For the past decade, the Carroll County boys basketball championship trophy has been in one of two places -- Westminster or South Carroll.
The last team other than those two to win the county title was Pete Litchka's North Carroll Panthers in the 1984-85 season. Elvin Keeney, a 6-foot-8 center, was the Panthers standout who led the team to the title and then a trip to Cole Field House and the state semifinals.
Could the crown be finding a new home this season?
Westminster and South Carroll each have only two regulars back from last season, while North Carroll and Liberty appear to have the talent to end the streak. Francis Scott Key, which competes in the Monocacy Valley Athletic League, doesn't play enough county games to contend for the title.
"I don't think any one team is going to dominate," said North Carroll coach Troy Warehime. "The county is up for grabs."
That seems to be the consensus.
South Carroll senior center Matt McGrane came out of nowhere to take control last season, averaging 18.4 points and 8.8 rebounds a game to lead the Cavaliers to a 6-0 county record.
All five players who earned first-team, all-county honors last year were seniors, leaving the question: Who will step up this season?
Every team seems to have a candidate or two.
North Carroll has senior Bruce Wright returning after missing last season due to an eligibility ruling. As a sophomore he was a first-team choice after averaging 15 points and six rebounds a game. The 6-1 guard/forward can hurt tams with a sound all-around game. The Panthers also have 6-3 senior Jason Gelb, who's becoming a dominating figure inside. He was one of two juniors to be selected to the second team last season after
averaging 14 points and eight boards a game.
The other all-county second-teamer is Mike Crawmer at Key. After averaging 13 points a game last season on a team with a lot of senior scoring, he becomes the go-to player this season.
Liberty has a lot of balance, led by Tyrone Ellis and James Lee, both honorable mentions last year.
Westminster has the biggest player in 6-6 center Matt Laczkowski. The senior center has improved his inside game and already had a soft outside touch.
South Carroll coach Jim Carnes would like to see Dan Wroten pick up where McGrane left off last season. The 6-3 senior forward has looked good in practice and scrimmages.
Liberty coach Scott Kohr doesn't plan to change anything even though the automatic playoff berth now is in effect.
"It takes the pressure off. If you lose a game early you probably shouldn't have, you don't get shot in the foot," he said. "It may take away the edge a little in the regular season."
Warehime likes the idea of every team getting the opportunity to play in the playoffs, but would like to see a different way of seeding the teams other than the current blind draw.
"You don't have to cram everything in all at once and you want to build toward playing your best ball in February," he said. "That's not to say the regular season isn't meaningful."
Look for the Class 2A schools to once again dominate Francis Scott Key's Monocacy Valley Athletic League. Middletown, Walkersville, North Hagerstown and defending champ South Hagerstown are the teams to beat in the 10-team league. Williamsport, a 1A school like Key, could be the surprise team.
As for the Central Maryland Conference, Thomas Johnson looks to be the overwhelming choice with the other Frederick County teams -- Linganore and Frederick -- appearing to be a notch better than the four Carroll representatives.
Linganore could be the team to knock off Thomas Johnson. Going into the weekend, the Lancers have had only seven players practicing because the football team reached the Class 2A state championship on Saturday.
Carroll Christian fourth-year coach Randy Peterson entered the season 11 wins shy of reaching the 250 mark for his career. Before coming to Carroll Christian in 1992, Peterson posted 192 wins in 11 years of coaching in Illinois, Tennessee and Michigan.
In his first season, he led his team to a 15-11 mark after a 5-18 season the year before. Patterson said Broadfording will be the team to beat in the Potomac Christian Athletic Conference.
Team by team outlook
Carroll Christian Patriots
1994 record: 16-11. Coach: Randy Peterson (fourth year).
Top players: Casey Davis, 5-9, Jr., G; Steve Rill, 5-10, Sr., G; Levi Haines, 6-1, Sr., C/F; Chris Darling, 5-10, Sr., G; Josh Belcher, 5-9, Jr., G; Jadon Good, 6-1, So. F; John Brunson, 6-1, So. F/G; Sam Lieb, 6-2, So. F/C; Matt Runkle, 6-1, So. C.