Damascus WR-LB Zach Bradshaw, shown in a preseason scrimmage (Mark Gail/THE WASHINGTON POST)

Favorite: Damascus (12-1)

Hornets bring back much of a defense that helped them roll through regular season undefeated.

Contenders: Seneca Valley (8-3), Rockville (8-3)

Screaming Eagles depend have an experienced secondary; the Rams make the move from 2A.

Dark horse: Watkins Mill(5-5)

New Coach Kevin Watson inherits an experienced bunch with 15 returning starters.

Around the league

Damascus sophomore QB Chase Williams will have to grow into his new starting role if Hornets hope to contend for their first state title since 2007. Defense should be the team’s strength with six returning starters, including senior LB-WR Zach Bradshaw, who has garnered offers from six Division I-A programs. . . . Seneca Valley has made the postseason nine of the past 10 years but returns just eight starters. The newcomers include senior QB Tanner Vallely, a back-up last season. The team’s youth up front on defense is balanced out by a strong returning secondary led by senior CB Charles Fitch. . . . Rockville must replace All-Met RB Crusoe Gongbay (New Mexico) and will turn to senior Dustin Castle and junior Jesse Brent, a St. John’s transfer, to handle most of the carries. Much of Watkins Mill’s attack will go through RB Mike Offut and versatile WR Deontray George. . . . Einstein (4-6) has won at least four games each of the past three years but still hasn’t finished with a winning record since 2000. New Coach Jermaine Howell will rely heavily on senior running back Peter Ngoh, who rushed for 343 yards in last season’s finale against Wheaton. . . . Northwood (4-6) returns four senior starters in its secondary — CBs Devin Moyer and Johnny Vo and DBs Christian Carter and Thomas Miller.

— Eric Detweiler