When North County High opened about a quarter-mile from the Baltimore Washington International Airport last year, the Knights' football team was the school's first program to take off.
"Air Markiewicz," as wide receiver Randy Swain calls Coach Chuck Markiewicz' high-flying, run-and-shoot offensive scheme, swept the county by storm.
The Knights finished 8-2 behind first-team All-County and All-Metro quarterback John Ray, who completed 48 percent of his passes for 2,020 yards and a county-record 16 touchdowns.
Although the Knightsdidn't face a full county 4A schedule, their only losses came against Class 3A semifinalist Northern of Calvert County and Class 2A staterunner-up Damascus.
"Everyone is saying how we didn't face the big boys and that we caught everyone by surprise," said Markiewicz, whohad a turnout of 85 kids for the first day of practice, including 34returning varsity players and 29 sophomores.
"But that's all we do is throw the football. It's exciting, the spectators like it, and we're not going to change. We'll be like flies buzzing around their heads. And you know what happens when there are too many flies buzzing around the big boy, don't you? He gets agitated and goes into the house."
Markiewicz wanted his four wide receivers to catch 30 passes each last year. All except one reached that goal, and he caught 24.
Markiewicz's boys are on the runway to start season No. 2, and on board are five of Ray's primary targets.
"We're definitely ready togo to the air again," said Swain, a senior, whose 30 receptions for 409 yards and three touchdowns ranked second on the team.
Swain will rejoin top yard gainer junior Damon Martin (41 catches, 446 yards,three touchdowns); top scorer, senior Troy Ross (34 catches, 392 yards, 6 TDs); and senior John Bilheimer (24 catches, 344 yards, 2 TDs).
In its standard form, the run-and-shoot features four wide receivers, but senior running back Anthony Walker, who led the county with 985 yards rushing two years ago at Brooklyn Park, adds yet another dimension.
A county track meet runner-up in the 100-meter -- last spring, Walker runs a 4.3-second 40-yard -- and is a threat both offensively and defensively.
The 6-foot-3, 190-pounder had 202 yards andfour touchdowns on 41 carries last year and caught eight passes for 161 yards and two more TDs. Walker also led the team with six interceptions and was the Knights' leading tackler at linebacker.
Last year, Markiewicz "needed someone who is sharp upstairs, someone who canthrow 10-yard patterns and someone with a good touch" to run his offense. Ray answered the call, but Markiewicz considers his replacement, 15-year-old honor roll student Reggie Moore, a natural for the position.
As a point guard on the Knights' basketball team last year, Moore, a sophomore, had enough skills to handle the pressure of beinga leader. Word is, he can pass like he makes the quick assist.
"Last year was our first year, so our line has gotten more together," said Ross.
Indeed, the Knights boast mobile linemen with Martin (6-3, 190), Jarryn Avery (6-3, 220), Bryan Hyre (6-1, 195), Tim Mitzelfelt (6-0, 220) and Eric Schwink (5-9, 165).
Facing a tougher schedule "shouldn't make a difference," said Ross. "We expect to accomplishthe same things."
. . . in brief
School colors: Red, black and silver
Name of field/stadium: Leroy G. Carter Field
Address: 515 Andover Road, Linthicum, Md. 21090
Phone number: 859-5400
Principal: William Wentworth
Cheerleading adviser: Margaret Smith
Marching band director: Glenn Mohr
Athletic director: Mike Baker
School enrollment: 1,130