Mount Hebron Vikings

Last year: 7-4 overall, 7-2 league.

Coach: Larry Luthe, seventh season (23-37).

Last playoff appearance: 2003, lost in 3A East Region semifinals.

Keep an eye on: Chris Eccleston. The 6-foot, 185-pound junior took a handoff from quarterback Kyle Barnett, lowered his shoulder and drove through the line against Arundel in a scrimmage last week. Eccleston bowled over a linebacker and sprinted down the sideline for a 40-yard gain.

It was a sign of what to expect from Eccleston, who last year rushed for a team-high 885 yards and six touchdowns and caught 17 passes for 289 yards and three scores.

"I think what you saw last year was only the beginning with Chris," Coach Larry Luthe said. "He's bigger, stronger and faster than he was last year because he knows how important he is to our team."

Eccleston received little fanfare early last season but became the center of attention as the Vikings made the playoffs for the first time since 1982.

But success breeds high expectations, something the team has not been used to.

"Last year, no one really thought we had a shot to make the playoffs except us," Eccleston said. "So I think we really snuck up on some teams, but that won't happen this year -- not after we made the playoffs."

Though Eccleston and Barnett (1,127 yards passing, county-high 15 TDs) should give the Vikings a potent offense, the defense might determine the team's success.

Senior linebackers Daru Page-Tilahun (60 tackles) and Brendan Clancy (51 tackles) and junior defensive end Aaron Maybin (68 tackles, two interceptions) lead what could be the league's best front seven. The secondary, which allowed just five touchdown passes last season, should be even better with the return of Eccleston (45 tackles, four interceptions) and senior free safety Derek Chell.

Running back Chris Eccleston, now a junior, rushed for a team-high 885 yards and six touchdowns last year, leading Mount Hebron to the playoffs.