Out of the seven-team Class 1A North region, which features six Baltimore City teams, at least one city squad is assured its initial berth in the playoffs.
The football expansion proposal, instituted on April 25, raised from 32 to 64 the number of teams eligible for the postseason. It features a four-team, regional playoff and extends the season a week to 14 games for the eight teams that reach the title games over the four classifications.
Oakland Mills of Howard County is the lone school from outside the city in the region, which also has traditional city powers Dunbar and Forest Park, each a past playoff qualifier.
The region also features second-year varsity programs Reginald Lewis, W.E.B. DuBois and Southside Academy, along with Southern of Baltimore - a team that never has reached the postseason.
Since four programs out of each region qualify for the playoff, one of the new schools or Southern will be included in the field.
Senior class reunion
When Francis Scott Key visits South Carroll on Oct. 3, it will be a reunion of sorts for Eagles' running back-linebacker Josh Rutter and the Panthers' quarterback-defensive back T.J. Swanson.
The two seniors were former teammates on the Winfield Cavaliers recreation football team.
"I was a running back and he was a quarterback. We played there up until our freshman year," said Rutter, Francis Scott Key's top returning rusher. "He's still my buddy, and we're still tight, but when we play, it'll have to be different. I'm looking forward to it."
Getting his kicks
As if throwing 16 touchdowns last season wasn't enough, Havre de Grace's Shane West has developed a strong foot to boot.
At a football camp over the summer, West converted field goals from beyond 50 yards.
"Once we get over the 40-yard line, we feel like we're in pretty good range to score because of him," said Havre de Grace coach Johnny Brooks, adding that West is receiving Division I looks for his kicking ability.
Quite a resume
Annapolis High coach Dale Castro, a graduate of Southern-Anne Arundel, was drafted out of high school as a pitcher by the Minnesota Twins, opted to accept a partial baseball scholarship to Maryland and later walked on to the football team and became an All-American kicker and punter.