Sherwood is fired up under first-year coach Chris Grier and has the talented and versatile Elijah Spottswood back to terrorize opposing defenses this fall. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

Favorite: Paint Branch (3-7): The Panthers are more mature after last year’s down campaign and return several important playmakers on both sides of the ball, including quarterback Gaston Cooper (1,283 yards, 10 touchdowns in 2012).

Contenders: Blake (6-5), Sherwood (9-3)

Around the league: For Paint Branch, the multi-dimensional Cooper will be the league’s best quarterback entering the season, and he has weapons around him. Three-year starter wide receivers Javonn Curry (25 catches, 506 yards, six touchdowns) and Johnny Littlejohn are back, as is center Chris Young. . . . Blake has plenty of talent back from a team that made a playoff appearance last season, including RB Marquis Robinson (10 total touchdowns in 2012) and wide receiver Mark Davis, with both doubling down as cornerbacks. LB/RB Tayahd Campbell is another player to watch for the Bengals. . . . Sherwood will be in the hunt under first-year Coach Chris Grier, who has one of the most dangerous players in the county in Elijah Spottswood. Look for Spottswood to start at running back and cornerback and return kicks and punts (four touchdowns in 2012) for the Warriors this fall. . . . Springbrook , looking to bounce back after a 4-6 campaign, will be led by DE Alex Evans (6-6, 215-pounds) who is committed to East Carolina, as well as three-year starting LB Tatah Ndeh.

Related: D.C. area full of linemen prospects

Montgomery 4A West preview | Montgomery 4A South preview

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)

Montgomery 3A/Independents preview

Prince George’s 4A preview | 3A/2A/1A

Anne Arundel | Howard | SMAC | Md. independents

DCIAA Stars | DCIAA Stripes | Charters

WCAC | IAC | MAC | Va. others/independents

Concorde | Liberty | National | Patriot

Cardinal | Potomac | Dulles

Games to Watch | Preseason All-Met Watch

Rankings: The Post Top 20 | Coaches’ poll