Annapolis Fighting Panthers
1997 record: 9-2
Coach: Roy Brown (career: 59-35)
Top players: Kyron Belt, Sr., QB-S; Henry Downs, Sr., G-LB; Dewayne Hunt, Sr., RB-LB; Rashad Wills, Sr. T-DT; Jack Brooks, Sr., TE-DE; Eric Toney, Sr., G- LB; Charles Carter, Sr., T-DT.
Outlook: Coming off a banner playoff season, which included county and region titles earning Brown Coach of the Year honors, the Panthers have many question marks. Annapolis lost seven first team All-County players to graduation, including four on the offensive line. "That's where we win at Annapolis, and we're not very deep," says Brown. "We are going to have to rely on 10 to 12 sophomores." Brown says the Panthers have "average size but good team speed, including our linemen." The coach will rely on a host of two-way players led by Belt, Hunt, Downs and Wills. With no returning quarterback, Brown had "no choice but to move two-year RB Belt there. He's a good athlete and has an adequate arm." Hunt should emerge as the No. 1 back and will anchor the secondary with Belt. Downs missed last season with a knee injury but is expected to be a standout, along with Wills, who will be a force on the defensive front. A winning season but no playoffs this time for the Panthers, who are a year away.
Archbishop Spalding Cavaliers
1997 record: 6-4
Coach: John Moscato (second season)
Top players: Sam Creveling, Sr., WR-DB-PT); James Bowen, Sr., RB-DB; Darren Johnson, Jr., RB-LB; Chris Petrocelli, Sr., WR-DB; Joe O'Conner, Jr., T-DT; Greg Pierce, Jr., TE-DL; Sean Emmerick, Jr. QB-LB.
Outlook: After only the second winning season since the football program began in 1984, Moscato returns with high hopes. "It's no longer a guessing game between the coaches and players. We know what to expect," said Moscato, a former youth football coach in Baltimore County whose dad John Sr. is one of his assistants. "We are enormously faster as a team." Creveling (5-10, 165), a second-team All-County punter with his 36.9-yard average, led Spalding in rushing (525 yards) and scoring (seven touchdowns) last season but has been moved to WR. Bowen, last year's top WR (19 catches, 273 yards), will be a running back this season. Bowen (6-0, 180) and Johnson (6-3, 180) give the Cavs speed. JV grad Emmerick (6-2, 185) is at QB. Moscato has beef up front defensively with O'Conner (6-5, 275), Pierce (6-0, 250) and junior David Tekippe (5-11,230). Seven wins and a run at the MIAA B Conference title? "Absolutely," said Moscato.
1997 record: 5-5
Coach: Bill Zucco (career: 39-23)
Top players: Mike Parker, Sr., TE-DT; Domenic Greco, Sr., RB-DB; Jeff Blachly, Sr., G-LB; Matt Malloy, Sr., G-LB; Greg Wojtech, Sr., RB-LB; Adam Adler, Sr., FB-LB; Jason Carter, Sr., DB-QB; Chris Lundborg, Sr., DB-QB; Romaine Devaul, Sr., DB; Brian Plummer, Sr., DB; Paul D'Imperio, So., QB.
Outlook: A solid senior nucleus (22 returnees) led by All-County DE/TE Parker makes the Cats a Class 4A playoff contender. Three second-team All-County picks in Greco (5-11,175) Blachly (6-0, 210) and Malloy (5-11, 175) will help Parker, who will be an offensive threat at TE, anchor what should be an outstanding defense. Greco, a three-year starter, was the Cats' leading rusher/scorer last fall with 900 yards and 10 touchdowns. D'Imperio (5-11, 180) was thrown to the wolves as a freshman QB and responded by passing for nearly 635 yards and five touchdowns in the last five games. "Right now, he and Carter are battling for the position [QB]," said Zucco, who has been involved in the Wildcats football program since 1968, the last seven as coach. Zucco says FB-LB Adler, a transfer from Minnesota, is "going to be outstanding both ways." Arundel is expected to be the county Class 4A team to beat -- 8-2 or 9-1.
1997 record: 9-2
Coach: Jeff Herrick (career: 46-44)
Top players: Lehrman Dotson, Sr., WR; Martel Threadgill, Sr., RB; Fred Davis, Sr., slot; LaRon Colbert, Jr., slot; Dorian Watkins, Sr., DB; David Lazzari, Sr., T-DT; Jeff Logan, Sr., DE; John Cifolilli, Sr., DT; Ryan Eslin, Jr., QB.
Outlook: Having made the playoffs for the first time last fall, the Bruins are looking for an encore. Dotson, the county's only All-Metro underclassman last year, and All-County RB Threadgill pace seven, three-year starters. Dotson (6-1, 165) led the county in touchdowns caught (14, school record) and was second in catches (32), yards (616) and average yards (19.3). Threadgill (5-9, 170) became the school's first 1,000-yard rusher with 1,050. Dotson and Threadgill, plus wide receivers Davis and Colbert, equal potency. The pressure is on junior Eslin (6-2, 185) to deliver the way All-County QB Jonas Weatherbie, now at Kansas, did in setting school records for passing TDs (20) and fewest interceptions (two). "Ryan has a strong arm and needs to learn how to read," said Herrick, who runs a Navy-type offense. The Bruins also are looking for a new kicking game. Even so, expect the Bruins to go 7-3 or 8-2 and return to the Class 3A playoffs.