St. Frances' Chris Braswell plays against the St. Joseph's Prep (Philadelphia) Hawks at Maryland Stadium in 2018.
St. Frances' Chris Braswell plays against the St. Joseph's Prep (Philadelphia) Hawks at Maryland Stadium in 2018. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

Top 15 poll

1. St. Frances

Coaches: Biff Poggi, Henry Russell

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Last season: 10-0, ranked No. 1

Postseason: No official conference tournament but awarded MIAA A Conference title

Outlook: The Panthers won’t be in the MIAA A Conference for football, instead playing a tough national schedule. They’re deep on both sides of the ball, with players such as Blake Corum on offense and Chris Braswell on defense. St. Frances is considered among the top five teams in the nation and started the season in style with a 49-13 rout of Miami Central in Florida last weekend.

2. Calvert Hall

Coach: Donald Davis

Last season: 12-1, No. 2

Postseason: No conference tournament

Outlook: The Cardinals will be in the hunt for the title in the new MIAA A Conference. They can run the ball well thanks to players such as Sean Tucker, and the defense should be strong once again. They’ll be one of the favorites for the conference title thanks to their depth and talent.

3. Mount Saint Joseph

Coach: Rich Holzer

Last season: 10-2, No. 4

Postseason: No conference tournament

Outlook: The Gaels can be dangerous on both sides of the ball. Dont’e Thornton will be one of the area’s best wide receivers while Marlowe Wax can help anchor the defense. Their midseason matchup with No. 2 Calvert Hall could go a long way toward determining who wins the A Conference.

4. Archbishop Spalding

Coach: Kyle Schmitt

Last season: 7-3, No. 3

Postseason: No conference tournament

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Outlook: Spalding brings back plenty of talent and should battle Calvert Hall and Mount Saint Joseph for the A Conference crown. Lineman Jahmeer Carter will cause plenty of trouble on both sides of the line, and quarterback Austin Tutas should lead the offense.

5. Franklin

Coach: Anthony Burgos

Last season: 12-2, No. 6

Postseason: Class 3A state champion

Outlook: The Indians earned their third state title since 2013 when Simon Spath’s last-second kick beat Linganore. They’ve been to the final five times since 2010 and will be tough to beat once again, returning six starters on each side of the ball.

6. Dunbar

Coach: Lawrence Smith

Last season: 11-1, No. 7

Postseason: Class 1A state semifinalist

Outlook: Deion Crews-Harris should help the Poets on offense and defense. Last year, he finished with 13 1/2 sacks and scored five touchdowns on offense. Dunbar again will have the talent to be a force in Class 1A.

7. Mervo

Coach: Patrick Nixon

Last season: 10-2, No. 8

Postseason: Class 4A state semifinalist

Outlook: The Mustangs are coming off an impressive season in which they won the second and third playoff games in school history before falling to North Point in the state semifinals. Mervo made plenty of noise on offense last year, and quarterback Kelin Kimbrough (26 touchdowns, over 2,000 yards passing) is back to lead the offense. Can the Mustangs do it again?

8. Glenelg

Coach: Tim Cullen

Last season: 13-1, No. 5

Postseason: Class 2A state finalist

Outlook: Cullen, a long-time assistant at Glenelg, takes over as head coach this season. Butch Schaffer stepped down after 2018, and Cullen hopes to keep the Gladiators rolling. They’ll have talent, despite losing running back Wande Owens (2,687 yards, 40 rushing TDs last year) to Yale, and the Gladiators will find ways to win.

9. Milford Mill

Coach: Reggie White

Last season: 9-2, No. 12

Postseason: Class 3A North Region semifinalist

Outlook: The Millers were stung by a first-round playoff loss to eventual state champion Franklin, 15-12, and they’re hungry to do better this season. White said Jordan Morant will be the featured tailback on offense, and he likes the development of quarterback Rishon Holmes.

10. Liberty

Coach: Larry Luthe

Last season: 10-1, No. 10

Postseason: Class 2A West Region semifinalist

Outlook: The Lions return plenty of good players this season, with quarterback Nate Kent (22 TDs) and linebacker McClain Butler leading the way. Liberty should again be strong on offense and defense and hopes to go a few steps farther than in 2018.

11. Arundel

Coach: Jack Walsh

Last season: 9-2, No. 13

Postseason: Class 4A East Region semifinalist

Outlook: Quarterback Austin Slye returns to lead the powerful Arundel offense. The Wildcats piled up points in every game, and if their defense can step up, Arundel could fare even better in 2019.

12. Broadneck

Coach: Rob Harris

Last season: 10-1, No. 9

Postseason: Class 4A East Region semifinalist

Outlook: The Bruins were undefeated in the regular season before South River surprised them in the first round of the playoffs. They’ve got just three starters back on both offense and defense but still have good depth.

13. River Hill

Coach: Brian Van Deusen

Last season: 8-4, not ranked

Postseason: Class 2A South Region finalist

Outlook: The Hawks have a bunch of key players back and should be one of the top teams in Howard County. Safety Beau Brade (126 tackles, two interceptions), a Maryland commit, and the defense will make life tough for opposing offenses.

14. Howard

Coach: Ross Hannon

Last season: 9-2, No. 15

Postseason: Class 4A North Region semifinalist

Outlook: The Lions are hoping to bounce back this year. Glenelg ended their run of Howard County championships at four, and Mervo stunned the Lions in the first round of the state playoffs. But Howard has talent on offense and defense and will be looking to rebound.

15. Dundalk

Coach: Matt Banta

Last season: 10-2, No. 11

Postseason: Class 3A North Region finalist

Outlook: The Owls will have quarterback Treshawn Ray back, and he’ll be tough to stop. Dundalk lost a bunch of talent from last year’s team but still should do well.

Other teams considered: Chesapeake-AA (10-3), South River (7-5), St. Mary’s (8-3), Spalding (7-3), Westminster (8-4)

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