The decade of the 1990s opened in style for the state's four Division III football programs last fall, and more individual and team successes are predicted for this season. A year ago, Western Maryland ended a string of eight non-winning seasons with a record of 6-3-1, and Johns Hopkins ended a streak of four straight losing seasons, going 5-4-1.
Running backs Eric Frees of Western Maryland and Rory McTigue of Frostburg State, each of whom received national recognition last year, return for senior years. Frees carried 295 times for 1,594 yards and 11 touchdowns, and McTigue ran for 914 yards and 19 touchdowns.
A look at the Division II-III teams:
* JOHNS HOPKINS: The offense is solid with nine returning starters, led by back Paul Ferreri (1,059 yards running and receiving) and quarterbacks John Guglielmo and Scott Cade. There are four holdovers, but little depth, on the line. Defensively, the linebackers and backs are strong, led by tackle leaders Stu Markley and Ed Lineen, and safety Brian Hepting. The Blue Jays scrimmaged Salisbury State earlier this week and coach Jim Margraff said, "We did enough good things to feel positive about what we are doing, but there were enough mistakes to show there is still work to do."
* FROSTBURG STATE: Six offensive starters return, including three backs who were instrumental in helping the Bobcats go 9-1 before losing in the Eastern College Athletic Conference-South championship game last year.
McTigue, ECAC-South Division III player of the year last season, will be joined by junior halfback J.R. Bosley and junior quarterback Mike Jones, last year's total offense leader with a per-game average of 120 yards.
"Our strength is in the the abilities and experience of our backs and receivers, but the line needs to develop quickly," coach Dennis Riccio said. Only two starters return on defense.
* SALISBURY STATE: Improvement is the key word, as the team comes off a 1-8 season. Coach Joe Rotellini says, "We are clearly much further along than we were last year. It is a definite strength to have so many returning players [41, with 18 having starting experience]. They understand the system and what's expected of them."
Offensively, last year's leading rusher, Jason Barton (365 yards, 4.3 average, 4 touchdowns) is one of five experienced backs returning. Other veterans include 6-4, 245-pound tight end Scott Cook, and Mark Craemer, a three-year starter at tackle.
* WESTERN MARYLAND: Coming off a winning season -- a far cry from the the teams that won a total of seven games from 1984-89 -- coach Dale Sprague will try to build on that success. Frees (5-8, 185), already 20th in NCAA Division III career rushing with 3,736 yards, is the offensive leader, and is complemented by senior wide receiver Andy Steckel, with career totals of 1,472 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns.
The newest of the newcomers could turn out to be the best surprise, as Paul McCord, a 6-5, 215-pound quarterback, has just transferred from the University of Delaware.
* BOWIE STATE: Three preseason All-Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association selections are expected to be the leaders as the Division II Bulldogs try to regain their 7-3-1 form of two years ago after slipping to 3-6 last season. Senior running back Butch Wilson (5-10, 220) averaged 80 yards a game, and scored five touchdowns; junior linebacker Ed Gregory (6-2, 235) led the team in tackles, 104, and added two interceptions and two fumble recoveries; and senior kicking specialist Mark Fitzpatrick returns the scoring leader with 19-of-21 extra points and 7-of-10 field goals.