Can tradition and abundant numbers alone return Annapolis to the forefront of the county's rough-and-tumble 4A League?
After his team failed to make the playoffs for the first time in six years last season, Panthers coach Roy Brown thinks those two pluses might combine tocause a stir in the league.
"To tell you the truth, we weren't that far from the playoffs," said Brown, whose charges were 5-5 in 1990. "Last year, the league wasjust extremely tough and the top five or six teams were really bunched up. This year, it should probably be no different.
"There is a sense of tradition here at Annapolis, and the kids know this well when they come into the program. So I wouldn't write us off this season.
"We have a lot of young kids returning this year who saw a lot ofgame action last year, and like every year, our goal at the beginning of the season is to make the playoffs. But on the other side, I can't exactly say who we will and won't beat. This league is too balanced for me to be predicting anything like that."
The third-year coach sees nothing but positives when evaluating the young Panthers' progress through preseason drills.
"I'm impressed with everybody so far, especially the sophomores and juniors. They're looking really good, and it doesn't take much to get them motivated. We just have a lot of depth all around, and the enthusiasm is there. They're really excited about the start of the season," he said.
Rick Mears is the favorite to head the Annapolis offense. As a junior, Mears played understudy to Darryl Foote, who passed for a .583 percentage (60-103), 936 yards and six touchdowns while also earning second-team All-County honors as a punter (35.5 yards per kick).
Sophomores Chris Johnson and Juan Johnson (no relation) are vying for the second-string quarterback spot.
Seniors Ty Selby, Mario Dominick, Shawn Cole and Gary Smith will receive ample opportunities to run the football from the traditional Delaware wing-T set.
"I think we put the ball up a little more than we will this year," Brown said. "We still want to throw it regularly, but we may have to take it just a little slower this time and try to establish the ground game a little earlier."
Leading offensive line hopefuls include junior returnee Brandon Tinker (guard-tackle), seniors Andrew Yiannoulou (guard) and Jeff Golas (center) and junior newcomer Brendan Bellotte (guard-tackle). Senior Ray Hensonand junior Mike Fraoli are among the leading offensive end candidates.
Defensively, seniors Dan Flynn (end), Demond Galloway (tackle) and Sean Woodland (linebacker-end) will play an important role in thwarting opposing offenses. Brown calls the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Galloway one of the anchors of Annapolis' multiple-defensive alignment.
Cole, Smith and sophomore Kevin Belt will attempt to shore up the Panthers' defensive backfield, vacated by first-team All-County selections Eric Tooles (county-leading seven interceptions) and Fork Union Military-bound Ahmed Middleton (three interceptions, including a county-record 101-yard touchdown return against Glen Burnie).
"As far as I can see, we don't have any glaring weaknesses," Brown said. "Our youthfulness could be considered one, but I really can't say that aboutthis group."
. . . in brief
School nickname: Panthers
School colors: Maroon and blue
Name of field/stadium: Al Laramore Field; Richard Ensor Stadium
Address: 2700 Riva Road, Annapolis, Md. 21401
Phone number: 266-5240
Principal: Laura Webb
Athletic director: Fred Stauffer
Cheerleading adviser: Marje Steen
Marching band director: Michael Svec
School enrollment: 1,635