2009 High School Football Preview
2009 High School Football Preview: 5 Story Lines to Watch
The sidelines are getting a facelift across the area, particularly in Montgomery County, where eight of the 25 public schools have new head coaches this season; four teams had new coaches in 2008 and six in 2007. Aside from a host of new faces, some of the most recognizable -- and successful -- ones are no longer leading teams.
Al Thomas retired after leading his third school, Sherwood, to the Maryland 4A title, his state-record eighth championship overall; Wilde Lake's Doug DuVall, with five state crowns and more than 300 career victories, stepped down after taking the Wildecats to the 3A final; and Suitland will have a huge void after the sudden death last December of Nick Lynch, who took the Rams to the playoffs nine times in 13 seasons, including two state titles.
One face that is back is Anacostia's Willie Stewart, who had planned to step down after last season, but said he will return for one more -- his 41st season on a DCIAA sideline at Eastern and Anacostia.
Realigning the Stars
Maryland's biennial realignment will take effect this season, and some perennial state powers will have a tough time staying at the top.
After winning the past two 2A titles, River Hill will take its 28-game winning streak -- the area's longest current run -- to Class 3A. Also arriving in 3A are 2007 4A champion Quince Orchard and 2008 4A finalist Linganore. They both will be in the 3A West Region, which shapes up as perhaps the state's most brutal, also touting Damascus, Seneca Valley and Clarksburg. And the winner of that region still might have to get past defending 3A champion Westlake, which is in the South Region. . . .
Brentsville, Fauquier, Kettle Run, Liberty and Warren County have formed the Virginia AA Evergreen District, five of the more than a dozen area schools to change leagues for this season as part of Virginia High School League realignment.
Fauquier (7-3) and Liberty (10-3) left the AAA Cedar Run District. Brentsville (2-8) and Warren County (3-7) broke off from the AA Northwestern District. And Kettle Run (0-10) is a new Fauquier County school that played an independent schedule last year. . . .
Other shuffling: Osbourn Park (4-6) went from the Cedar Run to the AAA Cardinal. Heritage (6-4) went from the AA Dulles to the Cedar Run. Fairfax (4-6) moved from the AAA Concorde to the AAA Liberty. W.T. Woodson (7-4) left the Liberty for the AAA Patriot. Hayfield (1-9) left the Patriot for the AAA National.
Culpeper (0-10) moved from the Cedar Run to the AA Battlefield District. New Culpeper County school Eastern View (7-3), also in the Battlefield, played an independent schedule last year.
No Horsing Around
Among the rule changes approved by the National Federation of State High School Associations is the outlawing of horse-collar tackling. The NFL banned horse-collar tackles before the 2005 season, and the NCAA banned it prior to the 2008 season. The NFHS also now prohibits the grabbing of an opponent's chin strap, in addition to the face mask or edge of a helmet opening.
Throw Out the Record Book
Or at least rewrite a big chunk of it. Arundel senior quarterback Billy Cosh shattered Maryland's single-season state records last year for completions (292), attempts (448), yards (3,913) and touchdowns (56). He won't need to reach those numbers to surpass the state's career marks in each category -- most of which are held by North County's Mike Pfisterer, who completed 548 of 902 passes for 6,522 yards from 1997 to 2000 while playing for Chuck Markiewicz, who is now Cosh's coach at Arundel. The career touchdown record of 80 is shared by Sherwood's Deontay Twyman and Friendly's Joe Haden, both of whom finished their careers in 2006.
And You Are?
Stone Bridge graduated players who accounted for 23 spots on the first, second and honorable mention all-Liberty District teams. Westfield lost players who claimed 17 all-Concorde District spots.
So programs that have combined for a 161-19 record the past seven years enter the season with guys needing name tags more than numbers. They play Friday at Stone Bridge in the season opener.
"I don't think we've ever had this many kids put in starting positions that were basically straight JV players last year," Stone Bridge Coach Mickey Thompson said.
"We had more older backups," Westfield Coach Tom Verbanic said of his 2008 team, "and we didn't win going away a lot of times, therefore the starters were in for a lot more."
Chantilly, a Northern Region Division 6 finalist two of the past three years, graduated players who claimed 16 all-Concorde spots. Twenty starters are gone.