Beau English is back under center for a veteran DeMatha squad loaded with Division I prospects yet again. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Favorite: DeMatha (11-1)

After winning their third straight WCAC title last year, the Stags remain the team everybody in the Washington area’s toughest league is chasing. But DeMatha’s hopes for a four-peat got a bit more challenging earlier this month when tailback Anthony McFarland, one of the country’s most sought after running backs, broke his fibula in a preseason game. The Stags are counting on several first-time contributors to blossom by the end of the season, although they also return 10 starters and added Gilman transfer Evan Gregory, a junior offensive lineman. Defensive end Chase Young (Ohio State), quarterback Beau English (Air Force) and offensive lineman Marcus Minor will lead a reloaded roster that still has plenty of talent despite losing a vaunted senior class from last year’s 11-1 team. Looming are a wide-open league and a difficult schedule, which begins with a road game against Chesapeake, Va., public school powerhouse Oscar Smith. But the Stags will be tough to beat again.

Contenders: Good Counsel (7-5), Gonzaga (11-2), St. John’s (7-4)


With big bodies up front to lead the way, Mohamed Ibrahim (1) should have another huge season at Good Counsel. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

Around the league

Good Counsel returns 12 starters from last season, when it lost five games for just the second time in Coach Bob Milloy’s 16 years at the school but knocked off Gonzaga to make it back to the WCAC championship game. Running back Mohamed Ibrahim (1,450 rushing yards in 2015) will also play more cornerback this year and former tight end Naasir Watkins shifts to offensive tackle, the position at which Division I schools are interested in him playing. But almost the entire offensive line is back, the emergence of senior quarterback Travis Nannen helped key the late surge in 2015 and the defense features two sought after recruits in end Josh Paschal and Maryland linebacker commit Ayinde Eley. . . .

Gonzaga was the only team to beat DeMatha last year, but the Eagles are eager for redemption after falling short of their first WCAC title since 2002. Senior Tyree Randolph is the area’s leading returning rusher (1,823 yards) and Maryland offensive lineman recruit Johnny Jordan should again give him room to run. Wide receiver Max Fisher (North Carolina State) and linebacker Mitchell Johns, both seniors, will be key pieces as well. . . .

Host Jeremy Huber previews the upcoming football season in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference with the Washington Post's Mark Giannotto (Video by Nick Plum for Synthesis/Koubaroulis LLC./The Washington Post)

St. John’s will turn to several high-profile transfers to contend for a league title under new head Coach Joe Casamento. Senior quarterback Kasim Hill, a Maryland commit who started for defending MIAA A champion Gilman last year, 6-foot-7 offensive tackle Calvin Ashley from Trinity Christian (Fla.), former IMG Academy defensive tackle and Maryland recruit Cam Spence, and former Gilman linebacker Shane Lee are among the newcomers that will team with talented defensive end Tyree Johnson, wide receiver Ed Lee and sophomore tailbacks Keilan Robinson and Jochaim Bangda. . . .

McNamara (5-4) begins a new era after the graduation of record-setting quarterback Ramar Williams (Navy) hopeful several familiar faces can take on bigger roles and keep it in the thick of the WCAC race. Dynamic senior wide receiver Charles Kelly could also see playing time at defensive back and quarterback this year. . . . Carroll (5-5), coming off its best season since 2010, will look completely different after the graduation of tailback Keon Singleton (Kent State) and offensive linemen Jauan Williams (Florida State) and Richard Merritt, and the offseason departure of several other key contributors. . . . Although St. Mary’s Ryken’s first year back in the league ended with a 3-7 record, the Knights’ youthful roster gained valuable experience last season. . . . WCAC league play will only consist of six games for each team this year after O’Connell elected to pulled out of the conference for football and compete against an independent schedule.