The intensity Linganore senior Matt Castor feels at the start of the game is almost overwhelming for the Lancers' standout linebacker and running back.

"It's a huge rush at the start -- after all the practice and all the pain, you're ready to play," Castor said.

Castor's passion is one of the main ingredients in Linganore's rise from mediocrity to state champion.

After years in the middle of the pack in Frederick County, Linganore emerged under Coach Rick Conner as a state finalist in 2002, losing to Seneca Valley. Last season, the Lancers lost just once and in the end, they shut down Lackey for the Maryland 3A title.

Linganore returns several of its best players, and the Lancers look once again to be one of the state's top teams. Six-foot-3, 265-pound senior lineman Cory Nicholson was an all-league selection last year, while fellow lineman Joe Massulia was second-team all-league.

The roster is deep, like it was last year when Linganore outscored its opponents 91-13 in four playoff games.

"We've got a lot of kids back, they've worked very hard this summer," Conner said, now in his third year. "A few of these guys have played in two state championship games. They've waited nine months to come back."

Castor rushed for more than 1,200 yards last year and was also a dominant force at linebacker. His season was capped by a big performance in the title game -- he rushed for 150 yards on eight carries while helping hold All-Met Morgan Green to 80 yards on 30 carries.

Castor said he has no preference between the two positions, and that he enjoys being on the field for much of the game.

"He's an incredible worker," Conner said. "He's a weight-room freak. . . . He's one of the toughest players you'll see."

Castor was a captain last year as a junior and is again a captain and key leader for the Lancers. Conner said Castor's example of hard work and intensity on the field is contagious for the rest of the team.

"I guess it's just in my blood," Castor said. "I just do it."

-- Sean P. Flynn

Matt Castor ran for 150 yards and helped stop Lackey's Morgan Green in last year's 3A title game.