Steve Harward finished talking about the outlook for his C. Milton Wright football team this fall, paused and added, "And we're going to get picked third [in the Harford County League], right?"
This is a team that has not lost a regular-season game in its past 33 and returns Jason Tharpe, the county's top scorer and a 1,000-yard rusher, and Mike Sprouse, an outstanding two-way lineman.
Some of the key players who helped carry the Mustangs to the state semifinals in Class 3A and an area ranking as high as No. 2 last year have graduated, but there is still plenty of overall talent and versatility among a large group of holdovers to keep the county winning streak alive and earn a return trip to the playoffs.
Although there may be an upset somewhere along the line, it is more reasonable to assume the other eight Harford County teams will take turns beating each other. While the gap separating them appears closer than in recent years, the others are still a notch or two below C. M. Wright.
There are three new coaches in Harford County this year -- Bruce Riley at Bel Air, Steve Reilly at Aberdeen and John Kling at Joppatowne -- and it is likely they will meet with varying degrees of success.
Riley, coach of the Bobcats' junior varsity the past five seasons, producing 10-0 and 8-2 records the past two, takes over the varsity from Gene Blizzard.
From 0-10 two years ago, Bel Air won two games last season and seems ready to take a big step forward. There is a large squad, with a lot of experience and a solid group from last year's junior varsity.
At Aberdeen, Reilly, who enjoyed success at Edgewood before leaving last year to take a job at the new Westlake High School in Waldorf, replaces Macon Turner, who resigned to become one of the school's assistant principals.
The Eagles have a strong group of holdovers from a team that went 5-5 last year, and at least one experienced newcomer. Senior Nick Johnson, who scored nine touchdowns and ran for 715 yards in seven games for Fallston, transferred to Aberdeen last spring.
At Joppatowne, Kling came in from Depew, N.Y., last month after Karlis Larson chose to take a coaching job at his old high school in Ohio. Not only did the coach leave, but three-fourths of last year's starting backfield -- all underclassmen -- did not return.
Running back Rodney Briscoe transferred to Edgewood, and quarterback Darnell Everett and running back Chad Gary, a 1,000-yard rusher, did not try out.
Riley has the advantage of inheriting players he had coached and who are familiar with the system.
Reilly and Kling, however, are faced with the problems that come with installing different offenses and defenses and accompanying terminology. In addition, they have to cope with new surroundings and getting the players to respond to what they are trying to do.
Overall, a new cast of stars is in Harford County this season, as only a half-dozen All-County players return -- and one was a punter. That should make it an interesting, competitive season.