For five years, Howard High School dominated the football scene in Howard County. The Lions rolled up 47 straight victories until Paint Branch defeated the Lions for the Maryland State Class B championship two years ago.

Last season, Wilde Lake and Atholton tied for Howard County honors.

This fall, county coaches believe anyone can capture the title.

"I think we'll be a contender but now all the teams in Howard County are tough." said Mount Hebron coach Ed Holshue.

Holshue has just taken over the head job at Mount Herbron and he should be optimistic. Quarterback Jim Traber, who also intercepted 10 passes, is back along with 17 other starters from last year's 8-2 team.

Jeff Starnes and Blair Hamblen will share the ball carrying duties, while Traber, Grayson Webb, and Steve Nash will patrol a secondary that intercepted 31 passes a year ago.

Atholton (5-4) returns only four starters, Senior center Don Chance and junior fullback Anthony Matthews lead the offense and senior David Woodhouse and junior Jim Zulick, both linebackers, will kept the defense.

Glenelg (4-5) has a rifle-armed quarterback in Rob Hutson and a quick tailback Gig Miles. Linebackers Mike Hirka. Todd Shilling and Darryl Haraday spearhead the defense.

Howard (3-7) is returning 13 starters. Chuck Fales. Tony Weaver and Brian Dawson are proven players but lack of depth forces them to play both ways.

Mount Hebron (5-5) stakes are pinned on linemen Bill Melvin, Dave Brookheart and Fred Cooney along with running back Ray Askins. There is also experience in the secondary and at the receiver spots.

Oakland Mills (3-7) could be the surprise of the league. After taking their lumps the first two years, coach Steve Matters' enthusiastic troops finally appear to have the talent to compete for a title. Mark Winfield, a 50 per cent passer, end Doug Rowe, running backs Steve Hauck (700 yards) and Dudley Redding and several others off last year's 10-0 junior varsity could turn the club around. ANNE ARUNDEL

Arundel beat out Annapolis last fall but lost coach Jerry Mears to the new Meade school. Succeeding Mears is Bud Hepter, an assistant or junior varsity coach at the school for 10 years.

Arundel (7-3) does return guard Kevin Carlin, safely Tommy kimble and tackle Tony Covington but they will not be enough to stop Annapolis.

Annapolis (7-3) may need only to show up since a host of last year starters are back. Huge tackles Gary Wheeler (6-foot 3,230) and Roosevelt Gross (6-4, 240) will prvide the gaps for scatbacks Carlos Sembly and Randy Pittman to slip through. The defense is big and experienced. Anthony Carr (6-1,285) and Darryl parker (5-11, 220) will make life miserable for somebody.

Severna Park (4-6) is in desperate need of linemen. A pair of quarter backs Walt Hiltadiddle and Mike Haushalter along with tailback Junior Daniels may have to block for each other before the season is out.

Old Mill (6-4) lost 28 players, most of them defensive stalwarts. Two track stars, Dave Taylor and Greg Dorsey will bring some excitement if linemen Tony Harvin (6-1, 205) and Harvey Buckley (6-4, 245) can move someone.

Glen Burnie (3-7) will build around two-way performers Steve Mainhart, Kevin Boss and Wayne Jones. First-year coach Dave Rigett is hopeful enthusiasm and spirit can carry his young charges a long way.

Andover (2-7) has two offensive threats but little else. Quarterback Bob Snyder (900 passing yards) and reliable back Tom Jester, who collected more than 1,000 running and receiving, will get Andover on the board. Who will keep the other teams off?

Southern (5-5) is plagued by lack of size and depth. Split end Mo Smith, sure-handed end Craig Dixon (6-5, 170) and Marvin Sesker, a fleet back who moved here from Texas, will try to keep Southern from being embarrassed.

Northeast (5-5) and Meade, a new school, are young and inexperienced. Meade did get Mears and several Arundel transfer, including linebacker Eugene McGlocklin and defensive backs Bill Decker and Bill Price.

Chesapeake is also competing on the varsity level for the first time. SMAC

La Plata (9-1), winner of two consecutive Souther Maryland Athletic Conference titles and four in the last five years, again looks like the team to beat. Running back Larry Winters, end Milt Hein and two-way players Steve Kotch, Kenny Colburn and Jim Chiriaco aare talented enough to assure a handful of victories. If coach Joe Williams finds a lineman and a back or two, it's title time again.

Great Mills (6-4) gave La Plata its toughest game among the conference members last year losing 9-6. This year, however, Great Mills needs a lot of help at key positions. Tackles Jeff Wardell and John Shuemeyer along with receiver Marshall Russell are highly regarded but can't do it alone.

Thomas Stone (5-5) will get the tough inside yards from backs Randy Atwell and Tom Holtz and leadership from quarterback Jack Cheseldine. Help is needed on defense if Stone is to compete for anything.

Chopticon (5-5) has a fine returning nucleus and with a break here and there could make waves. Spencer Scrober doubles at tailback and cornerback while Paul Wetzel is trying to come back from knee surgery.

Lackey (3-7) has a huge offensive line, spearheaded by Albert Davis (6-3, 240). Mike Mahaffy (6-3, 230) and Steve Miles (6-2, 230). That should keep Darrell Walker and any other running backs happy. Defense is another matter.

Calvert (2-7) is confident its intact defensive line, anchored by Larred Mackall and Bruce Edwards, can hold the tide until an offense is found.

The one positive note at Northern (1-8) was a turnout of 137 candidates this year. If a few players are found to join stalwarts Warren Makle (5-8 250) and Carl Harris, Northern could surprise.