Annapolis Panthers

(3A East)

Coach: Brian Brown, second season.

Last season: 7-3.

Returning starters: 7 offense, 5 defense.

Players to watch: Matt Vollono, Sr., QB; Errol Silva, Jr., FB; Justin Weston, Sr., TE; John Schwartz, Jr., L; Justin Brown, Sr., S.

Running with it: Senior Damien Kinchen returns for his second season as the primary back in Brown's wing-T system, in which he could get 20 carries per game.

Brown's take: "Our biggest concern is up front on the line. We've got the people, but we need some of them to step up a little bit for us. Our goals are high. We are going after the state championship every single year."

Arundel Wildcats

(4A East)

Coach: Chuck Markiewicz, fifth season.

Last season: 7-4; lost in the 4A East Region semifinal.

Returning starters: 6 offense, 7 defense.

Players to watch: Kyle Sumpter, Sr., QB; Austin Miller, Sr., WR; Sean Urbany, Sr., OL; Cody Smith, Sr., OL; Terrone Travis, Sr., L.

Running with it: Senior Brian Johnson-Farrell and junior Chris Medina will lead a group of running backs who, together, hope to replace Jimmy Rhodes, who ran for 1,550 yards last season.

Markiewicz's take: "In each of the last two years, we've always lost one game that kept us from hosting a playoff game. If we could get that home game, that would be huge for us. We're hoping to get over that hump."

Broadneck Bruins

(4A East)

Coach: Jeff Herrick, 17th season.

Last season: 11-2; lost in the 4A state semifinals.

Returning starters: 5 offense, 3 defense.

Players to watch: Rob Ciancaglini, Jr., C; Mike Gabbard, Jr., G; Carlos James, Jr., DE; Forrest Kyle, Sr., L; David Yarbrough, Sr., WR; Erik Dulaney, Sr., QB; Veric Brown, Jr., QB.

Running with it: Senior Brandon Johnson, the second-leading rusher in the county last season, came back to practice at a muscular 200 pounds -- enough to be the area's best power runner for the second consecutive season.

Herrick's take: "We're most concerned about the defense and who is going to step up. We lost five or six three-year players last year on defense, so that's pretty hard. We've got good kids who can step up for us, but it takes a little time."

Chesapeake Cougars (4A East)

Coach: Jim Simms, third season.

Last season: 2-8.

Returning starters: 2 offense, 3 defense.

Players to watch: Doug Herb, Sr., G; Cody Mack, Sr., G/DE; Chris Miller, Sr., QB; Dominick Reid, Sr., CB/WR; Troy Nickoles, Sr., WR; Christian Fortune, Sr., G.

Running with it: Senior Eric Bolner might remind opponents of Gary Townes, who rushed for more than 4,000 yards in his Chesapeake career. Like Townes, Bolner is fast (4.8 seconds in the 40-yard dash), big (210 pounds) and talented.

Simms's take: "The attitude on this team is absolutely phenomenal. We could lose every single game and the season would still be a lot of fun. This group of kids is more dedicated than any I've ever had."

Glen Burnie Gophers (4A East)

Coach: Tom Newman, second season.

Last season: 0-10.

Returning starters: 2 offense, 2 defense.

Players to watch: Tim Dash, Sr., QB; Karl Holmes, Jr., TB; Korey Nicholson, Sr., WR; Kelly Scheulden, Jr., OL; Andre Pitts, Jr., LB; Chris Rogers, Sr., DE.

Running with it: Junior Matt Smith, a transfer from Old Mill, could become the primary ballcarrier, depending on how he adjusts to the offense. Holmes, another junior, will also get many carries.

Newman's take: "Our junior varsity went 8-2 last year, and a lot of those kids are playing varsity now. We've got a team that knows how to win, and that helps a lot. They've got a taste for winning, and that rubs off on everybody."

Meade Mustangs

(4A East)

Coach: Andrew Smith, second season.

Last season: 2-8.

Returning starters: 3 offense, 3 defense.

Players to watch: Nick Hunter, Sr., LB/TE; Marcelus Lanier, Sr., WR/DB; Anthony Brown, Sr., OL/DE; Ashton Sykes, Sr., QB.

Running with it: Senior Jamie Gordon is a star in track and field in the 100-meter dash and runs the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds, making his breakaway speed among the best in the county.

Smith's take: "We certainly want to improve based on our record last year. We are bringing a winning tradition back to Meade. We are pushing to do that. We already have a lot of younger kids really buying into the program."

North County Knights (4A East)

Coach: Gary Liddick, third season.

Last season: 3-7.

Returning starters: 7 offense, 6 defense.

Players to watch: Maurice Royster, Sr., DE/G; Tony Baldwin, Sr., QB; Chris Neil, Sr., C; Raymond Mack, Sr., WR/S; Matt Weaver, Sr., CB.

Running with it: Senior Ryan Reyes carried the ball in only one game last season because of a wrist injury, but he showed enough promise in that game (95 yards, one touchdown) to earn many more carries this year.

Liddick's take: "I'm pleased with what we have. I'm real pleased with that. But we still have a lot of things we need to work on. Last year, we were better than two years ago. This year, we'll be better than last year, but I just don't know how much better yet."

Northeast Eagles

(3A East)

Coach: Mike Cotham, sixth season.

Last season: 6-4.

Returning starters: 1 offense, 6 defense.

Players to watch: Vince Downes, Sr., T; Anthony Bougourd, Sr., LB; Timmy Taylor, Sr., QB; Mike Tibbs, So., QB; Ben Jones, Sr., C; Carl Nestor, Sr., G.

Running with it: Seniors Jeff Jones (4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash) and Matt Radley (a muscular 210 pounds) provide Northeast with an impressive thunder-and-lightning running combination.

Cotham's take: "Our offensive line is the best thing we've got going. We probably average 260 pounds up there, and we're going to pound it behind those guys."

Old Mill Patriots

(4A East)

Coach: Mike Marcus, eighth season.

Last season: 10-2; lost in the 4A East Region final.

Returning starters: 5 offense, 2 defense.

Players to watch: Steve Holmes, Sr., WR/P; Bryan Jensen, Sr., FB/LB; Andrew Hall, Sr., LB; Kelian Stevens, Jr., QB; Brandon Bergersen, Sr., QB; Henry Amankwah, Sr., DB.

Running with it: Senior Ryan Callahan -- who is considering scholarship offers from Akron, Kent State, Towson and James Madison -- will try to live up to his lofty numbers from last season: a county-record 2,303 yards and 36 touchdowns on 253 carries.

Marcus's take: "We lost a lot of people, but we have a lot of things to be optimistic about. Obviously with Ryan coming back, that gives us something exciting on offense, and we'll have some good people around him."

Severna Park Falcons (3A East)

Coach: J.P. Hines, eighth season.

Last season: 7-4; lost in the 3A South semifinal.

Returning starters: 4 offense, 4 defense.

Players to watch: Dave Horn, Sr., WR/LB; Chris Hunt, Jr., WR/DB; Tommy Massie, Sr., FB; Mark Otto, Sr., LB; Ethan Vidal, Sr., C/DL; Greg Zingler, Sr., QB.

Running with it: The Falcons' triple-option attack hinges on the running game. Zingler is as much a threat running the ball as he is throwing it. Hines said both of the team's top slot backs -- seniors Tommy Babington and Marques Johnson -- as well as Massie will get many carries to keep defenses off balance. The big question is the offensive line; four first-year starters will join returning center Vidal.

Hines's take: "We're young and we're not very deep. If one of our key players goes down early to an injury, we could be in trouble. I just think right now we are unproven, and I won't have a true assessment of where we are until we play some games. I think we have potential, and we could surprise some teams."

Southern Bulldogs

(2A East)

Coach: Russ Meyers, 10th season.

Last season: 5-6; lost in the 2A South Region semifinal.

Returning starters: 7 offense, 6 defense.

Players to watch: Mike Williams, Sr., G; Kyle Frederickson, Sr., G; Justin Bishop, Sr., G; Jimmy Smith, Sr., QB; Jason Underwood, Sr., QB; Eric Foote, Jr., TE/DT.

Running with it: Meyers is going to make a late decision on a successor to Bobby Atwell, one of the best running backs in the school's history. Nine backs entered the preseason hoping to fill his spot.

Meyers's take: "To be honest with you, a few years ago our goal was to make the playoffs. Now we expect to make the playoffs. Our goal is to play for the state title in December."

South River Seahawks (4A East)

Coach: Steve Erxleben, first season.

Last season: 5-5.

Returning starters: 3 offense, 3 defense.

Players to watch: Kyle Kneisley, Sr., DT; Kyle Young, Sr., DT; Jeff Poore, Sr., L; Danny Von Ahn, Sr., WR; Tim Brown, Sr., OT.

Running with it: In his first year as head coach, Erxleben says he'll have "a backfield by committee," with as many as four players contributing. Senior Eric D'Ambra might get more carries than the others.

Erxleben's take: "We're thinking playoffs, playoffs, playoffs. We haven't been to the postseason in 16 years now, and it's kind of sad, to be honest with you. That's our goal: Make the playoffs."

St. Mary's Saints

(MIAA B Conference)

Coach: Mike Clay, first season.

Last season: 1-9.

Returning starters: 3 offense, 7 defense.

Players to watch: Rhett DePol, Jr., LB/FB; James Sheehan, Sr., S/WR; Darren Pastrana, Jr., LB/QB; Thom Cecere, Sr., QB; Marlon Johnson, So, DE; Joe Goetschius, Jr., C.

Running with it: Junior Nick Lewnes will probably carry the ball as much as any running back in the county -- 18 to 25 times per game. Coaches think his strong, durable legs can handle the load.

Clay's take: "We are here to make football important to the St. Mary's community. I am excited, and so are the coaches. We have great kids with a lot of potential to make this a successful season for St. Mary's."

Severn Admirals

(MIAA B Conference)

Coach: Tony Werner, first season.

Last season: 6-4.

Returning starters: 5 offense, 5 defense.

Players to watch: Jeren Brown, Jr., TB; Brendan Lane, Sr., QB; Brian Phipps, Sr., RB/LB; Pete Dunigan, Jr., LB; Garett Nicholson, Sr., WR/DB; Nick Elsmo, Jr., TB.

Running with it: Junior Zach Holbrook saw minimal action as a 10th-grader, and he came back in great shape. He'll run and catch out of the backfield.

Werner's take: "You're always optimistic. I guess we've breathed a sigh of relief that, hey, we have potential. We lost a lot of people; we've still got some great players. We should be a pretty good team."

Spalding Cavaliers (MIAA B Conference)

Coach: Mike Whittles, sixth season.

Last season: 8-2.

Returning starters: 5 offense, 2 defense.

Players to watch: Casey Amsler, Sr., QB; A.J. Wineke, Sr., DB; Sean Hatley, Jr., RB; Jimmy McMurtrey, Sr., DB; Brian Rutland, Jr., RB.

Running with it: Senior Mike Whittles established his presence last season as a bulldozing ballcarrier; he is also an all-county linebacker.

Whittles's take: "We lost everybody on the line, so we have some big holes to fill, but we have a lot of good kids to step up and fill them. Last year we lost two games by a total of eight points, so this team is hungry."

Broadneck's Brandon Johnson carries the ball during a scrimmage against St. Mary's. Johnson, the No. 2 rusher in the county last season, arrived at practice at a muscular 200 pounds -- enough to be the area's best power runner for the second consecutive season. Broadneck was 11-2 last season and lost in the 4A state semifinals. Below is Broadneck quarterback Erik Dulaney.Above, Nick Lewnes carries the ball for St. Mary's. He is likely to get the ball as much as any running back in the county this season. His coaches think his strong, durable legs can handle the load. At right, is Spalding running back Jimmy McMurtrey.