On the second day of The Baltimore Sun's countdown of the Top 5 high school football teams, we take a look at No. 4 McDonogh, which should be one of the contenders in the area's toughest league, the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference.
Through the rest of the week, we'll count down to No. 1 and the entire Top 15 poll, along with a look at the top players to watch, will be published Friday in The Baltimore Sun and on baltimoresun.com.
For a look at No. 5 Dunbar, click here.
Coach: Dom Damico
Last season: 6-5, No. 7. Postseason: MIAA A Conference semifinalist
Key players: WR-DB Taysean Scott, Sr.; WR-DB Jabari Weems, Sr.; RB-LB Wyatt Cook, Soph.; QB Duke Etchison, Jr.; WR-DB Kareem Montgomery, Soph.; LB Akeem Myers-Blakney, Soph; WR Mike Cornwell, Soph.; OL Jared Cohen, Jr.
Outlook: Some coaches in the A Conference have said next year will be the Eagles' year, but they're not counting them out this year either. Damico kept a dozen ninth and tenth graders on is team last year and despite an up-and-down preseason, they have the talent to stay in the highly-competitive A Conference race.
Last season, the Eagles' season ended in disappointing fashion when they led Calvert Hall 15-3 with 8:52 left only to see the Cardinals scored twice, win 16-15 and advance to the first-ever A Conference title game.
The Eagles took their biggest hit from graduation on the line, where they will have five new players on offense and four new guys on defense. All-Metro defensive ends Roman Braglio and Allen Jackson, who also played on the offensive line, are gone, but Damico said he won't need linemen to play both ways anymore.
"Roman and Allen, neither of them was really an offensive lineman," Damico said, "so this year we have five new guys on the O line, but they're all offensive linemen. We don't have defensive linemen that are filling in and just doing it because we don't have anybody. They're all fairly big. Both of our tackles are over 260 and they're tall. Jared Cohen, the left tackle, is 6-4, 280."
Defensively, the Eagles are strong in the back seven with what Damico says is the best secondary and the linebacker corps he's ever coached at McDonogh. The defensive line is one of the question marks although they have eight players to move in and out.
Quarterback Etchison, 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, doesn't have a lot of experience but he has plenty of other skill players around him. Scott, Weems and Cornwell should be the top receivers while Justin Hawkins, Syl Brown and Nigel Scott will lead the running game.
"Our two biggest question marks are five new offensive linemen and four new defensive linemen," Damico said. "If they can hold up a little bit, I think we'll be OK. We're really skilled at receiver and skill positions. We're probably eight or nine deep that are looking at possible football scholarships, so that's exciting."
When the Eagles open their season Thursday night, they will be aiming to avenge last year's season-opening loss to Gonzaga. Part of the I-95 Kickoff Classic, the game starts at 7:30 p.m. at the University of Maryland's Byrd Stadium. McDonogh opens its A Conference schedule on Sept. 29 at home vs. Archbishop Spalding.