Public Schools

Annapolis Panthers (3A)

COACH: Brian Brown (first season).

LAST YEAR: 3-7.

LAST POSTSEASON APPEARANCE/STATE TITLE: 2002/1978.

RETURNING STARTERS: Offense, four; defense, four.

THE SCOOP: When Brown, a longtime assistant coach at Southern, took this job, the Annapolis principal greeted him with a weighty message.

"They told me that the football season sets the tone for this whole school," said Brown, who graduated from Annapolis. "So no pressure, huh? I need to turn this team around."

To do that, he'll have to rely heavily on running back Damien Kinchen and tight end Justin Weston, who both improved their speed during the offseason. The Panthers have yet to settle on a starting quarterback, but junior Raushawn Wallace looked comfortable at that position in early-season practices.

"There's a long tradition here of winning football games," Brown said, "and we're going to get back to that."

Arundel Wildcats (4A)

COACH: Chuck Markiewicz (fourth season).

LAST YEAR: 7-4.

LAST POSTSEASON APPEARANCE/STATE TITLE: 2003/1975.

RETURNING STARTERS: Offense, five; defense, four.

THE SCOOP: Wildcats quarterback Bobby Schram graduated, but Nick Palmer, who's impressed Markiewicz with good field sense, should be a reliable replacement.

The team's greatest strength, though, will be speed. Nearly 40 players ran the 40-yard dash in less than five seconds this preseason. The fastest of the bunch, receiver Bill Johnson, ran a 4.39 on the first day of practice -- but he'll be ineligible until the fourth game of the season.

"He's the guy who can spread the field for us," Markiewicz said. "We'll need our speed to save us."

Broadneck Bruins (4A)

COACH: Jeff Herrick (16th season).

LAST YEAR: 13-1.

LAST POSTSEASON APPEARANCE/STATE TITLE: 2003/none.

RETURNING STARTERS: Offense, four; defense, six.

THE SCOOP: This year's team looks strikingly similar to the one that went undefeated during the regular season last year. Quarterback Tony Marino, running back Brandon Johnson and kicker Chris Desautels -- major factors in last year's offense -- are seniors.

The defense, which held nine teams to less than 10 points last year, also looks strong. "This year's team could be just as good," Marino said, "and maybe even better."

The Bruins lost all five starters on the offensive line, and younger, smaller players will fill those spots.

"We're in good shape," Desautels said. "All we want to do is win the state championship."

Chesapeake Cougars (4A)

COACH: Jim Simms (second season).

LAST YEAR: 6-4.

LAST POSTSEASON APPEARANCE/STATE TITLE: none/none.

RETURNING STARTERS: Offense, five; defense, three.

THE SCOOP: Last season, Gary Townes may have been the best running back in the area -- and he didn't even play that position.

After running for 1,500 yards while playing quarterback in 2003, Townes will transition to full-time running back this year. Senior Brandon Waters, a linebacker last season, will play quarterback.

"I'll get to run the ball more," Townes said. "My goal is to get 2,000 yards."

He may have a chance, running behind a strong offensive line anchored by senior Mike Kirkwood. Drew Timme, Jack Klaiss and Howie Bradford -- referred to by teammates as "Mr. Enthusiasm" -- also return as tackles.

"We're going to have a big year," said Kirkwood, who predicts Chesapeake will make the playoffs for the first time. "Nobody can tackle Gary one-on-one. He'll just run over people."

Glen Burnie (4A)

COACH: Tom Newman (first season).

Last Year: 4-6.

LAST POSTSEASON APPEARANCE/STATE TITLE:1976/none.

RETURNING STARTERS: Offense, zero; defense, zero.

THE SCOOP: On the first day of practice, Newman lined up his players in their positions and asked: "Okay, everybody, who started in this same position last year for Glen Burnie?"

Nobody answered.

Only quarterback Brandon Howell has starting experience, and his came last year at Northeast High School. Howell, athletic and exciting to watch, leads a team made up entirely of former role players and back-ups.

"Brandon's been like a calming force for us," Newman said. "He helps keep us at an even keel, and we need that. This team is incredibly green. We're not expecting a miracle right away. We want to take small steps and build on that every day."

Meade Mustangs (4A)

COACH: Andrew Smith (first season).

LAST YEAR: 0-10.

LAST POSTSEASON APPEARANCE/STATE TITLE: 2001/none.

RETURNING STARTERS: Offense, four; defense, four.

THE SCOOP: The Mustangs scored just 73 points last season, but Smith hopes his team can put up that many points over a couple of games. "Most definitely we'll be shaking up the offense," said Smith, who had two sons -- Andrew Jr. and Antwan -- graduate from Meade and go on to play college football. "We just want to create some excitement when we have the ball."

Expect Meade to accomplish that by mixing in more motion on offense. They'll also throw the ball more often, since returning quarterback Quinzel Chestnut has a strong, reliable arm.

"I'll say one thing," Smith said. "This year, we'll require the defense to adjust to what we're doing with the ball."

North County Knights (4A)

COACH: Gary Liddick (second season).

LAST YEAR: 1-9.

LAST POSTSEASON APPEARANCE/STATE TITLE: 1996/1994.

RETURNING STARTERS: Offense, six; defense, six.

THE SCOOP: Liddick expects to see major strides in the second year of his five-year plan to rebuild North County football. John Snyder, who missed the first six games of last season to have a tumor removed from his head, will start at quarterback. Two-way linemen Will Ritter and Scott Biggs form a formidable duo inside.

The Knights, though, have eight players (five starters) ineligible for the first three games -- against Old Mill, Annapolis and Southern.

"We're missing too many people," Liddick said. "The one thing is, though, that this team has a different attitude. Before, we played not to lose. Now we're playing to win. We're going in the right direction, no doubt. But this is not an overnight thing."

Northeast Eagles (3A)

COACH: Mike Cotham (fifth season).

LAST YEAR: 3-7.

LAST POSTSEASON APPEARANCE/STATE TITLE: 1981/none.

RETURNING STARTERS: Offense, six; defense, eight.

THE SCOOP: After a tumultuous offseason filled with tragedy and turmoil, the Eagles are more than ready to start focusing on football. Over the summer, senior linebacker Jamahl Jones was killed in a fight and quarterback Chris Shade lost his father to cancer. Quarterback Brandon Howell and center Ben Jones, both starters last season, no longer attend Northeast.

After the first day of practice, the Eagles gathered to watch the movie "Remember the Titans." "That movie sort of spoke to what we've been through," Cotham said. "These kids have had a real tough summer, but that's bringing the team together."

Shade will be the star. Last season he was an all-league tight end. He long-snaps, punts, plays linebacker and, now, starts at quarterback.

Said Cotham: "He's the best overall football player we've had here in 20 years."

Old Mill Patriots (4A)

COACH: Mike Marcus (seventh season).

LAST YEAR: 8-3.

LAST POSTSEASON APPEARANCE/STATE TITLE: 2003/none.

RETURNING STARTERS: Offense, four; defense, four.

THE SCOOP: The next step for the blossoming Old Mill program is obvious: Win a playoff game. Every season since 1999, the Patriots have advanced to the playoffs only to lose in the first round.

"I'm not hiding anything about getting that playoff win," Marcus said. "It's not a monkey anymore. It's a gorilla. It's just something personal."

Old Mill should have another good chance to break the streak this year. Quarterback John Brown and running back Ryan Callahan both return. Callahan gained almost 20 pounds over the offseason, and he still runs a 4.3 in the 40-yard dash. Old Mill's had an all-county running back every season since 1996, and Callahan should uphold that tradition.

"We've had some good ones," Marcus said, "and he ranks right up there with them."

Severna Park Falcons (3A)

COACH: J.P. Hines (seventh season).

LAST YEAR: 5-6.

LAST POSTSEASON APPEARANCE/STATE TITLE: 2003/none.

RETURNING STARTERS: Offense, four; defense, seven.

THE SCOOP: Hines might be more excited about this team than any other he's coached at Severna Park, and that's obvious during practice. The head coach bubbles with energy, running around and sweating more than most of his players.

"I believe in this team with all of my heart, I really do," Hines said. "I think we're going to be competing for a state championship."

Quarterback Greg Zingler is one main reason for Hines's optimism. The 5-foot-11 junior has a sizzling arm. In one early season practice, a receiver actually asked him to throw the ball softer. Said Hines: "He's the greatest quarterback I've ever coached."

The Falcons will also rely on fullback Tim Hackman, offensive lineman Chris Anthony and a very experienced defense.

Southern Bulldogs (2A)

COACH: Russ Meyers (ninth season).

LAST YEAR: 8-3.

LAST POSTSEASON APPEARANCE/STATE TITLE: 2003/none.

RETURNING STARTERS: Offense, five; defense, eight.

THE SCOOP: Meyers knows he wants his team to throw the ball more this year; he's just not certain who he wants to throw it.

Three players are still competing for the starting quarterback job, a position that will require more than it did last season.

In 2003 Southern rushed for more than 3,000 yards. But running back A.J. Lee, who rushed for half of that total, graduated. "We're going to want a little more from the quarterback," Meyers said, "and I'm not quite sure who that will be yet."

One thing Meyers does know is that he has a player he can rely on in Bobby Atwell, an athletic safety and running back who missed most of last year with a broken ankle.

"I feel great now," Atwell said. "We should have one of the best teams in the county."

South River Seahawks (3A)

COACH: Mike Heatherly (first season).

LAST YEAR: 5-5.

LAST POSTSEASON APPEARANCE/STATE TITLE: 1991/none.

RETURNING STARTERS: Offense, two; defense, seven.

THE SCOOP: Heatherly started his tenure by equipping his team with a new motto: Get it done.

No matter that the Seahawks haven't made the playoffs for 13 years; they may have the goods to get there this season. Senior running backs Mike Evans and Mike Walters give the team one of the best rushing attacks in the area. Returning defensive linemen A.J. Tallerico, Dustin Renner and Elliot Lyles will make it difficult for opponents to move the ball on the ground.

"We're moving in the right direction," Heatherly said. "We're not really on a program that aims at success in three or four years. We think we can do those things right now."

Private Schools

St. Mary's Saints

(MIAA B Conference)

COACH: Mike Codd (seventh season).

LAST YEAR: 3-7.

LAST POSTSEASON APPEARANCE: MIAA has no playoffs for football.

RETURNING STARTERS: Offense, three; defense, three.

THE SCOOP: With 11 sophomores playing on varsity, Codd acknowledges that this season might be a learning experience -- but not necessarily a losing one. Matt Davis returns to play quarterback and Adam Turner, a 6-foot-5 defensive tackle, should keep opposing quarterbacks in check.

"We're very young," Codd said. "But it's a good young group. I've never had this many sophomores on the varsity before."

Some of them should make an instant impact. Jack Kramer, a speedy running back, will probably get several carries each game.

"With all the young talent," Codd said, "I like the way our program is going."

Severn Admirals (MIAA Div. B)

COACH: John Beckman (10th season).

LAST YEAR: 7-3.

LAST POSTSEASON APPEARANCE/STATE TITLE: MIAA has no playoffs for football.

RETURNING STARTERS: Offense, seven; defense, six.

THE SCOOP: The issue for Severn isn't the number of good players. It's the number of players, period. The Admirals have just 24 on their varsity team, including four sophomores. As a result, they plan to have nine or 10 players play both offense and defense.

"We have to work extra hard on conditioning so guys don't get tired," Beckman said. "I wish we had a few more players."

What Beckman does have, though, is an excellent core group. His backfield -- quarterback Jamal Jones, running back Deon Peters and fullback Duke Gibbons -- is made up entirely of three-year varsity starters.

"I don't know what I'll do," Beckman said, "when those guys graduate."

Spalding (MIAA Div. C)

COACH: Mike Whittles (sixth season).

LAST YEAR: 8-2.

LAST POSTSEASON APPEARANCE: MIAA has no playoffs for football.

RETURNING STARTERS: Offense, three; defense, eight.

THE SCOOP: Last year's lofty record seemed unusual for Spalding, but Whittles is determined to make this the school's second consecutive winning season. Almost all of last year's defense returns, including stellar linebacker Mike Whittles and lineman Eric Owens.

The team's offensive line should be even stronger than last year's. Adam Smith, Kevin Doran and Adam Turpin all return to the line as seniors.

"In the past, teams weren't supposed to lose to Spalding," Whittles said. "But we'll be just as strong as last year. I really do believe that."

Broadneck senior Chris Desautels gets ready to kick things off this year after a 13-1 finish last season. Below, Arundel receiver Danny Marin in a scrimmage. Severna Park senior fullback Tim Hackman.Jack Kramer of St. Mary's stretches for extra yardage in a scrimmage against Severna Park. Clockwise from left: Severna Park Coach J.P. Hines watches his team; Southern's Bobby Atwell, who missed most of last year with an ankle injury, is back in action. Here he avoids Broadneck's defense in a scrimmage; and St. Mary's Coach Mike Codd, in his 10th season, works on his young squad.Chuck Markiewicz, above, is in his fourth year at Arundel. His players include standout lineman Brandon Hall (78).Above, Arundel quarterback Nick Palmer will be throwing to speedy receivers. Left, Severna Park's Greg Zingler in a scrimmage against St. Mary's.