INDIVIDUAL STARS MAY be less brilliant, but overall team speed and talent is better. That's what many high school football coaches are saying this fall, after players such as Larry Washington and Raphael Wall have moved on to Division I college programs.
Few argue that Poly, 19-1 during the last two years, deserves the top preseason ranking. The Engineers are on track for another run at the MSA A Conference championship. Loyola, Calvert Hall and City will chase them. Forest Park and newcomer Lake Clifton could surprise.
The title picture elsewhere is not as clear. Severna Park, Old Mill, North County, Broadneck and Annapolis all are tough in Anne Arundel County's Class 4A division. Northeast is favored in the 3A/2A division. Wilde Lake and Oakland Mills will do battle for the Howard County championship, while Edgewood, Aberdeen and C. Milton Wright are the favorites in Harford County. Westminster will draw stiff competition from Linganore, Frederick and Thomas Johnson in the Central Maryland Conference.
Mervo gets the nod in the MSA B Conference, but Edmondson, Northern and Patterson will push the Mustangs. In the C Conference, defending tri-champions St. Paul's, St. Mary's and Severn should do battle again with Archbishop Curley in the hunt.
The Evening Sun Top 20 for 1991 follows with last year's records and rankings in parentheses.
1 Poly (9-1, No. 2)
* Coach Augie Waibel calls this year's squad one of the fastest he has ever coached. Backs Derrick Odoms and Omar Nixon return for a third season and linemen Steve Logan (6 feet 4, 215 pounds), Kinte Thompson (5-10, 175), Maurice Gaskins (6-2, 230), all seniors, and Tyrone Jones, a junior, gained experience last season. Andrew Pecora and Mike Forestner are battling for the quarterback post, split end Ian Smith will be their prime target and William Boyd will see plenty of duty at tailback. He started and scored against Salesianum last fall. Linemen Mark Hannah (6-0, 180) and Robert Ryan (6-4, 210) are steady seniors and sophomore Joseph Brown (6-0, 278) is up from the junior varsity. Waibel figures City and Loyola will give the Engineers their toughest games.
2 Severna Park (8-3, No. 10)
* With 26 players having graduated, coach Andy Borland remains optimistic for his Falcons. No wonder. John Jennings (5-7, 225), who rushed for 1,335 yards last fall, returns as does his backfield mate, Aaron Cree. Flanker Travis Koballa and tight end Robbie McCandless are experienced receivers and the defense returns six starters, including tackle Thad Turpin (6-2, 305). Reserve quarterback Tim Bowerman started two games last year, so he has been tested. Team speed is the main strength, but cohesive line play still is lacking, says Borland.
3 Old Mill (9-2, No. 6)
* Patriots coach Pete Regala had 131 players turn out for summer practice, including 20 veterans. Three-year center Austin Johnson (6-3, 215) anchors the offensive line for running backs Melvin Carter, Derric Johnson and Harold Peters. Converted wide receiver Tim Newby shifts to quarterback. His top wide receiver will be Rufus Johnson and All-County Ernie Longazel is back at tight end. All are seniors. Junior linebacker Brian Jones also may see duty at quarterback. Experience and leadership is the Patriots' chief asset, but Regala frets over injuries. "The competition [in Anne Arundel County] seems very balanced," says Regala. "It won't be easy, but it should definitely be a good race."
4 Wilde Lake (13-0, No. 4)
* The Wildecats of coach Doug DuVall drop to Class 1A this season after winning the state 2A championship last fall. Linebacker Brent Guyton is back to anchor the defense and quarterback Phil White returns for his third season. DuVall has installed the run-and-shoot offense to capitalize on White's passing, and tailback Damon Hamlin is a veteran slashing runner. Ira Crawley is an ideal split end at 6-5 and 190 pounds. Veteran linemen include James Easterly (6-5, 280), Tony Farace (6-0, 190), Blaize Dugan (6-3, 210) and Brandon Easterling (5-11, 190). All will play on offense and defense. DuVall says depth could be a problem. He expects Oakland Mills to be the Wildecats' main challenger.
5 North County (8-2, No. 19)
* Coach Chuck Markiewicz must replace his whole offensive line, but has the four leading receivers in Anne Arundel County back -- Randy Swain, Troy Ross, Damon Martin and John Bilheimer. Last year's backup, sophomore Reggie Moore, will quarterback the run-and-shoot offense, and he can keep defenses off-balance by running Anthony Walker, one of the county's best (4.3 seconds in the 40-yard --). Senior defensive back Brian Aguayo leads a young defense that looks for help from junior defensive end Eric Howard.
6 Randallstown (13-0, No. 1)