Howard Lions

Last year: 6-4 overall, 5-4 league.

Coach: David Glenn, first season.

Last playoff appearance: 1999, lost in 2A semifinals.

Keep an eye on: QB Ronnie Curley. Howard Coach David Glenn remembers the first time he saw Curley play. It was during a junior varsity game three years ago, and the scrawny freshman quarterback was constantly buried by defensive linemen.

"I've never seen a kid take a beating like he did and keep getting up time after time and never asking to get out of the game," Glenn said. "That's when I knew Ronnie was someone who can lead a football team."

Curley, now a 5-foot-9, 175-pound senior, enters his third year on the varsity team with high expectations for a squad coming off its first winning season since 2000.

"I think we can go 10-0 and make the playoffs," Curley said. "All of the other schools think we're a joke, but this year's going to be different."

Curley, who threw for 820 yards and eight touchdowns last year, has one of the county's best receiving corps in senior tight end C.J. Dyson and juniors Will O'Donnell and Dwayne Owens.

Speedy senior running backs Vincent Coleman and David Duran will give Howard a balanced offense and prevent opponents from double-teaming receivers.

"Ronnie might not look like your typical quarterback, but there is not a throw he can't make," Glenn said. "He has a tremendous arm and can put the ball where it needs to be. He's also probably the most experienced quarterback in the county, and that's a big advantage."

Howard must improve its defense, which struggled against top teams last season. Many defenders also play on offense -- Coleman at strong safety, Duran at cornerback and Dyson at linebacker -- a lack of depth that could be exposed if key players get injured.

"I remember when I was in middle school, and I would come to the Howard games and they were the best team in the county and they were going to the playoffs," Curley said. "We know about the great tradition this school has, and now it's our turn to add to it."

"I think we can go 10-0 and make the playoffs," said Howard quarterback Ronnie Curley. Running backs Vincent Coleman, below, and David Duran are part of a balanced offense.