St. Mary's third-year coach Brad Best has too much respect for his class of seniors to ever declare a season a rebuilding year.
But even if he were to try, he doesn't think they'd buy it.
"When you look at all the people we lost you think, 'yeah, this is a rebuilding year,' but I don't approach it like that," said Best. "The seniors, who have only one year left, don't want to hear that."
Another thing the Saints could do without hearing is how they dropped their final two games last season, forcing a three-way tie for the Maryland Scholastic Association C Conference title with Severn and St. Paul's. While Best admits to never hearing mention of it among his players, the same cannot be said for himself.
"The only one who lets them know that we're riding a two-game losing streak is me," said Best. "One thing I've learned about high school kids is that they don't remember too well. The seniors we have perceive last year as a good one."
And for the most part it was. The Saints raced out to an8-0 record but then came up short in their last two encounters with rivals South River and Severn.
For St. Mary's to match last year'sshowing it's going to need rapid growth from some of its inexperienced skilled people.
One player Best is looking to "grow up in a hurry" is senior quarterback Adam Hrebiniak. The 5-foot-9, 170-pound signal caller saw some action last year behind three-year veteran Charlie Griffith, albeit mostly in a mop-up role.
"Adam probably played the equivalent of three games last year," said Best, who tries to work in non-starters as often as possible. "He's done above and beyond what I wanted him to do and we think he should be OK.
"Charlie (Griffith) was more disciplined and would set up in the pocket more last year, and there's nothing wrong with that. Adam's more the scramble-type quarterback and that should open up some other things for us and allow us to run some more option. Plus, he's got a strong arm and a very accurate one."
Joining Hrebiniak in the backfield are senior wingbacks Joe Conte and Steve Krupinsky. Conte, who led the Saints in rushing with more than 900 yards last season, should help St. Mary's get over the loss of Charlie Finamore, a fixture in the Saints' backfield the past two seasons.
Senior co-captain Rory Kiernan will be one of just a few two-way performers for St. Mary's. The 6-foot-4, 230-pounder will anchor the Saints' offensive line at center and will slide over to tackle on defense.
"He has good quickness and good speed and should give us some good leadership on the field," Best said."The players all look up to him."
One Saint who doesn't look up to Kiernan, although he respects him, is 6-6, 270-pound senior co-captain Sean Harper. Harper already has drawn the attention of the Naval Academy and West Point and Best describes him as a legitimate Division I-AA prospect.
Fran McAndrews is the Saints' fourth captain and will delegate his authority from his position at split end and free safety. Best and his staff are depending on McAndrews to be a possession-type receiver and to call the defensive formations.
"Fran is the quarterback of our defense," said Best. "He knows what we (the coaches) want to do and he communicates it well to the players.
"We'renot as big as we were last year but we still have decent size. We traded off size for quickness. We will have a lot more team speed this season."
. . . in brief
School mascot: Saints
School colors: Blue and white
Name of field/stadium: All home football games will be played at Anne Arundel Community College
Address: Duke of Gloucester Street, Annapolis, Md. 21401
Phone number: 263-3294
Principal: Sister Phyllis
Athletic director: Carmine Blades
School enrollment: 540
League/classification: Maryland Scholastic Association C Conference