three-conference MVAL organization encompassing schools in Carroll, Frederick and Washington counties.
* City schools: The new league reflects the school board's move to split Northern and Lake Clifton into smaller schools.
Division I of the new league has 10 teams, including traditional powers Edmondson, Dunbar, City, Poly and Patterson, as well as Carver, Douglass, Forest Park, Mervo and Walbrook.
Division II is a seven-team conference comprised of struggling sports programs at Northwestern, Southern and Southwestern, along with Lake Clifton and three newer ones, Southside Academy, Reginald Lewis and W.E.B. DuBois.
Lake Clifton is to be broken into three schools.
* Baltimore County: Dulaney, Dundalk, Kenwood, Milford Mill, Parkville, Perry Hall, Randallstown and Woodlawn comprise an eight-team division of Class 4A and 3A schools.
A seven-team division of 3A and 2A school includes Catonsville, Eastern Tech, Hereford, Overlea, Owings Mills, Patapsco and Towson.
Chesapeake, Lansdowne, Loch Raven, Pikesville, Sparrows Point and Western Tech comprise a 2A and 1A division.
Scheduling will permit some cross-division games.
* Carroll County: The new MVAL will allow Francis Scott Key -- previously the only county team in a different conference (the former MVAL) -- to compete alongside its county brethren.
Liberty, North Carroll and Westminster will compete in the Chesapeake Division, with other Class 4A and 3A schools. Century, Francis Scott Key, South Carroll and first-year Winters Mill will play in the Piedmont Division, for 2A schools. The smallest schools, in Frederick and Washington counties, will form the Antietam Conference.
Carroll teams still will play at least four county opponents, but traditional rivals such as Westminster and South Carroll find themselves in different divisions.
Teams in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association, the private school league, could begin practice as early as Aug. 8, but most started on Monday.
Two schools will be fielding MIAA football teams for the first time, each in the league's C Conference.
Baltimore Lutheran will field its first varsity team, and St. John's Prospect Hall, in Frederick, has entered the league after its first squad went 6-1 last fall against varsity programs.
Maryland's probationary sanctions don't alter oral commitments of quarterback-defensive back Christian Varner (Randallstown), offensive lineman Scott Burley (Woodlawn), defensive back Kevin Barnes (Old Mill) and defensive end Dane Randolph (Wilde Lake).
New town, new school
Baltimore County's first newly-built high school in 25 years, housing ninth and 10th-graders this school year, gets its athletic program off the ground today with a full slate of JV tryouts.
New Town High School, in Owings Mills, off Lakeside Blvd., will field football, girls and boys soccer, field hockey, volleyball, cross country, golf and cheerleading teams.
Reggie Brooks, who spent the last nine years as Milford Mill's athletic director, is now directing New Town's program.
The last new high school to open in the county was Owings Mills High in 1978. Carver A&T; and Western Tech, in renovated school buildings, entered county athletic play in 1993.
* Steven Simms, a 6-6, 315-pound offensive tackle at Wilde Lake, has committed to attend Syracuse, Wildecats coach Doug DuVall said.
* Winters Mill will become the second Carroll County school to open varsity play in as many years, visiting Liberty for the season-opener Sept. 5.
Century began play last year.
* Dana Dobbs, who resigned as the cross country and track and field coach at Broadneck last winter, decided to return to the Cape St. Claire school for cross country this fall after talking with his three children.
Staff writers Katherine Dunn, Glenn P. Graham, Pat O'Malley, Edward Lee and Rick Belz and contributing writer Rich Scherr contributed to this article.