Five young, bright players who represent the conference's newest men of action.
1. TE Chris Derby, Leonardtown, Soph.
Derby played mostly running back for the JV Raiders last season, but figures to be a key blocker and receiver as a sophomore new to Coach Mike Egan's lineup. Derby was big as a freshman -- about 6 feet and 185 pounds -- but put on 20 more pounds in the offseason working in the weight room. He also impressed Egan at Leonardtown's camp at St. Mary's College and in the summer passing league enough to earn a spot in the starting lineup.
2. G Joe Ripple, Patuxent, Soph.
Ripple is one of three solid transfer students the Panthers have picked up since last season. In addition to his size (6-2, 245), the former Northern JV team member also has a surprising amount of quickness for a big offensive lineman. Coach Jim Esposito said Ripple's feet are among the quickest he has seen on an offensive lineman. Because Esposito's offense will involve a lot of running behind the guards, Ripple will be key to the Panthers' running attack this season.
3. RB Deandrea Mitchell, Patuxent, Soph.
Mitchell played varsity as a freshman for his school in California last season as a safety. This season, Esposito said Mitchell probably will start both ways for the Panthers as a running back and cornerback. Esposito said Mitchell's strongest qualities are his vision and his ability to change direction. Even though Mitchell doesn't have 4.5 speed, his first two steps are as quick as any running back's in the conference, Esposito said.
4. G/DT Alan Herbert, Chopticon, Jr.
He is 6 feet 2 inches, 302 pounds -- and he's rumored to be the second-fastest player on the team. Said Coach Andy Palko: "There aren't many guys his size who can move the way he can move." Herbert played JV his freshman year, but was ineligible all of '98. Now he's back, and Herbert appears to be a potentially solid Division I college player because of his size and quickness. "He's ... so tough mentally and physically," his coach said.
5. RB/LB Damian Pettie, Chopticon, Jr.
Pettie figures to be a key factor in the Braves' ground-oriented offense, both in a carrying and blocking role as a fullback. He transferred from a new school in Las Vegas that had no senior class, so he got plenty of playing time even as a sophomore on varsity. Pettie (5-11, 190) is also going to be key on defense for the Braves. Coach Andy Palko said Pettie had "as many hits as we've had a linebacker make in a long time," including at least five solo tackles, in a preseason scrimmage.