Montgomery County high schools won an unprecedented three Maryland state football crowns in 1977.
As the 1978 season openers loom just six days away Churchill, Seneca Valley and Kennedy are geared up for repeat performances.
Churchill goes after its third straight AA crown, Seneca Valley, last year's top-ranked area team hopes to improve upon its 26-straight victory skein and another A title, and Kennedy eyes top B honors once again.
"We the team to beat," said Churchill Coach Fred Shepherd. "We've lost some great players but the kids I have now know how to win too. Our junior varsity was 8-0 last season."
Shepherd isn't worried that he will no longer have the services of quarterback Eric Smith, defensive tackle Jay Lomac and a host of other 1977 standouts. He has already restocked his arsenal with an array of promising players.
At the top of the list are running backs Pete Mathewa and Vince Granger. Others to watch include tightened Tom Blair, linebackers Eric Woods and Tim Shanahan and defensive ends Rich Spaulding and Clarence Curtis.
Springbrook (9-1) may well give the Bulldogs a run for the county title.The Blue Devils must replace 19 starters but Coach Bob Milloy has always managed to whip relative bunches of newcoers into serious contenders. He will need help and most certainly will get it from linebacker Pete Ott, defensive backs Robbie Strittmatter and Eric Gillespie, guard Steve McDaniel and defensive tackle Paul Puzinauskas.
Whitman's backfield backfield should be sharp with runners Joe McShea and Chris Ahearn. Defensive tackles Ben Quinn and Tony Harrison also return. But Coach Rich Cameron must successfully replace his offensive line and hope that Tim Agree fulfills his potential at quarterback if the team wishes to improve on last year's 6-4 mark.
Graduation has ravaged Northwood and it will be difficult for Coach Brady Straub to duplicate last year's 8-2 record. Two players will play both offense and defense - tackle Bill Talbot and running back/cornerback Preston Lewis. Center Barry Lawrence returns to anchor the offensive line while ends Wayman Thompson and Ricky Jason should beef up the defensive line.
Blair (4-6) could turn things around with defensive linebacker Lee Evans (6-7, 240), safety Nick Bombruska, fullback Victor Lee and quarterback John Joyce.
Peary (5-5) returns only two starters - linebacker Dave Miller and safety Paul DuMars.
Wheaton, (2-8) sends 15 lettermen back into service. Defensively, the Knights will rely on linebackers Jamie Smith and Keith De Ninno. On offense, Jack Poulter will quarterback with Rick Prather and Bobby Fitzpatrick the running backs.
In the A league, Seneca Valley Coach Al Thomas is counting on solid performances from guard Jeff Rouser, lineback Mark Pacini, halfback Mike Pope and offensive lineman Kelvin Ridgely. They are his only returning.
Wootton may just be the team to stop Seneca Valley. The Patriots will have fullback Don Cleveland and halfback Gavin Jackson and most of the offensive line is back as well. Wootton tied with Gaithersburg for second place last year at 7-3. The Trojans return seven starters, including standout linebacker and fullback Craig Britton.
Einstein has 23 players back, including fullback Don Wetzel, split end John Ebbs and lineback Mike Mullikin. Highlighting the 21 returning players at Paint Branch are Kevin Epps, who gained close to 1,000 yards in 1977, and linebacker Rich Roberts.
Rockville and Woodward will attempt to build winners with first year coaches.
Tom Manuel needs good showings from running backs Brian DiFullgo and Frank Trimble to improve on Rockville's 1-9 mark. Wildcat Coach Mike D'Anna says he does not have as many players to choose from as he would like (less than 40 tried out) but he is still optimistic. Only four starters return.
Magruder (5-5) should get a boost from returning quarterback Kurt Vadelund and halfback Rich Harris. Walter Johnson, which tied with Magruder last season, had an excellent turnout leaving Coach Mike Charron optimistic about his team's prospects.
The 1977 junior varsity at Bethesda-Chevy Chase went undefeated. That fact and the presence of behemoth tackles Frank Watt (6-5, 225) and Price Lethrill (6-4, 220) give Coach George Morse reason to believe that the Barons can better their 2-8 slate.
Richard Montgomery (1-9) returns most of its squad, include running backs John Mate, Joe Curtis and Jumbo Moore.
Kennedy surprised everyone by capturing its last eight contests to win a state title. Coach Wes Abrams has two-way back. Mark Robinson, tackle Andre Berman and running back Paul Miller.
Sherwood must find a way to compensate for the loss of 22 players. Quarterback Doug Rockefeller, halfback Mike Portales and defensive tackle Greg Callahan return.
Damascus returns seven starters. Running backs Jay McIntyre and Steve Katchum should provide some offensive sting.
Poolesville, 5-5 last year in Class C, will get help from junior quarterback Lydell King, halfback Don Dean and fullback Jeff Wright.