Favorite: River Hill (14-0)

The Hawks haven’t lost a game since 2011. The defending 3A state champions will guard their 24-game winning streak with an experienced and bigger defensive line anchored by DE Logan Kirby, DE Anthony Corrao and LB Cory Daniel. Senior Drew Pritchard was the backup at quarterback last season but is expected to step into a starting role with ease.

Contenders: Atholton (10-2); Wilde Lake (5-5); Reservoir (6-5)

Around the league:

Coach John Swigart takes over at Atholton after nine years coaching at Towson and Howard University. Graduation took 15 starters from the Raiders last season, but a handful of talented transfers — WR Byran Barney (Marriott’s Ridge), WR C.J. Williams (Wilde Lake) and WR Lamarre Whitlock (Reservoir) — will join returning running back Isaac Murray, who rushed for 861 yards in 2012. Senior LB Isaac Boateng will lead on defense. . . .Wilde Lake will emphasize its passing game behind seniors QB Spencer Ampofo and WR Malik Jackson. . . . Reservoir will attempt to follow up on its 2012 playoff appearance — the first in school history- without RB Robert Armstrong. . . . Howard finds itself in a similar situation after losing RB Michael Anderson to graduation. . . . Justin Carey joins Hammond (5-5) in his first year as a head coach. He believes “situational football” will be the key to pushing the Golden Bears, who lost three games last year by a combined total of four points, past .500 this season. . . . Buffalo-recruit RB Zach Nicholas led Mount Hebron (6-5) in 2012 with 13 touchdowns and 761 all-purpose yards gained. Senior LB Marty Stevenson charted more than 100 tackles last season. . . . Marcus Lewis, the Marriotts Ridge boys’ basketball coach, marks his 18th year of coaching in Howard County by taking on head coaching duties for the Eagles. They finished 2-8 last year after three 0-10 seasons. Lewis says improved team chemistry and an intensive offseason program are keys to success this year. . . . Glenelg ’s (6-4) WR/DB David Brookhart will play multiple roles on offense for the Gladiators and is a player to watch along with OL/DL David Robbins.

Host B.J. Koubaroulis and Roman Stubbs preview the high school football season in the state of Maryland. (Nick Plum/Synthesis/Koubaroulis LLC for The Washington Post)