Ten months ago, Carroll High School ended its football season by defeating DeMatha, 12-6, to win the Metro Confrence title, finish the season 11-0 and earn the area's No. 1 ranking. But most of the players who made the Lions a powerhouse have graduated, leaving Maus Collins with a question that annually faces most every high school coach: who'll fill the holes?
"We lost just about everyone," said Collins, who has won 194 games in 25 years at Carroll. "Thank goodness we're going to play some nonleague games first. I know we're going to need them to get ready for our conference schedule."
Two-way ends Mike Patronik and Rico Labbe will anchor the receivers and defensive line, but quarterback remains somewhat in doubt, although junior Greg Downs played well in the Lions' 37-0 opening victory over Eastern.
Darrell Williams will lead a talented, if inexperienced, group of runners. Pat Jones will be a force at defensive tackle and center Mike Knaly should lead the offensive line. Even in its best years Carroll tends to win by narrow margins, so the dependable kicking of Benjamin Moffitt could be a big plus.
Carroll, which won five of the last seven league titles, should face competition from four teams. DeMatha (9-2) might be the strongest of the contenders because of proven players like running backs Darin Campbell and Mike Anderson, a returning all-Met who rushed for 1,400 yards and 24 touchdowns last season, wide receiver James Brown and safety Boobie Powell. The offensive line is unproven, but the Stags are solid everywhere else.
O'Connell (9-2) might have won the Metro title last season had quarterback Bill Gutter stayed healthy. If he can do so this year, the Knights again will have the talent to win their first league football championship.
Another returning all-Met running back is the main reason why. Eric Metcalf, son of former Washington Redskin Terry Metcalf, is the best breakaway runner in the area. An excellent rusher, receiver and kick returner, he threw several scoring passes while filling in for Gutter last year.
O'Connell also has Jake McInerney, one of the area's best kickers, and a strong line that features tackles Brannon Allison and Karl Knight and guards Rob Purdy and Robert Grupp. David Melvin, James Key and Pat Devlin return on defense, a weak spot.
Gonzaga (6-4) paid the price for starting a sophomore quarterback last year, but Gary McIntosh's experience and increased confidence should help this year. Speedy Marcus Cherry will be at tailback and Kevin White at fullback in one of the area's best backfields. Reggie Taylor and Karl Gannon will lead the defensive line and former middle guard George Sanker will play linebacker. Matt O'Connell also returns at defensive back and will again serve as punter/kicker.
McNamara is once again one of the area's biggest teams and the one that opponents fear most as a potential juggernaut. The Mustangs have a tendency to fade, however, so a fast start is essential. Runningback Chris Maruca will pace the offense, while Rich Fox will lead a goliath defense.
St. John's continues to improve, but unfortunately for the Cadets, so does the rest of the league. Quarterback Eric Ellis returns to direct the offense and will find sure-handed Nelson Gonzalez back at wide receiver. Darryl Heggans must play well at linebacker/tailback for the team to contend for the title.
Good Counsel has likewise improved, but probably not enough to escape the conference cellar. Running back Bobby Lewis is one of Coach Tom Hilton's best players.
John Kraus has replaced Al (Sleepy) Thompson as coach at St. Stephen's, but don't expect much to change regarding the Saints' dominance of the Interstate Athletic Conference.
Guard/linebacker Danny Britton and two-way tackle Bear Geschichter give Kraus a solid base.
St. Albans, Landon and Episcopal could upset Kraus' title defense, but Georgetown Prep, Bullis and Sidwell Friends don't appear ready to challenge.
The Little Hoyas can count on offensive tackle Greg Melocik and fullback Mike Mahn, but there are more holes than replacements.
New Coach Bill Edwards broke Riverdale Baptist's 14-game losing streak with a 30-0 victory over the Maryland School for the Deaf last week. Quarterback/linebacker Ron Monteith could make the Crusaders Tri-State Conference contenders.
Stu Mackintosh replaced Pat Renehan as Pallotti's coach, and the Panthers are expected to remain the team to beat with returners like back Brian MacLean.