Every even-numbered year since Don Shea became Oakland Mills coach in 1986 the Scorpions have won a state championship.
Shea hopes that pattern holds up again this season. His team rates as the preseason county favorite.
"Oakland Mills is the best team on paper to win the county," Centennial coach Bill Stara said. "No one should be able to match up with them."
The remaining county squads all figure to be highly competitive among one another.
Centennial, Atholton and Howard in Class 3A, Glenelg, Hammond and Oakland Mills and Mount Hebron in Class 2A, and Wilde Lake in Class 1A, all hope to make the playoffs.
Last year the county produced two state champions, Centennial in 3A and Wilde Lake in 1A.
Although there are not as many marquee-type players this year, county teams again expect to do well in the playoffs. The county has won at least one state title every year since 1979, with the exception of 1983.
The teams will be hampered in that effort by a late start in practice. The school system did not allow the teams to start practice on Aug. 15 for the first time in the soccer program's 20-year history. Practice didn't begin until Aug. 25.
And most coaches think the late start will cause more injuries this year, since players will try to do too much too soon with too little time for proper conditioning. Most surrounding counties, including Anne Arundel and Carroll, did begin practice Aug. 15.
Memories of what could have been last season may motivate the 12 Raider lettermen, especially the nine returning seniors.
Atholton lost the regional championship game to Centennial in a shootout. Centennial went on to a state title.
The Raiders finished third in the league with a 4-1-2 record, losing only to Wilde Lake, while tying Howard and Centennial.
Coach Reg Hahne expected to have trouble scoring this year, after graduating offensive top guns Tony Desmond (15 goals, 10 assists) and David Kelley (12 g, 10 a).
But Derek Phillips, a senior transfer from Virginia, and son of soccer guru Lincoln Phillips, gives the Raiders a genuine scoring star once again.
Phillips has speed, skills and athleticism. He distributes well and is strong in the air.
"He's scholarship material," Hahne said.
Joining Phillips up top is steady senior Eric Black. The defense appears strong with Olympic Development Program player Alex Denno and quick Brian Yankle, both seniors. Senior Jeff May will lead the midfield.
The Eagles celebrated a state title and undefeated (14-0-2) season a year ago, but the graduation of three first-team All-Metro players will make it tough for the Eagles to repeat.
Coach Bill Stara has 15 lettermen back but only two of them, striker Rehan Gill and fullback Werner Kreuger, started the entire season. Injuries plagued Centennial last year.
Centennial outscored opponents, 48-13, but without Josh Baer (18g, 10a) and Tod Downen (11g, 9a) the Eagles may have to rely more on their defense.
First-team all-county goalie Brock Yetso, a sophomore, is a member of the national under-17 ODP pool, but he has a knee injury and may not play at all this season. Centennial has highly capable back-ups in junior Dan Christine and freshman Luke Timmons.
Joining Kreuger on defense will be Chris Leinenweber, Warren Grace and Randy Sleight. Chris Arcella and John Campbell are a pair of talented senior midfielders.
Sophomore state ODP players, Doug Ulman at midfield and Chris Dramby at forward look good. Freshman Bryan West is a possible starter at forward.
"We'll have to avoid injuries and have some Lady Luck to repeat as state champs," Stara said.
Centennial has the winningest record among county teams over the past three years, 36-4-4.
What promises to be the best team in school history hopes to post Glenelg's first winning record.
Led by regional ODP keeper Russell Payne, Glenelg returns 13 lettermen, 12 of them seniors.
They also picked up a former California ODP player, Tom Hobbs, a junior fullback.
"We'll have a more balanced attack, more experience and more depth," coach John Bouman said. "I'll be able to go to the bench more this year."
Glenelg graduated its leading scorer, Matt Drummand, but has five speedy forwards to pick up the slack, including seniors Dan Gaertner, Renard Brown, Chris Vaccari and Ian Timourin, and junior Mike Johnson who led the junior varsity with 11 goals.
Seniors Keever Frye and Jamie Brinker form a tough trio with Hobbs on the defense.
The Gladiators hope to stay away from overtime this season. Last year Glenelg posted a 5-6-1 record, and was 1-4-1 in overtime games.
Glenelg was one of only two teams to beat state Class 1A champion Wilde Lake last year.
The margin between being competitive and winning is slim as far the Bears are concerned.