* Atholton (3-7) -- Atholton, which tied for the county title years ago, then had its worst finish since 1981. The Raiders' main problem was an offense that produced 12 touchdowns. Coach Don Van Deusen has installed a run-and-shoot offense. The keys to making the offense work are QB Brian Van Deusen, SE Brian Gick and SE Brian Smith. After winning the starting job at midseason, Van Deusen completed 66 passes for 714 yards and 8 TDs. Gick caught 33 passes and Smith 17.
* Centennial (5-5) -- The Eagles improved under coach Ed Holshue last year but failed to beat a team with a winning record. Six starters return, and there is more speed than in years past. FB Brian Kujawa and RB Sean West combined for 1,400 yards rushing last year. Defense is where Centennial needs its greatest improvement. PK/P Brian Reid is the best specialist in the league.
* Glenelg (3-7) -- First-year coach Ed Ashwell, who left Wilde Lake after 10 years as an assistant coach, takes over a program that hasn't won a county title since 1985. Ashwell has introduced an entirely new system. "Every team in the county is ahead of us, but I'm happy with the way the kids are progressing," he said.
* Hammond (3-7) -- Hammond had its first losing season since 1982, and 9 starters return. Coach Joe Russo has the biggest team he has seen in 14 years at Hammond. The offensive and defensive lines average 247 pounds. Hammond won't have the speed of teams past, but Russo thinks the Bears can perfect a ball-control offense. Key linemen are Danny Boone, Brian Holmes, Jesse Pitt and Bryan Hunt.
* Howard (3-7) -- Coach John Quinn, who has only 4 returning starters, is looking for immediate help from a promising group of players from a junior varsity that has gone 12-3 the past 2 years. Seven of the first-year varsity players will start. "These kids are used to winning. This is the first time that I've had kids exposed to winning since I've been here," said Quinn, entering his sixth year. Three key newcomers are QB/LB Brad Stubbs, RB/LB Guy Smith and DB/RB Kirk Wise.
* Mount Hebron (5-5) -- The Vikings return only 6 starters, lack depth and are smaller than usual, but coach Steve Benninghove likes the quickness on this year's team. The quickness should make the Vikings a better defensive team, but there is inexperience in both lines. DT/OT Brian Machiran and OG Scott Wilhelm are key returning starters.
* Oakland Mills (10-2) -- The Scorpions, who came within a victory of the state Class 3A championship game last year, lost Howard County Player of the Year Korey Singleton (1,817 yards, 24 TDs) to graduation. They will probably have to rely more on a passing game, which makes newcomer QB Antoine Baker crucial to the offense. Baker threw 5 TDs in the team's first scrimmage. Three-year starters SE/S Gregg Washington and TE/LB Kelly Sykes will be the main targets. Washington caught 24 passes for 469 yards and 5 TDs last year. OG/LB Monte Spencer and OG/LB Justin Wethington return to anchor the offensive line.
* Wilde Lake (13-0) -- The Wildecats should be explosive on offense. Coach Doug DuVall has installed a run-and-shoot offense, which should showcase QB Phil White. In last year's run-oriented offense, White completed 25 passes for 707 yards and 9 TDs. He had 1 interception. Look for a strong season from RB Damon Hamlin, who rushed for 770 yards and 5 TDs. The offensive line will be anchored by veterans James Easterly and Tony Farace. The defense won't be as dominating as last year's unit -- which surrendered 29 points and recorded 6 shutouts -- but LB Brent Guyton was all-county.
Preseason top 15
3. Wilde Lake
4. Perry Hall
5. Severna Park
6. Old Mill
8. Oakland Mills
9. C. Milton Wright
10. Forest Park
11. Calvert Hall
15. North County
How the poll is conducted: The preseason poll was chosen by members of The Sun's prep sports staff. Beginning Sept. 10, the top 15 will be selected by members of The Sun's board of consulting coaches. The Sun's board of coaches for 1991 are: Obie Barnes, Forest Park; John Buchheister, Randallstown; Doug DuVall, Wilde Lake; Ken Johnson, Chesapeake-BC; Dave Rigot, Glen Burnie; Bart Rader, Northeast; Macon Tucker, Aberdeen; Mitch Tullai, St. Paul's; Augie Waibel, Poly; and Roger Wrenn, Patterson. The coaches vote each week, and the poll will appear each Tuesday morning. All teams from Baltimore City and Baltimore, Howard, Anne Arundel, Harford, Carroll and Queen Anne's counties are eligible to be ranked.