Just when you think the dog days are easing their grip, another blast of 100-degree heat reminds us we still have some melting left to do.
We can't offer you relief in the form of a cold beer or a dip inthe pool, but we can comfort you with the thought that cooler days are ahead and, with them, in part, the promise of another season of high school sports highlights. So imagine wearing a Windbreaker and sipping a cup of hot chocolate in the bleachers to brace yourself against a chilly fall breeze. Let's get an early start on beating the heat.
Have eight months really gone by since Wilde Lake won its second state football championship? Don't look now, but the Wildecats are primed for another run. And with Wilde Lake dropping from Class 2A to 1A status, the ride to a third state title could be ridiculously easy.
Three reasons for the Wildecats' high expectations are seniors Phil White (quarterback), Damon Hamlin (running back) and Brent Guyton (linebacker).
Coach Doug DuVall, fresh from leading Maryland to a 17-9 victory over Pennsylvania in last month's Big 33 Game, promises to discard his typically conservative offense in favor of the one-back, run-and-shoot attack he unveiled in Hershey, Pa.
The change could reap wonderful benefits for White, one of the smoother, stronger high school quarterbacks I've seen in years. In last season's run-oriented offense, White didn't waste his chances to inflict damage through the air.
He completed 58 percent of his passes. Nine of his 25 completions went for touchdowns. And he averaged a whopping 28 yards per connection. This guy should provide defensive backs with some major headaches.
Hamlin ran in the shadow of Raphael Wall for much of last year but still rushed for 770 yards, averaged 9.3 yards per carry and scored five touchdowns. Watch him grab the spotlight this fall.
And Guyton will anchor another fine Wilde Lake defense the same way Ricky Rowe did last year. How good is this kid? Maryland, Miami, UCLA, Syracuse and Michigan State are already after him. Guyton could end up as the finest linebacker the school has ever produced.
Oakland Mills, meanwhile, once again figures to be the team chasing WildeLake. The Scorpions' season will hinge on replacing Player of the Year running back/linebacker Korey Singleton, but count on bright, second-year coach Ken Hovet to think of something.
The Scorpions also have two players who might be the top multiple-sport athletes in the county.
Two-way lineman Monte Spencer, an All-County defensive tackle last year, is also fresh from a state heavyweight wrestling title. He could be the league's best lineman and again will anchor OaklandMills' wrestling squad. And, with Oakland Mills dropping to 2A, a state championship under Coach Dan Ricker is not a far-fetched notion. Spencer can improve on his junior year in only one way -- by going undefeated. Don't bet against him.
Then there's senior Gregg Washington, the Scorps' agile, 6-foot-5 wide receiver/defensive back. If Hovet finds a good quarterback to replace the graduated Joe Coughlan, Washington should improve measurably upon last year, when he caught 24 passes for 469 yards and five TDs.
No one can get up in the air with this guy. If given the chance, he could make the alley-oop play wildly popular again.
And when he's done leaping for the football team, Washington should team up with forward Marc Terry to make OaklandMills the class of the basketball season once again. Washington quietly averaged 18 points and 10 rebounds.Terry, a burly 6-5, 210-pounder, averaged 12 points and 10 rebounds.
When Terry is in the mood to perform, no one in the county can stop him inside. If Washington and Terry give the Scorpions the consistency coach Dave Appleby is hoping for, they should devastate opponents in the paint. These two have the potential to combine for 35 points and 25 rebounds a night.
The county's girls basketball league is coming off a most impressive showing. Mount Hebron won its fifth 2A state championship in six years,Oakland Mills advanced to the 3A finals, Glenelg won a regional title, and Howard lost to Oakland Mills in the regional finals.
Of those four teams, Oakland Mills should fall from the pack, as the Scorpions graduated their entire starting lineup. Hebron, Glenelg and Howard should contend, along with the league's most intriguing team, Hammond.
The Bears turned a 1-21 disaster two years ago into an 11-11 season last year, and made the playoffs for the first time in four years.
Sophomores Kacey Williams (point guard) and Sonia Keiner (forward) should push them near the top of the standings, where Hebron will be waiting.
At Hebron, junior point guard and Player of the YearErica McCauley will try to improve on her superb season. The county's top player -- no one passes or shoots better -- will be called uponto carry the team.
McCauley should deliver. Look for her to average something in the neighborhood of 20 points and seven assists. And occasionally, on one of those nights when she makes the three-point shot look like a layup, McCauley may score 30, something Hebron players rarely do in Coach Dave Greenberg's unselfish offense.