With the exception of an outstanding quarterback, a couple of hard-hitting linebackers, a few fine all-purpose performers and a handful of accurate place-kickers, the high school football players who are likely to grab headlines and lead their teams to championships will be relatively unknown this fall.

On last season's all-metropolitan first and second teams, 42 of the 48 players selected (four kickers) were seniors. Thus, only six of the players considered the best in the area last year return and three are kickers.

The one player mentioned most by area coaches is quarterback Gary McIntosh of Gonzaga. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound senior completed 60 percent of his passes for more than 1,700 yards and threw for 12 touchdowns. Despite losing his top three receivers, McIntosh expects to have a good season.

"We have some good people and I know I have to work hard to duplicate what I did last year," McIntosh said. "I still have a lot to learn but I'm working hard."

Gonzaga Coach Mark Gowan calls McIntosh the finest quarterback to come out of the Washington area in years. "He's intelligent, reads defenses well and has the big-time aura colleges are looking for," Gowan said. "He is a solid quarterback."

McIntosh got off to a fine beginning with 11 completions in 16 attempts for more than 100 yards and a touchdown against Wilson. He also scored once in the Eagles' 26-0 shutout.

Other top quarterbacks include DeMatha senior Chris Baucia, who threw for more than 1,400 yards with 14 touchdown passes last year; Herndon senior Keith Moody, a good runner as well as passer, and Carroll senior John Barnhill, who has outstanding speed and a strong, quick release.

No one expects this year's crop of running backs to equal what all-Mets Chris Warren (Robinson), Andre Southerland (Stonewall Jackson), Bren Lowery (T.C. Williams) and Mike Anderson (DeMatha) did in 1984. The four accumulated more than 6,500 rushing yards and scored 68 touchdowns.

If the rushing yardage and touchdowns of the second-team unit of O'Connell's Eric Metcalf, Oxon Hill's Derick Fenner, Friendly's Erwin Matthews and T.C. Williams' Rodney McNeil are added to that of the first group, the yardage would surpass 12,000 yards and 120 touchdowns.

Of this year's running backs, Lake Braddock running back Roger Boone and Osbourn Park's Victor Cahoon, both of whom rushed for more than 1,000 yards and averaged at least one touchdown per game, may be the class of the lot. Boone opened his senior season with back to back 200-plus yard games rushing and two touchdowns. Another tough inside runner is McNamara's Durwin Greggs. The senior scored nine touchdowns last year and scored twice in his '85 debut.

Certainly two of the top receivers around are Stuart's Jeremy Worrell and Herndon's Barry Johnson. Worrell, a superb hurdler, escaped double coverage much of last year to score a half-dozen times. He also helped his district-title champion team with several field goals. Like Worrell, Johnson is a big-play receiver and placekicker (11 touchdowns and a handful of field goals in '84). Poolesville's Dewey Barnes has caught four touchdown passes in his first two games, High Point's Gary Blanch caught a pair of touchdown passes in his team's opening victories. Carroll's Hank Jackson has five touchdown receptions this year, including three in one game.

Ironically, Worrell missed a conversion kick and his team had to settle for a 6-6 tie with Marshall. But Johnson, also an excellent defensive back, gave the Hornets a 3-0 opening win over Robinson with a 36-yard field goal.

Johnson's teammate, 6-2 and 220-pound Bukasa Kalumbo, is a good tackle who plays both offense and defense. H.D. Woodson's right-side combination of 6-3, 240-pound guard Roderick Daniels and 6-7, 460-pound tackle Raymond (World) Smith are virtually impregnable.

The battle for top kicking honors should be hotly contested. In addition to Johnson and Worrell, Annandale's Mark Lenert (two field goals this year, one for a 3-0 win over Woodbridge); Mike Campbell (who made 11 of 12 three-pointers in '84), Springbrook's David Behrmann (seven of eight last year and a 30-yarder in opener), and O'Connell's Jake McInerney (55- and 50-yard field goals this year) are all accurate.

Defensively, the returning linebackers look to be the strongest. Bethesda-Chevy Chase's Ceroy Robinson, T.C. Williams Frankie Sanders, Cardozo's Chris Gibbs and Stonewall Jackson's Derrek Jackson are quick and aggressive.

Donald Tisdale of Potomac and Johnny Vessel of H.D. Woodson are coming off good junior seasons and are excellent pass defenders and one-on-one tacklers.