Howard has started 9-0 and is eager for another deep postseason run. (Courtesy photo/Wendy McNeill)

Howard Coach Jimmy Creighton knows he can’t complain. His Lions have started the season with nine straight wins and appear poised for another deep postseason run. But the coach and his players don’t feel the team has shown its full potential, so he has preached to his squad to avoid complacency, a lesson fueled by last year’s playoff exit.

Eager to start a new streak of championships — and to beat rival Glenelg on Thursday — the No. 7 Lions, who this week join the rankings for the first time this season, boast a veteran group with a drive for perfection.

“The guys want to prove to everyone that they are a good team and that they can be a great team,” Creighton said. “We’ve played well, but I don’t think we’ve put together a full 48-minute game yet.”

Howard has about 20 seniors on this year’s roster, and Creighton said all are eager to avenge a “disappointing” loss to eventual Maryland 4A/3A state champion Severna Park in last year’s region semifinal. The Lions had been region champions from 2013 through 2016 and finished atop the county standings in the latter three years.

Their strong returning core has helped alleviate the usual rigors of developing chemistry. Plus, two senior attackmen, Mark Bruner and Patrick Sutch, were freshmen who joined the varsity squad late in 2015 and participated in Howard’s state championship run.

“Being up with the older guys and seeing how we do things and being in those big games,” Creighton said, “they took a lot from that year.”

Howard beat Marriotts Ridge, last year’s Howard County champion, 5-3, in the season opener and has since beaten eight teams by an average of 10.4 goals. But Glenelg, the 2017 Maryland 3A/2A state runner-up, looms this week.

“Maybe we just thought it was going to happen and the lightbulb would go off, but that wasn’t the case,” Creighton said of last season. “That plays in the motivation this year, especially for the senior class. You want to go out on a good note.”

Here are this week’s rankings:

1. St. John’s (9-2) Last week: 2

The Cadets fell to DeMatha, 13-12, in overtime last Tuesday for their first defeat since their season opener.

2. Gonzaga (8-3) LW: 1

After suffering their first loss since March — 8-5 to Paul VI last Tuesday — the Eagles responded with a 10-goal win over O’Connell.

3. Churchill (5-0) LW: 4

The Bulldogs will test their undefeated record against Wheaton and Quince Orchard this week.

4. Bullis (9-3) LW: 6

Attackmen Robert Schain and Connor Shellenberger each had four points in a win over St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes on Friday.

5. St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes (9-3) LW: 3

The Saints fell to Bullis, 8-5, for their first loss in the Interstate Athletic Conference.

6. Riverside (7-1) LW: 9

Junior attackman Danny Maltz scored his 100th goal in Riverside’s win over Colgan on Friday.

7. Howard (9-0) LW: NR

Patrick Sutch and Ben O’Connor had hat tricks in the Lions’ 15-3 victory over Southern on Monday.

8. Robinson (7-0) LW: NR

The Rams have a penchant for winning close games, with a combined five-goal margin of victory against Dominion and South County last week.

9. South River (4-1) LW: 8

The Seahawks answered an overtime loss to Howard with a 23-8 trashing of host Chesapeake on Friday.

10. Landon (7-4) LW: 5

The Bears never led in the fourth quarter of their 7-4 loss at St. Albans on Friday.

Dropped out: No. 7 St. Mary’s-Annapolis (6-3), No. 10 Stone Bridge (4-2)

Bubble: Briar Woods (6-1), Glenelg (6-0), DeMatha (9-3)