Outlook: Gone are most of the familiar faces that brought the Cardinals so close to MIAA champ Gilman twice last year -- a 28-21 regular-season loss and an overtime 34-32 loss in the first-ever MIAA A Conference championship game. Five All-Metro players -- quarterback Thomas Stuart, wide receiver Trevor Williams, cornerback Da'Quan Davis, linebacker C.J. Williams and defensive lineman Emmanuel Holder -- graduated.
But these days, the Cardinals, who won the A Conference title in 2010, do more reloading than rebuilding. This team doesn't have the name recognition yet, but it has all the parts to stay in the chase to try to dethrone Gilman.
Offensively, the Cardinals return five experienced linemen -- McManus, Jack D'Angelo, Chris Kircher, Michael Manocheh and Trevor Beam -- and their performance will be critical in front of a new starting quarterback. Up from JV, Kuhns (6-foot-2, 200 pounds) completed six of 11 passes for 84 yards and two touchdowns in the Cardinals' 54-7 season-opening romp over Maryland Christian last Friday, but the competition is about to get much tougher.
"One of the keys for us is going to be whether our quarterback can handle the gravity that comes with being a quarterback in the A Conference," Davis said, "but I expect him to perform well and leave his own legacy to follow."
Another key will be the nearly new defense. The entire secondary graduated and Johnson will move from defensive end to strong safety to fill one of those spots. Epple is the lone returning full-time linebacker. Linebacker Cole Atkinson played on the line at times last season.
Friday night, the Cardinals will learn a lot about how well they've reloaded when they play in one of the most anticipated games of the season against No. 5 Dunbar, the two-time defending Class 1A state champion, in the I-95 Kickoff Classic at Towson University's Johnny Unitas Stadium.
"It's just one of those games everybody wants to see," Davis said, "and you play the game everybody wants to see. Everybody in Baltimore wants to see Calvert Hall vs. Dunbar. The coaches are excited about the opportunity and a lot of our kids know each other."
After that, it's St. John's, from Washington, D.C., and Niagara Catholic, from New York, before the Cardinals settle into their A Conference schedule. By the way, the rematch with Gilman is Oct. 19 at Calvert Hall.