If there’s one thing Howard County coaches can agree on, it’s the parity of the league.

“There are no sleepovers here,” Mount Hebron Coach Phil Zacharias said. “I don’t consider any of the teams to be a sleepover yet.”

Certainly not Hammond. The Vikings’ opponent for this Friday’s season opener at Mount Hebron are led by Justin Carey, a first-year coach who moved from defensive coordinator at Atholton. The Golden Bears will field a quick team that should give Mount Hebron’s young lineup a good taste of the county’s competition.

“It should be a feeling out process for both of us,” Zacharias said. “They’re an athletic team and we’ll have to see how our strength matches up.”

Junior Jake Snyder will make his debut at starting quarterback and is joined on the offense by talented running back Zach Nicholas.

“I’m confident Jake can go out and lead the team,” Zacharias said. “I’m not sure exactly how things will play out, but going 5-0 at the beginning of the season would be a great way to start out.”

Wilde Lake’s opener at Howard is crucial to both schools down the line.

“It’s an important game for them cause they can’t really afford to lose too many games to smaller schools,” says Wilde Lake Coach Mike Harrison of 4A Howard.

“It’s important for us cause you need that extra win when it comes time to playoff time. It’s funny to think that you start the season with a game that has some implications, but it certainly does.”

Wilde Lake can’t afford too many losses as a 3A school in an increasingly competitive region. Howard is constantly battling from behind against 4A schools in larger counties with more equally-sized opponents.

The Wildecats made a strong showing in last week’s scrimmage to Carroll County’s Westminster, especially considering the switch in offensive strategy this season. Wilde Lake has played a double wing offense for the past eight years and made a switch to a pistol offense this season.

“It’s a bit of a transition for us but the kids are handling it well and I’m happy with where we’re at right now,” Harrison said.

Elsewhere in the county, No. 18 Atholton takes on Marriots Ridge, Long Reach travels to Oakland and Glenelg faces No. 8 River Hill at home.