It was easy to overlook Westlake's Darius Powell last football season. Playing alongside him on the Wolverines' defensive line were Derrell Jones and Jerrell Edelen, who signed to play at Syracuse and Marshall, respectively, and each outweighed Powell by about 100 pounds.

But when Powell didn't have to share the spotlight, he stood out plenty. Last month at a camp at the University of North Carolina, he was so impressive that the Tar Heels offered him a scholarship. And last weekend, he became the first player in the Class of 2006 from the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference to orally commit to sign next February.

"They just saw my growth potential," said the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Powell. "When I went to the combines, I was beating people who were ranked ahead of me. [Westlake Coach Dominic] Zaccarelli really knows what he's doing."

Over the next seven months, football recruiters will zero in on the SMAC -- particularly in Charles County -- more keenly than in years past. Powell's Westlake teammates, Aaris Reed and Pha'Terrell Washington, are being hotly pursued. Zaccarelli said Reed has about a half-dozen offers, including from Vanderbilt and Marshall, and more than 20 schools have made offers to Washington.

A pair of linemen -- Thomas Stone's Nekos Brown and La Plata's Eric Jobe -- also figure to attract a lot of interest. Brown has an offer from Virginia, and Jobe has visited several schools, including Duke, Stanford, Northwestern and North Carolina State.

But the spotlight will shine brightest on McDonough running back/defensive back A.J. Wallace and Lackey lineman J.B. Walton. Both are generally regarded among the two dozen most heavily recruited seniors in the nation. Both have received offers from just about every top program in the county and can expect others to follow as the summer progresses.

Wallace and Walton said they plan to wait until after the 2005 high school season -- and probably closer to the Feb. 1 national signing day -- to make their college decisions.

Well-Traveled Mappas

Suburban sprawl is killing John Mappas's coaching dreams.

Mappas was named basketball coach at Westlake, the sixth SMAC program he's coached and the fifth in Charles County in his 36-year career. He replaces Jimmy Ball, who left to take the same position at North Point, which will open in August and is the lone SMAC school in Charles County at which Mappas hasn't coached.

"I want to coach all the schools in St. Mary's and Calvert, too, before I die," joked Mappas, 59. "But they keep building all these schools."

Mappas coached Chopticon to the 1973 Class B final and led La Plata and McDonough each for 11 seasons. He also had short stays at Thomas Stone and Lackey. Last season, he assisted McDonough Coach Dave Rooney, who was Mappas's assistant for the Rams before taking over the program.

Mappas also went a combined 173-66 in a pair of four-year stints at the College of Southern Maryland and Chesapeake College.