The Broadneck Bruins call out to their classmates as they celebrate their win over Arundel during Friday evenings game held at Arundel High School in Odenton last season. Broadneck will open the season as the No. 5 team in the metro area.
The Broadneck Bruins call out to their classmates as they celebrate their win over Arundel during Friday evenings game held at Arundel High School in Odenton last season. Broadneck will open the season as the No. 5 team in the metro area. (By Matthew Cole, Staff / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Preseason may be the best time of year for high school football teams. Everyone is undefeated and the promise of a winning season is still within every player's grasp.

While many private school teams start playing this weekend, opening night for public schools teams is Friday. The season will culminate in a December trip to M&T Bank Stadium for the final eight public school teams vying for state championships.

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For now, however, we get set to take a look at some of the teams with the most promise for a championship -- state or MIAA -- as The Baltimore Sun counts down its preseason Top 5. The full rankings will appear in The Sun and on baltimoresun.com Thursday.

First up is …

No. 5 Broadneck

Coach: Rob Harris

Last season: 10-1, No. 8

Postseason: Class 4A East semifinalist

First game: South River at home, Friday, 6:30 p.m.

Players to watch: LB Ali'i Niumatalolo, Sr.; LB Ryan Kennedy, Sr.; OL Ryan McNeal, Jr.; OL Kyle Boston, Sr.; QB Emmett Davis, Sr.; RB Taylor Bohanan, Soph.; DE John Forrester, Sr.; DE Darnell Creek, Jr.; SR Chris Watts, Jr.; WR/DB Juan McKinney, Sr.

Outlook: Not only did the Bruins finish the regular season undefeated and win the Anne Arundel County championship last fall, but only two teams came within 14 points of them. Then the playoffs started and they slammed into Old Mill in the first round, falling 26-0.

The disappointment of that game carries over despite returning just two starters on each side of the ball. Even the younger Bruins are motivated to go further in the playoffs this time.

The Bruins face one of the biggest turnovers of any top program. All of their skill players graduated as did their entire starting defensive line. They will also have an all new corps of starting defensive backs.

Still Harris has quite a few players who gained considerable experience last season, a few strong transfers and promising new skill players.

"We have some good senior leaders," Harris said. "There's not just one one guy to rely on. Everybody has to do it and we're coming together."

One key leader will be Davis, who takes over for Canaan Gebele at quarterback. Gebele threw for 1,707 yards and 26 touchdowns last season. Davis, a starting cornerback last season, took some snaps, but he's honed his skills in camps over the summer drawing interest from such programs as Navy, Princeton and Colgate.

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Harris said Davis' style is similar to Gebele's and he throws an accurate long ball. He's also stepped well into the leadership position.

The Bruins' other big graduated scorer, Alec Ruden, caught 12 touchdown passes last season. Slot receivers Watts and Kevin Hickox will fill that hole. At running back, Bohanan rushed for 400 yards last fall as a sophomore and gets the starting nod.

As for the line, McNeal and Boston are the only returning starters, but Harris said the new unit has the potential to be very strong. It will be the biggest line he's had with center McNeal, 6-foot, 250 pounds; right tackle Damarco Creek, 6-3, 310; right guard Boston, 5-9, 215; left guard Adam Beasley, 6-2, 275; and left tackle Ryan Fitzgerald, 6-5, 250.

Along with Damarco Creek, who transferred from Glen Burnie, the Bruins got his younger brother, junior Darnell Creek, a 6-3, 240-pound defensive end. He gives Broadneck bookend solid ends with 6-0, 220-pound John Forrester on the other side.

The heart of the Bruins defense will be senior linebackers Niumatalolo, a first-team All-Metro player last fall, and Kennedy. Niumatalolo, 6-2, 225 pounds, is the son of Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo and has eight Division I offers after a junior season that included 108 tackles, four sacks and two interceptions. Kennedy, 5-11, 210 also started last year and recorded 80 tackles.

In rebuilding a defense that allowed just 12.5 points last season, Harris will look to linebacker/lineman George Shively, and defensive backs Juan McKinney and Thor Ferreira as key contributors.

With talented players ready to take over ever position vacated by graduation, Harris has all the components to make another run at a county championship and at the Bruins' first regional title since 2001. The regional playoffs can be especially challenging because the Bruins likely will have to face one or two of their Anne Arundel County foes again in the playoffs. The county's top four teams in recent years are all in the 4A East region – last year's champion Old Mill, which went on to the state final; Arundel, Meade and the Bruins.

Last season, Broadneck beat a reloading Old Mill team 25-22 in the season opener and went on to get blitzed by the Patriots in the regional playoffs. This year, the Bruins don't play the Patriots until Week 8, Oct. 23. They have Meade Week 5 and Arundel Week 6.

"The key for us is to get out of the gate fast," Harris said. "We're coming together as a team but it's when we start making little mistakes that we get in trouble. We have a solid defense. We have some big kids and some fast kids. On offense, when you replace nine starters it's going to take a while, so if our defense can hold us up until our offense develops, we should be in pretty good shape."

katherine.dunn@baltsun.com

twitter.com/kdunnsun

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