Anne Arundel.

Annapolis

Coach: Roy Brown (11th season)

1998 record: 8-3 overall, 7-0 in league

Outlook: The Anne Arundel County 4A champion returns plenty of talent, including senior All-Met RB Rayvon Johnson (5 feet 10, 170 pounds). Johnson set an Anne Arundel rushing record with 2,060 yards and had 20 TDs in '98. The Panthers enter the year having won eight straight league games.

Basic strength: Formation. The Panthers have shown they can score from anywhere with the Wing-T offense.

Arundel

Coach: Bill Zucco (8th season)

1998 record: 5-5, 5-2

Outlook: The Wildcats enter the season on a five-game winning streak. Junior QB Paul D'Imperio, a three-year starter, returns after missing half of his sophomore season with an injury. Five of seven starters on the offensive line return, including all-county senior G Tom Dorsey (6-1, 205), but only two return from last season's starting defense.

Basic strength: Running game. Arundel rushed for 2,400 yards in '98.

Broadneck

Coach: Jeff Herrick (10th season)

1998 record: 11-1, 3-0

Outlook: The two-time Anne Arundel 3A/2A champion became the league's 11th team to go undefeated in the regular season. However, the Bruins lost several key players, including RB Marshall Threadgill, the county's top rusher in '98.

Basic strength: Youth and enthusiasm. A group of talented underclassmen want to help the team repeat as champions.

Chesapeake

Coach: Tom Kraning (12th season)

1998 record: 2-8, 1-6

Outlook: Senior QB/RB Bo Danton (6-1, 170) will try to improve an offense that averaged only 8.3 points per game last season. The Cougars have shown a good work ethic in practice, leading Kraning to be optimistic.

Basic strength: Deception. The seldom-employed single-wing offense could confuse opponents.

Glen Burnie

Coach: Brad Wilson (2nd season)

1998 record: 0-10, 0-7

Outlook: Wilson's first season was rough, as the Gophers' losing streak stretched to 14. They were winless for the first time in school history. This season, the offense looks more comfortable executing the run-and-shoot that Wilson first implemented last season, and the defense has more experience.

Basic strength: Attitude. Despite last season's record, the coaches and players believe they can win.

Meade

Coach: Kenny Gray (1st season)

1998 record: 5-5, 4-3

Outlook: The Mustangs have more talent and depth this season. Sophomore QB Antwan Smith (6-1, 175) will lead the offense. His brother, Andrew, is a freshman at Maryland. Senior LB Marcus Davis (5-11, 240) leads the defense.

Basic strength: Athleticism. The Mustangs have several players who play well on both sides of the ball.

North County

Coach: Chuck Markiewicz (10th season)

1998 record: 3-7, 3-5

Outlook: The Knights, who won at least eight games every year from 1990 to 1996, are 6-14 the past two seasons. Seniors G Ricky Dixon (6-3, 220) and T John Cargo (6-3, 220) anchor the offensive line. The Knights lack a strong runner and will throw often.

Basic strength: Offensive line. All the starters return.

Old Mill

Coach: Mike Marcus (2nd season)

1998 record: 5-5, 4-4

Outlook: The Patriots return half their starting lineup from last season, including three of six offensive linemen. Senior QB Brian Williams (5-11, 190) will make his first start Opening Day. His targets are senior WR/DBs Jason Galloway (5-11, 165) and Antoine Cooksey (6-0, 175), who had 28 receptions apiece last season. Galloway caught five touchdowns and Cooksey had four.

Basic strength: Wideouts. Galloway and Cooksey also combined to make 10 interceptions last season and both run the 40 in 4.6 seconds.

Northeast

Coach: John Runk (1st season)

1998 record: 0-10, 0-3

Outlook: The Eagles enter the season with good size and more experience on the lines as they try to end an area-long 21-game losing streak. Northeast has not won more than five games in a season this decade. Runk said he was encouraged by a good summer turnout.

Basic strength: Underclassmen and time. Runk said he has a strong nucleus of freshmen and sophomores.

Severna Park

Coach: Jerry Hines (2nd season)

1998 record: 5-5, 4-2

Outlook: The Falcons have more speed but less size this year. The defense, led by senior LB Dave Wagner (6-2, 200), will be tougher than last season when it allowed 21 points per game. Hines is concerned about the offensive line.

Basic strength: Defense. This group should not allow a lot of points.

South River

Coach: Dave Summey (20th season)

1998 record: 4-6, 1-2

Outlook:. A large turnout this summer encouraged Summey, the longest-tenured coach in the county. The Seahawks lack depth and experience in spots, but the overall picture is good: they have a combined 37 juniors and seniors, including returning senior starters RB/DB Jeff Donohue (5-11, 165) and OT/LB Joe Buser (6-3, 240).

Basic strength: Work ethic. Sumney said the team's hard work in the preseason should lead to a better season.

Southern

Coach: Russ Meyers (4th season)

1998 record: 4-6, 2-1

Outlook: The Bulldogs have better athletes this season, including senior FB/LB Pat Dowling (5-10, 185), who Meyers said will be one of the leaders on both sides of the ball. The biggest question is experience.

Basic strength: Numbers. The Bulldogs had 85 players turn out for preseason practice.

Howard.

Atholton

Coach: Kevin Kelly (5th season)

1998 record: 1-9, 0-8

Outlook: The Raiders enter the season with a nine-game losing streak dating from last season and could struggle again with only six seniors on the roster. Last season's starting QB Neal Halloran (5-7, 165) is being challenged this season by senior Shaun Johnson (6-2, 175) and junior Wayne Reed (5-10, 170).

Basic strength: Youthful exuberance. Junior C Robert Olson (5-10, 240) is one of several underclassmen who will get experience this season.

Centennial

Coach: Ed Holshue (10th season)

1998 record: 5-5, 4-5

Outlook: The Eagles have talent, but only 28 players, including five seniors, have experience. Top players are seniors TE-FB-DE Tim Mitroka (6-1, 196), TE-DE Mike Bruzga (6-1, 192) and SE-FS David Paolisso (5-8, 135). Junior PK-P Kevin Laycock (6-2, 180) is one of the best in the region.

Basic strength: Variety. Holshue expects to use a variety of offensive sets, including some four-wide receiver formations.

Glenelg

Coach: John Davis (4th season)

1998 record: 3-7, 3-6

Outlook: The Gladiators return a solid corps of skill players, including senior QB Zack McQuigg (6-3, 205), who needs less than 2,000 yards to set the Maryland career record for passing yardage. Senior RB Vince Pirro (5-10, 185) and senior RB-LB Raynell Mohammed (6-1, 200) also return.

Basic strength: Passing game. McQuigg will throw to senior WR-DB-PK Paul Brooks (6-1, 205) and junior WR J.T. Smart (5-8, 160).

Hammond

Coach: Joe Russo (20th season)

1998 record: 1-9, 1-8

Outlook: With a young team, Russo plans to limit the number of players going both ways. Junior QB Jason Maxey (5-11, 185) returns, as does senior WR-CB Jason Harriman (6-0, 185). Hammond, which enters the season with a six-game losing streak dating from last season, has a difficult early schedule. The Golden Bears open at Fort Hill and Wilde Lake.

Basic strength: Size. Senior DE John Sacks (6-2, 240) and senior LT Joe Neary (6-2, 250) are returning starters.

Howard

Coach: Vince Parnell (4th season)

1998 record: 6-4, 5-4

Outlook: Dangerous RB-DB Gerald Smith rushed for 1,167 yards last season and has unofficially committed to Penn State. Junior FB-LB Travis Irving (6-0, 225) and senior WR-DB Jose Monzon (5-6, 160) are among the players who need to step up when opponents focus on Smith.

Basic strength: Experience. Smith is a four-year starter, Monzon and senior TE-LB Joey Tortella (6-0, 205) are three-year starters.

Long Reach

Coach: Pete Hughes (4th season)

1998 record: 6-4, 5-4

Outlook: Hughes believes this could be his best season at the Columbia school. Senior FB-LB Tally White (6-1, 220) anchors a defense that led the county in points allowed last season. Seniors QB Stewart Long (6-1, 185), WR-S Robert Francois (5-11, 185) and RB Chris Brooks (5-9, 200) lead the offense.

Basic strength: Experience. Long Reach has 11 returning starters on defense, 10 on offense.

Mount Hebron

Coach: Larry Luthe (2nd season)

1998 record: 4-6, 4-5

Outlook: The Vikings lost only five starters from last season's team but there have been some changes, including senior RB-DB Tommy Tittsworth (5-10, 180) moving from slotback. Senior OT-DT Mike Koenig (5-10, 230), a returning two-way starter, can run the 40 in under five seconds.

Basic strength: Consistency. Most of the players and coaches return.

Oakland Mills

Coach: Ken Hovet (7th season)

1998 record: 12-1, 8-1

Outlook: The defending Class 1A champion enters the season with an eight-game regular season winning streak and returns eight starters, six of whom are juniors. Junior RB J.T. Rembert (6-0, 180) rushed for 450 yards and six TDs as a backup last season. FB-FS A.G. McCray (6-2, 195) is one of the few seniors with experience.

Basic strength: Defense. LB Andrew Deming (6-4, 195) and NG Robert Scott (6-0, 225) lead a stingy unit.

River Hill

Coach: Don Van Deusen (4th season)

1998 record: 7-3, 6-3

Outlook: The Clarksville school begins with a four-game winning streak. Seniors LB-FB Jason Fawcett (5-9, 190) and RB-LB Jake Adams (5-11, 166) lead the defense. Fawcett ran for 1,115 yards last season. Senior WR Robert Jay (6-2, 170) and junior OTs Scott Cannon (6-0, 260) and Spencer Wilson (6-3, 238) are returning starters.

Basic strength: Cohesion. Senior class is school's first to have been together four years.

Wilde Lake

Coach: Doug DuVall (27th season)

1998 record: 9-2, 9-0

Outlook: Team has size and speed. DuVall expects big things from senior QB Chad Fawcett (6-2, 180), who was a backup last season. Senior OTs Emanuel Glover (6-4, 305) and Eugene Coltsing (6-2, 302) lead the offensive line. Junior RB-CB Mario Merrills (5-10, 170) has run the 40 in 4.3 seconds.

Basic strength: Tradition. The Wildecats' seven playoff appearances this decade are the most of any Howard County school.

Montgomery 4A.

Blair

Coach: Jimmy Short (5th season)

1998 record: 1-9, 1-6

Outlook: Courtney Bean (6-0, 190) takes over at QB for the Silver Spring school after starting at OLB and FB in three previous seasons. He will run an option attack, which should benefit from a bigger offensive line than last season's team.

Basic strength: Bean. "He's the best athlete I have, so we put him in the most important spot," Short said.

Churchill

Coach: Eric Spenser (2nd season)

1998 record: 1-9, 0-8

Outlook: The Bulldogs expect to run a more physical and balanced attack than they did last season behind the play of senior TE Matt Waddleworth (6-2, 210), who will be a focal point both as a blocker and pass receiver.

Basic strength: Experience. The Bulldogs return 19 of 22 starters, including all 11 players on offense.

Gaithersburg

Coach: John Harvill (43rd season)

1998 record: 8-3, 7-2

Outlook: Senior TB Jay Colbert (5-9, 180) led Montgomery County in scoring last season, and he could do it again. One of the area's best teams, the Trojans begin the year with a six-game regular season winning streak. Three starters return to the offensive line, including Kevin Neubeiser (6-2, 215).

Basic strength: The running game. "If we can run the ball, we don't throw," Harvill said.

Magruder

Coach: Tony Nazarro (2nd season)

1998 record: 4-6, 3-5

Outlook: The skill players are solid, but the linemen are unproven. The offense is built around seniors: TB Allan Mayberry (5-10, 160), FB Matt Harrison (5-10, 175) and QB Amah Tekalign (5-6, 130).

Basic strength: The running game. Mayberry and Harrison will stay between the tackles.

Quince Orchard

Coach: Joe Doody (3rd season)

1998 record: 3-7, 2-7

Outlook: This is a faster team than last season's, but it remains unclear who will make the Wing-T offense go. Junior Marcus Scott (5-6, 155) and senior Paul Lucas (5-8, 195) are the top two running backs. No starting quarterback has been named.

Basic strength: Speed. The team is quicker at almost every position.

Sherwood

Coach: Bob Milloy (8th season)

1998 record: 10-2, 8-1

Outlook: Sherwood is inexperienced, but not without promise. Starting junior Eddie Becceles (5-10, 165) returns as the featured running back. Tackles Chris Grier (6-0, 300) and Eric Edleman (5-11, 240) will open holes for Becceles.

Basic strength: Traditional running game. Becceles will run off-tackle often.

Springbrook

Coach: Mike Smith (2nd season)

1998 record: 3-7, 3-6

Outlook: Smith said his team is "much further along" than it was at this time last season, when sophomores and juniors dominated the squad. Starters return at 13 positions, led by seniors LB-RB Ayoola Olakanye (6-2, 215) and RB-LB Curtis Harris (5-8, 180).

Basic strength: Experience. "Last year I told them to get better every week," Smith said. "This year we're going to win some games."

Watkins Mill

Coach: Ken Brace (8th season)

1998 record: 7-3, 6-3

Outlook: Watkins Mill is primed for the playoffs after missing out on power points a year ago. Twelve starters return, including seven on offense. Senior OT Erik Noll (6-5, 295) leads the blocking for running backs Chris Jews (5-11, 165) and Jackson Francois (5-6, 155).

Basic strength: Motivation. "The kids want to make the playoffs, and they believe that they can," Brace said.

Whitman

Coach: Dean Swink (1st season)

1998 record: 5-5, 4-4

Outlook: Having graduated 28 players and featuring only eight seniors, Whitman is "starting from ground zero," Swink said. Junior FB Robert Nyikuli (5-11, 260) is the strongest and best player on the team in his third season.

Basic strength: Nyikuli. "As much as we can, we're basically going to get on his back and say, `Carry us, Rob,'" Swink said.

Wootton

Coach: Jim Castonguay (3rd season)

1998 record: 3-7, 1-4

Outlook: Last season's linemen have graduated, but most of the skill players return for the Rockville school. Senior FB David Posin (5-8, 175), who ran for more than 1,100 yards last season, carries the offense. But senior QB Ryan Eden (5-7, 165) will pass more this season.

Basic strength: Depth. After going winless two seasons ago, participation has been on the rise.

Montgomery 3A.

Damascus

Coach: Dan Makosy (2nd season)

1998 record: 9-2, 7-0

Outlook: The Swarmin' Hornets, who have won 19 straight regular season league games dating from 1996, have a good group returning this season, including seniors WR-DB Joe Schritchfield (5-11, 185) and OT-DT Billy Burns (6-5, 260). Damascus lost its top running back and three key linemen, but the Swarmin' Hornets always seem to find replacements -- and ways to win.

Basic strength: Experience. At least seven starters return on each side of the ball.

Einstein

Coach: Ed Ashwell (3rd season)

1998 record: 9-2, 6-1

Outlook: The Titans, who made the playoffs for the first time in the school's 37-year history last season, lost 14 seniors and move up to Class 3A. But senior RB Umar Ferguson (6-2, 190) returns after missing most of last season with a knee injury. He ran for 2,025 yards as a sophomore before the injury. Also returning are seniors OL-DL Lawrence Joseph (6-4, 280) and DB Al Glay (5-11, 175).

Basic strength: Confidence. Ashwell has turned the attitude around.

Kennedy

Coach: Joe Johnson (3rd season)

1998 record: 0-10, 0-8

Outlook: Kennedy had only 41 players try out for both the junior varsity and varsity programs. Top players include senior RB Rufus McCoy (5-9, 190,) a transfer from North Carolina, and junior DE Joe Henry (6-2, 258).

Basic strength: Running game. Returning starter Marcus Duffin and McCoy will give the Cavaliers a one-two punch in the backfield.

Paint Branch

Coach: Bob Windsor (2nd season)

1998 record: 7-4, 6-3

Outlook: The Panthers drop from Class 4A and must replace four Division I graduates, including All-Met LB Darnell Dockett, who is at Florida State. Juniors DE Matt Stewart (6-2, 195), who had six sacks last season, and QB Alonzo Marshall (5-11, 165), who threw for 1,000 yards on the junior varsity squad, must pick up the slack.

Basic strength: Air attack. Junior WR Mike Evans (5-10, 145) had 38 catches for 1,002 yards and nine touchdowns last season.

Richard Montgomery

Coach: Mike Bonavia (5th season)

1998 record: 3-7, 1-5

Outlook: In the five games senior QB Tavarise Cooper (6-1, 200) started last season, the Rockets won three and lost two by a combined five points. Senior DE-TE Conner Quinn (6-1, 200) transferred to the Rockville school from Gonzaga.

Basic strength: Youth. The Rockets will start nine juniors and six sophomores on Opening Day.

Seneca Valley

Coach: Terry Changuris (11th season)

1998 record: 13-0, 8-0

Outlook: The two-time defending Maryland 4A champion, which enters the season with an area-best 26-game winning streak, drops to Class 3A. Senior DE Clint Pitts (6-3, 205), who led the team with 13 sacks last season, anchors the defense. Senior WR LeVar Scott (6-3, 185) is the Eagles' top returning receiver.

Basic strength: Quarterback. Senior All-Met Chris Kelley (6-2, 195) passed for 1,761 yards and 25 touchdowns and rushed for 757 yards and 18 touchdowns last season.

Walter Johnson

Coach: Butch Worden (3rd season)

1998 record: 8-2, 6-2

Outlook: Walter Johnson must rebuild after losing seven graduates to college football, including all-conference stars RB Kevin Brant (UCLA), DB Hunter Young (Brown), LB Jaime Hart (Tennessee-Chatanooga) and OL Joe Whyte (Frostburg St.). Only 21 players made the varsity squad this fall.

Basic strength: Offensive line. Wildcats will run behind senior OT Blake Kaplan (6-2, 270) this season.

Wheaton

Coach: Lee Branthover (7th season)

1998 record: 6-4, 4-3

Outlook: Senior RB Jerry White (6-1, 185) rushed for 798 yards and 12 touchdowns last season as a backup. Senior QB Miguel Fragueiro (6-2, 190) takes over the offense after starting only one game last season.

Basic strength: Youthful energy. The Knights will start five sophomores and have five more who could contribute.

Montgomery 2A/1A.

Bethesda-Chevy Chase

Coach: Eugene Wilson (1st season)

1998 record: 4-6, 3-5

Outlook: The Barons must have a big season from all-league senior TB Yinka Adeboyeku (6-1, 215) to be successful. Adeboyeku rushed for more than 1,300 yards as a junior. Starting senior QB Andrew Eastman (5-11, 175) spent last season as a backup.

Basic strength: Adeboyeku. "Everything we do on offense will be based on our running game," said Wilson, whose team rushed for 2,200 yards last season.

Blake

Coach: Marv Garlick (1st season)

1998 record: Played junior varsity schedule.

Outlook: Blake, a second-year school, begins its first varsity season with no seniors. Top players are junior QB Eddie Massie (5-9, 160), junior TB Troy Barron (5-10, 170), junior FB Jason Moore (5-9, 205) and junior DT Kenny Wilson (6-0, 285).

Basic strength: Chemistry. The Bengals return all but two starters from last season's successful JV team.

Northwest

Coach: Randy Trivers (2nd season)

1998 record: 2-8, 1-4

Outlook: Second-year Jaguars return their entire team as well as senior TB Raymond Custis (5-9, 185), who missed 1998 with a knee injury. Custis ran the 40 in 4.3 seconds at a summer camp. Junior QB Brian Shaw (6-1, 230) threw for more than 1,300 yards and nine touchdowns in '98.

Basic strength: Excitement. The Jaguars have high expectations with 15 seniors, including dangerous KR French Pope (5-6, 165).

Rockville

Coach: Jack Freeman (2nd season)

1998 record: 4-6, 3-3

Outlook: The Rams look to regain the form that took them to the 1997 playoffs. Senior QB Mike Yoo (5-10, 165), who shared time last season, will start. Experienced senior RBs Randy Brown (5-9, 155) and Mike Gualtieri (5-6, 165) combined to rush for 679 yards and five TDs last season.

Basic strength: Blocking. The Rams have three returning starters on the left side of the offensive line.

Poolesville

Coach: Chris Metzger (2nd season)

1998 record: 6-4

Outlook: Montgomery County's only Class 1A school lost eight offensive and nine defensive starters from last season. Team's strength will be its defense, anchored by seniors G Trey Weaver (6-2, 245), DT Chris Stillson (6-6, 220) and LB Clint Gonchar (6-2, 205).

Basic strength: Schedule. Indians' opponents include first-year Blake, second-year Northwest and Kennedy, which was winless last season.

Prince George's 4A.

Bowie

Coach: Scott Chadwick (2nd season)

1998 record: 1-9, 1-7

Outlook: With six returning starters on each side of the ball, the Bulldogs should improve. Senior RB-CB Jarrett Randall (5-11, 182) was the team's leading rusher last season. Junior Dion Mitchell (5-10, 164), the second-leading rusher, has moved to quarterback.

Basic strength: Running game. Senior G-DE Matt Pinkney (6-2, 204) leads the way for Randall, Mitchell and the Bulldogs' other rushers.

High Point

Coach: Dale Castro (10th season)

1998 record: 6-4, 4-4

Outlook: The Eagles will mix some veteran linemen with inexperienced skill players. Senior QB Dante Harris (5-9, 170) started the second half of last season. Seniors FB-LB Freddie Couch (6-0, 195) and RB Raymond Hines are returning starters. High Point's first two games are against Friendly and Suitland.

Basic strength: Size. Senior OT-DT Shane Thurston (6-3, 275) leads an offensive line that averages 275 pounds.

Largo

Coach: Eric Wade (1st season)

1998 record: 7-3, 5-3

Outlook: The Lions have to replace several key players. Senior QB Marcus Richardson (6-1, 185) takes over for Ikey Chuku, who is at Temple. Senior WR Yusef Young (6-3, 180) returns after missing last season with a broken leg. Wade expects at least 16 underclassmen to start.

Basic strength: Defense. Senior LB Carlos Watts (6-1, 195) had a team-leading 12 sacks and senior DT Duane Frost (6-6, 289) had 50 tackles last season.

Laurel

Coach: Chuck Hickes (15th season)

1998 record: 0-10, 0-8

Outlook: The young Spartans have a solid nucleus and should be improved. Senior QB-OLB Jon Goverman (5-9, 160) is a third-year starter and senior RB-DB Devin Smith (5-8, 165, 854 rushing yards) is a third-year player. Senior C Brandon Winfield (6-0, 260) leads an undersized offensive line.

Basic strength: A new look. Laurel is installing an option offense, which will force opposing defenses to prepare differently.

Northwestern

Coach: Ed Shields (4th season)

1998 record: 10-2, 7-1

Outlook: The Wildcats were last season's biggest surprise, earning the school's first-ever playoff berth before losing to Suitland in the Maryland 4A semifinals. Senior OT Reggie Kemp (6-4, 305), who has unofficially committed to Maryland, is one of the area's top linemen.

Basic strength: Attitude. Northwestern's players have been dedicated during the offseason and appear ready to prove last season was no fluke.

Oxon Hill

Coach: Cliff Haskins (16th season)

1998 record: 4-6, 3-5

Outlook: Depending on whom you believe, the Clippers are three years away from contending or are ready to resume their place among the county's top teams. Haskins claims he has "nothing" and declined to discuss specific players. Opposing coaches say the Clippers will be strong.

Basic strength: Strength. Haskins said his players have been lifting weights five days a week since December.

Parkdale

Coach: Bob Johnson (11th season)

1998 record: 6-4, 4-4

Outlook: Looking for the school's first playoff berth since 1989, Johnson expects this to be one of his best teams. Senior TB Jason Crawford (6-2, 219) is one of the area's best. Junior TB-CB Alonzo Corbitt (5-9, 170) is quick and senior FB Ubong Ubong (6-2, 255) is a big lead blocker.

Basic strength: Size. Senior OT Fred Downing (6-5, 310) and junior OT James Hardy (6-4, 290) lead a massive offensive line.

Eleanor Roosevelt

Coach: Rick Houchens (3rd season)

1998 record: 7-3, 5-3

Outlook: The Raiders should challenge co-champions Suitland and Northwestern for the league title. Junior RB-CB Edwin Rios (5-11, 180) will be the featured running back after rushing for 780 yards in '98. Senior CB Javon Green (5-11, 175) should be one of the area's top defensive backs.

Basic strength: Offensive front. Five of seven starters return, led by senior OT-DT Atul Sharma (6-4, 278) and junior OT-DE Matthew Rice (6-5, 242).

Suitland

Coach: Nick Lynch (4th season)

1998 record: 11-2, 7-1

Outlook: The Rams lost several key players, but senior LB-G Sidney Baskins (6-1, 235), a third-year starter, is as good as any. Senior TE Anthony Moten (6-1, 220) is a returning starter. Senior QB Wil Battle (6-1, 185), a transfer from Massachusetts, is competing for the starting quarterback job.

Basic strength: Tradition. The Rams are 31-5 under Lynch and lost in the Maryland 4A title game the past two seasons.

PRINCE GEORGE'S 3A.

Bladensburg

Coach: Adriel Wheeler (4th season)

1998 record: 0-10, 0-5

Outlook: It could be another long season for the Mustangs, who return only 13 players with varsity experience. Senior QB Kevin Pharr (5-11, 180), who recently moved from West Virginia, will guide the offense. Most players will have to play offense and defense.

Basic strength: Offensive line. Seniors C Melvin Williams (5-11, 200) and OL George Fenwick (6-1, 275) are two of Bladensburg's best players.

Crossland

Coach: Alan Arrington (3rd season)

1998 record: 1-9, 1-4

Outlook: Despite having only six seniors, Arrington is optimistic. Senior RB Terrance Elum (5-8, 155) rushed for a team-high 635 yards last season. Senior QB Darnell Jenkins (5-11, 170) started the final five games. The Cavaliers open with tough games at Westlake and Thomas Johnson.

Basic strength: Attitude. The leaders are seniors G-DT David Thurston (6-2, 240), TE-DE Andre Hunt (6-1, 190) and OT-DT Phillip Corley (6-1, 255).

Douglass

Coach: Bill Johnson (3rd season)

1998 record: 9-1, 4-1

Outlook: The Eagles open with five straight road games, have no returning starters on offense and only three on defense. Senior QB-CB Aaron Butler (5-7, 165) must make the transition from halfback to wishbone quarterback. Johnson said it is likely five or more sophomores will start.

Basic strength: Linebackers. Seniors LB Parrish Holmes (6-1, 215) and LB-HB Lambert Watts (6-0, 175) should anchor the defense.

DuVal

Coach: Joe Lewis (1st season)

1998 record: 4-6, 3-2

Outlook: Seventy-two players came out for preseason practice and Lewis, a former assistant at Walter Johnson, is optimistic. Senior QB Jonathan Gerald (6-0, 170) returns, as does senior FB-LB Caleb Cranke (6-0, 195), a two-way starter. Senior G-LB Mike Williams (6-1, 230) leads the offensive line.

Basic strength: Speed. Lewis said: "We have speed at all backs. All of our kids run well, even the linemen."

Friendly

Coach: George Earley (4th season)

1998 record: 13-0, 5-0

Outlook: The defending Class 3A champion, which opens the season with a 13-game winning streak from last season, lost most of its skill players. But the Patriots have a strong nucleus led by seniors WR Ed Anderson (6-1, 190), OT Tiant Thomas (6-4, 320) and junior QB Moriah Anderson (6-2, 175).

Basic strength: Bulk. The starting offensive line averages more than 250 pounds.

Prince George's 2A/1A.

Central

Coach: Robert Cashwell (1st season)

1998 record: 6-4, 2-2

Outlook: Senior OT Robert Bennett (6-1, 285), a transfer from Bladensburg, leads the offensive line. Senior TE Bryant Adams (6-3, 210) returns after sitting out last season. Senior CB Donta Harrod (5-7, 150) excels in coverage.

Basic strength: Rushing offense. Central will use five RBs and sophomore QB Eric Featherston (5-8, 150) will run from the Wing-T offense.

Fairmont Heights

Coach: Ralph Paden (26th season)

1998 record: 8-3, 4-0

Outlook: After a tough loss in the first round of the Class 2A playoffs, the Hornets will be rebuilding. Senior LB Darius Collins (5-10, 180) was last season's leading tackler and senior DE-TE Jamal Vest (6-2, 225) is attracting attention from college recruiters.

Basic strength: Defense. With no returning skill players on offense, Fairmont Heights will rely on the defense to keep opponents' scores low.

Forestville

Coach: Michael Mayo (8th season)

1998 record: 10-3, 2-2

Outlook: After a strong season that ended with a loss in the Class 1A final to Oakland Mills, the Knights must replace most of their skill players. Seniors WR-DB Darrell Parker (6-0, 175) and RB-S Larry McClain (5-11, 180) return, but the quarterback will be new -- either Pierre Hawkins (6-2, 175) or Steve Crudup (5-11, 180).

Basic strength: Offensive line. All five starters return, led by senior G Forris Pittman (6-1, 275).

Gwynn Park

Coach: Danny Hayes (2nd season)

1998 record: 4-6, 2-3

Outlook: After dropping from Class 3A to 2A, the Yellow Jackets could earn their third playoff berth of the decade. Senior QB Darrin Long (5-9, 185) returns to run the Wing-T offense. Junior TE-DE Seth Mitchell (6-3, 220) started as a freshman but did not play last season.

Basic strength: Depth. After having only 39 players last season, Hayes said 74 players tried out for the team this season.

Potomac

Coach: Eric Knight (7th season)

1998 record: 2-8, 0-4

Outlook: The Braves will try to rebound from their first losing season under Knight. Senior QB-FS DuJuan Crockett (6-2, 197) moves from wide receiver. Senior WR Glenn Thomas (6-2, 170) had eight touchdown catches last season. Senior OT-DT Steve Crump (6-1, 268) anchors the lines.

Basic strength: Linebackers. Speedy senior Carey Vaughn (6-2, 272) and sophomore Anthony Kirby (5-9, 169) return.

Surrattsville

Coach: Byron Stewart (1st season)

1998 record: 5-5, 2-2

Outlook: Senior LB Traydell Bullock (6-2, 224) transferred from Lackey and should lead the defense. Junior TB Jerod Void (5-9, 170) is elusive. Senior WR Richard Burns (6-5, 180) could be one of the area's top receivers.

Basic strength: Enthusiasm. Stewart, a former star running back at Friendly who played at Nebraska, could energize the Hornets.

SMAC.

Calvert

Coach: Jerry Franks (3rd season)

1998 record: 5-5, 5-4

Outlook: Although it was the youngest team in the SMAC a year ago, Calvert now should be among the league's best. Junior QB Orion Canine (5-10, 170) showed poise in his varsity debut, and his main target, junior WR Marshall Cooper (5-9, 170), returns.

Basic strength: Experience. The Cavaliers have 19 returning starters -- nine on offense and 10 on defense.

Chopticon

Coach: Andy Palko (17th season)

1998 record: 6-4, 5-4

Outlook: The Braves will look to a group of running backs to fill the void left by James Garrett, who rushed for 1,500 yards last season. Top returners are senior OL-DL Chip Williams (6-1, 230) and junior WR Andy Byroads (6-0, 160), both all-conference performers last season.

Basic strength: Experience. The Braves have four offensive linemen who have each started for three years.

Great Mills

Coach: Bill Greer (3rd season)

1998 record: 0-10, 0-9

Outlook: Eager to get back on the winning track, Great Mills will rely heavily on seniors FB Cliff Dukes (6-3, 230) and TB Colbert Barnes (5-7, 170). They'll get no help from a home crowd: Its field is being resodded, so Great Mills will not play any home games this season.

Basic strength: Offensive line. The Hornets return all five starters from last season, and Greer said each spent significant time in the weight room during the offseason.

La Plata

Coach: Joe Williams (5th season)

1998 record: 5-5, 4-5

Outlook: Last in the conference two years ago, La Plata looks to move toward the top this season. Seniors RB-LB Raheem Archer (5-10, 195) and RB-LB Dennis Williamson (5-9, 190) hope to lead the Warriors' charge.

Basic strength: Running game. In addition to Archer and Williamson, capable junior TB Titus Green will be in the backfield.

Lackey

Coach: Glenn Jones (6th season)

1998 record: 3-7, 2-7

Outlook: The Chargers return seven starters on defense, six on offense. Junior RB Martin Queen (5-10, 165) leads a stable of runners who will play behind an experienced line. Senior LB-TE Manny Leon (6-1, 198) and junior LBs James Thompson (6-6, 210) and Manny Dyson (5-10, 185) lead the defense.

Basic strength: Motivation. Lackey's players know they attend the smallest school in the conference and want to erase memories of last season's losses to the larger powers.

Leonardtown

Coach: Mike Egan (2nd season)

1998 record: 3-7, 3-6

Outlook: This could be another long season for Leonardtown, which continues to rebuild under Egan. The Raiders return senior all-conference QB Jason Schacter (6-1, 165). However, standout WR Chris Greinert suffered a knee injury in the offseason and will be out two to four weeks.

Basic strength: Quarterback. Schacter completed 50 of 120 passes for 770 yards with 10 touchdowns and four interceptions last season.

McDonough

Coach: Dave Bradshaw (1st season)

1998 record: 5-5, 5-4

Outlook: The Rams are big up front and return three starters, including seniors C Eric Simon (5-9, 200) and OT Jim Schumacher (6-1, 230) and junior OT Chris Mitchell (6-1, 250). What they lack is experience at several skill positions.

Basic strength: Defense. Bradshaw was the Rams' defensive coordinator last season and will continue to emphasize defense.

Northern

Coach: Duane Atherton (2nd season)

1998 record: 6-4, 5-4

Outlook: Northern won four of its final five games last season and hopes to continue the momentum. Senior QB Dan Terracciano (6-3, 205) returns and will be protected by a solid offensive line that features three returning seniors.

Basic strength: Leadership. The Patriots have more than 20 seniors on the roster.

Patuxent

Coach: Jim Esposito (3rd season)

1998 record: 6-4

Outlook: One of the most talented teams in the conference, the Panthers are anxious to play their first SMAC schedule after playing as an independent their first two seasons. Junior QB Judd Vail (6-1, 170) has fully recovered after injuring a knee late last season.

Basic strength: Surprise. Most opponents will have only seen Patuxent players on game tapes before they face the Panthers.

Thomas Stone

Coach: Richard Callahan (4th season)

1998 record: 7-3, 7-2

Outlook: Several of the Cougars' key players graduated, but one of the best players in the area is back: All-Met senior RB-LB Marcus Whalen (6-0, 210). Whalen rushed for 1,934 yards and 19 touchdowns last season on 170 carries.

Basic strength: Backfield. Quality RBs Mike Finamore (5-10, 170) and Marcus Warr (6-1, 190), both seniors, complement Whalen.

Westlake

Coach: Dominic Zaccarelli (5th season)

1998 record: 9-2, 9-0

Outlook: The four-time defending SMAC champion is a favorite again. Westlake's deep talent pool includes highly recruited senior RB-S Gonzie Gray (5-11, 165) and junior RB Recardo Evans (5-7, 160). Gray, who also excels on the track, won the Class 3A 200-meter title and was second in the 100 meters.

Basic strength: Speed. Evans, also a top track athlete, was injured during the state track meet but beat Gray in the 100 and 200 at the SMAC championships.