Al Laramore, football coach at Annapolis High School, has bad news for Anne Arundel County opponents and any other team on the schedule this year.
Last year's undefeated Maryland State Class AA champions (14-0) were inexperienced. Laramore "used the '78 season as a learning year" so the players would be ready this year.
"Most of the kids are back and ready to play," Laramore said. "We should have a very good team."
Good is not the word. For starters, the Running Panthers welcomed back 17 starters including five of the six down defensive linemen in Laramore's 6-2 alignment. Ends Jim Quarles and Jeff Smith and 6-foot-4, 240-pound tackle Bill Decker have learned how to play.
The county AA champions will be strong on offense, particularly on the line. Tackles Jeff Jacobson and Mike Colbert will open plenty of holes for the handful of multitalented running backs Laramore has.
Severna Park (6-4) should be tough. Eight returnees, including linebacker Dan Houshalter, on defense should keep the games close Severna Park lost to Annapolis, 19-13, on the final week of the regular season and is definitely looking forward to the rematch.
Glen Burnie (4-6) could reverse its '78 record. Slick tailback Tyrone Spikes and tackle Jim Oppert will make some offensive noise. The defense has to come along in a hurry.
Old Mill (3-7) and Meade (3-7), moving into Class AA, should be improved. Whether they will have enough talent or depth to challenge seriously is questionable.
Meade will depend on All-County defensive end Phil Czyrica and running backs Terry Evans and Vernon Carter. Old Mill will put its faith in running back J.J. Conway and tackles Art Singleton and Tony Cisczobka.
In the A league, defending county titlist Arundel (9-1) appears far better than the rest. A crop of good players, including quarterback Mike Coyle, fullback Bobby Ward (800 yards) and All-County performers end-linebacker Tony Tait and safety-kicker Butch Kirby, could net another nine-victory season and possible a state crown.
South River (8-2), which completed its first varsity season in fine fashion will try to escape the sophomore jinx. Quarterback Sonny Ellis, tackles Kurt Bratzina and Gary Gibbs, and tailback Carl Johnson could fire the youthful group up enough to make a run at Arundel.
Chesapeake (4-6), a lowly 0-10 two seasons ago, may have improved enough to break .500. Two-year starter Randy Hall has passed for 2,000 yards and 11 touchdowns. He will get help from backs Joe Baker and Mike Bodnar, two of 18 returning starters.
Southern (4-6) and Northeast (2-7) may surprise a few teams. Brooklyn Park (2-8) and Andover (1-8), dropping from AA, will struggle for survival.
A good group of veterans, led by linebacker, Matt Whitney, nose guard Mike Boyle, defensive end Skip Williams and running backs Wayne Simms and Tony Williams could help Oakland Mills approach its '78 scoring average of 35 points per game. The State Class B semifinal losers need only to fill a couple of holes, then wait for Wilde Lake in the Howard County showdown.
Wilde Lake (8-2) saw its State berth evaporate in a 22-14 loss to Oakland Mills last year. The defense, with a virtually intact secondary of Mike Manard, Jay Hughes and Charlie Zorbaugh, should be tough against the pass. The offense depends on how quickly quarterback Jamie McNeely finds tight end Lance Christianson on clutch third downs.
Fourth quarters were disasters for Glenelg (4-6) much of last year. Linebacker Jeff Forman and tackle Brian Johnstown will have to do yeoman duty to keep foes from repeating.
A tholton (7-3) will be tough up front with linemen Jim Benfield, Mike Raffeil and Jeff Christopher. Dale Morris will have to score and score often.
Howard (5-5), Mount Hebron (2-8), Hammond (1-9) and Centennial (1-9) may be a few players short of being considered anything but spoilers.
Picking a favorite in the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference is like leaping a tall building in a single bound.Defending champion Lackey (8-2), Chopticon (9-1). Thomas Stone (7-3), and Great Mills (5-5) have better-than-average shots at taking conference honors.
Lackey will rebuild its defense around cornerbacks Brian Smith and Preston Diggs.
Chopticon's chances for a crown may have vanished when ALL-SMAC quarterback Jodi Lawrence was involved in a car accident recently. Barry Moreland and Ron Carrico, who double at the guard and linebacker spots, will have to carry the load.
Thomas Stone has a good nucleus to begin with in tackle Jeff Brown and running back Wallace Dent and alternating quarterbacks Rusty Conner and Dan Lee.
Great Mills, has enough big people up front back to be a definite contender.
McDonough (4-6), Northern (6-4) and La Plata (4-6) will spring a surprise or two while Leonardtown (1-7) and Calvert (0-9) will be hustling for victories.