Churchill head football Coach Fred Shepherd says that he and his players have more important things to worry about than the Bulldogs' shocking final-game, 14-7 loss to Springbrook last year that knocked them out of the state playoffs.
But it probably won't be that easy.
Shepherd's team was 9-0 and almost definitely headed for a state championship game with Friendly when they were abruptly derailed by a Blue Devil squad already out of the playoff picture. Instead, High Point made it to postseason play, while Churchill spent the winter dwelling on that painful loss.
Worse, some Springbrook players showed up at a basketball game between the two schools wearing T-shirts that read: "We Know How to be Champions. Springbrook 14, Churchill 7. Nov. 13, 1983."
"When you lose a game like that when you're not supposed to, it makes for a long winter," Shepherd said. "And that thing the Springbrook players did lacked class. But it's just something we can't let bother us now. We have enough to worry about with our first game (against Rockville) this season than our last game."
While the Bulldogs did learn they are not invincible with that loss, they are going to be close to it again this season. The only major loss is high-scoring quarterback Merrill Yavinsky, who doubled as punter and kick specialist.
Running backs Mitchell Dove and Toto Barnett, both seniors, and offensive guard Bob Lessenco form the base of another strong offense. Quarterback Pete Schmid steps into Yavinsky's spot.
Defense again will be a strongpoint. Defensive ends Jonathon Holloway and John Beck are back, along with middle guard Chris Nespeca on the line.
The Montgomery AA race shapes up pretty much the same as it has the past few years, with Seneca Valley, Springbrook and Gaithersburg probably being the only teams capable of challenging the Bulldogs.
In the A Division, Rockville and Sherwood will be the teams to beat, but Richard Montgomery is ready to bounce back after finishing 0-10, and Paint Branch and Kennedy are expected to surprise.
The B race should be a close one, with Magruder being the probable favorite, though it will be tested by Woodward, Einstein and Damascus. Poolesville will be tough to beat again in the C League.
"This might be the year we pay for that win (over Churchill)," says Springbrook Coach Bob Milloy, who lost 17 starters. "We've got a bigger team, but we're slow and a bit too inexperienced."
Running back Ron Pharr, two-way tackle David Prevo, free safety George Barrett, offensive guard John Harden and middle guard Mike Johnson are the returnees. Replacing quarterback Tyler Wolfram is his brother Todd, who has never thrown passes competitively before.
Seneca Valley Coach Al Thomas has no one on his offensive line over 200 pounds, but he has an outstanding backfield in senior Jeff Hoes, Eric McDonald, Eric Braun and quarterback Andy Milloy.
Gaithersburg will remain competitive with defense, returning Charles Gassaway and Mark Sogohomonian to the secondary and Dave Copeland at tackle. Jay Horton is back at tight end; the new quarterback is Tim Garner.
Returning to Wheaton are quarterback Tommy Addison, split end Chris Kontsis, linebacker Pat Smith and defensive lineman Dave Porterfield. The closing of Peary pushed the Knights into the AA League, but it also added to their roster running back Dan Sawyer and defensive end Darren Carey.
Depth is a slight problem for Wootton. Back are Brian Albertini at running back and linebacker, Danny Kohn at quarterback, and John Seller as a two-way lineman.
The loss of quarterback Anthony Dilweg hurts Whitman. The players that will keep the Vikings competitive are two-way lineman Glen Eason and senior defensive back Tom Neider.
In the A League, Sherwood has inexperience on the line, but a talented, big backfield in 245-pound Mike Smith, 225-pound Rob Hill and quarterback Joe Garris. Keith Smith was all-county at strong safety last season.
Rockville is another school helped by Peary's closing, getting six players including cornerback Adrian Mitchell. The Rams have potential in junior quarterback Jovi McAndrew and middle linebacker Jimmy Ladas.
Paint Branch lacks depth but is strong in its defensive backfield with senior Tim Roberts and juniors Vince Jackson and Chris Hayden.
Coach Brady Straub has switched from Northwood to Kennedy this season, but he doubts he'll be able to duplicate his success there just yet. As usual with Straub-coached teams, defense will be emphasized. The top players to watch will be nose guard Wayne Greatorex, safety/quarteback Walter Crutchfield and defensive back James White.
B League Magruder may go 9-1 for third straight year, despite lacking defensive depth. Linebackers Vinnie Redmond and Tony Washington are back. Offensively, four linemen return along with quarterback Shawn Prather and running back Chris Williamson.
Woodward graduated it best player, quarterback/kicker Jimmy Sood, but it returns five seniors on defense led by tackles Steve Jacobs and Marty Benjamin, and safety Steve Seiden.
Poolesville Coach Ernie Seccato's biggest concern this year is replacing his quarterback. If he can do it, he may be in for another 10-0 regular season. Among the returners are running back Irvin Smith, receiver Mike Curtis, and two-way linemen Robbie Holland and Rinnie Managha.