Labor Day weekend is here and so is high school football.
Most fans have to wait until next weekend to see their favorite teams back on the gridirorn because public schools cannot kick off until Sept. 5, but the MIAA teams got started this weekend. That means it's time to roll out our projections for the Top 5 teams.
For the next few days, The Baltimore Sun will count down the preseason Top 5 leading up to No. 1 on Wednesday. The Sun's football preview, including the Top 15 poll along with players to watch will be published Thursday in The Baltimore Sun and on baltimoresun.com.
Outlook: The defending Anne Arundel County champions were on a 10-0 roll heading into the playoffs last fall, but Arundel cut the Patriots' state playoff dreams short with a touchdown pass with 1:12 left to go in the game for a 25-22 Wildcats win.
With a front-loaded Anne Arundel County schedule again this fall, the Patriots will know a lot about their playoff potential after just three weeks. They open with their own version of the Bermuda Triangle -- Broadneck, Arundel and Meade. The Patriots must escape that with some wins or it would put a serious crimp in their playoff hopes.
The Patriots, who won state Class 4A titles in 2009 and 2011, graduated about 16 players and most were key contributors, but they still have more than 20 seniors. The biggest holes to fill are on the offensive line as well as in the defensive secondary, where no starters return but there is no lack of depth in the young talent.
"The trick is that whatever we've got, we've got to be ready early," McCormick said.
With the offensive line, McCormick is confident his top five -- Chris Wissmann, Anthony Scott, Zach Claypool, Parrish Humes and Andre Jones -- are ready to take over even though they didn't get a lot of playing time because many of last season's games were close. They have good size -- Wissmann is 6-feet-3, 285 pounds and Scott is 6-3, 300 -- and have improved throughout the preseason. There's also some depth with three solid players moving up from junior varsity.
"If those guys can do a good job getting a hat on a hat," McCormick said, "with our backfield, we want to give them the opporutnity to make some big plays. If we can at least get a hat on a hat, those guys, I think, can make a lot of people look good."
Franklin, Hicks and junior Pete Boone return to the backfield. The Patriots also have the luxury of two good quarterbacks in Ludwig and Marracco. McCormick said both could see action.
On defense, the Patriots are young on the line and strongest at linebacker where Fitzgerald, Franklin and Hicks return as well as seniors Nikko Ware and James Venerable and junior Cody Bostic.
In the secondary, Boone and senior James Offer could step into starting roles at safety and a couple of transfers, seniors Quran Mottenon and Trevor Randolph, add experience at defensive back.
"One thing that's nice is we have a lot of competition out on the field," McCormick said. "It's very competitive in that it's tough to say who might be the guy from week to week, because if they really push each other and compete in practice, I think it could go back and forth who might be better each week.
Varsity Highlights Newsletter
Get the latest high school sports stories, photos and video from around the region.
"There's quite a few guys in that secondary and at running back and the wide receiver position, and a few of these linemen who are going to mix it up offensively and defensively and some linebackers in there, so I'm excited about our depth. There's some areas where we lack experience, but I think we have some depth that might balance that out a little bit."
The Patriots should battle with Meade and Arundel as well as Broadneck for the top spot in Anne Arundel County and in the 4A East region standings.
They certainly would like to get back to states after making early, heartbreaking exits from the regional playoffs the past two seasons. Before last year's loss to Arundel, they fell to Meade, 28-21, on a touchdown in the final 22 seconds.