As they do every two years, Anne Arundel County athletic directors have altered their football schedules.
Among other games, each of the county's three Class 3A teams will now play each other, and the only 2A school, Southern, will play the three 3A teams.
Those four schools - Annapolis, Northeast and Severna Park are the other three - each will have an open date to fill for the new two-year cycle, 2003-04.
The eight 4A schools will play each other and three of the 3A-2A schools for their 10 games.
Casualties of the new schedules are the Annapolis-Old Mill game and the playing of the county's oldest rivalry, Annapolis-Severna Park, in the final week.
Annapolis has a record six straight playoff appearances, and Old Mill has qualified four consecutive years and taken the past three meetings from Annapolis. They will not face each other in the regular season the next two years.
For the third time since 1999, the 10th week, usually reserved for rivalry games, has changed for some schools, including Annapolis-Severna Park, a 43-year old rivalry.
After playing in the final week for 39 straight years, Annapolis and Severna Park did not do so in 1999 and 2000, though they did the past two seasons.
For the next two years, the Panthers and Falcons will meet in the third week. As for the last week, Annapolis will play Southern and Severna Park will play Broadneck.
The other 10th-game matchups for 2003-04 are: Arundel-South River, Chesapeake-Northeast, Glen Burnie-Old Mill and Meade-North County.
Not as bad as it looks
The county football teams didn't do anything for their reputations by going 0-for 4 in the playoffs.
But it's important to note that two of the teams that eliminated Anne Arundel teams won state championships. And three of the four losses were to teams from Montgomery County, where football is king.
Seneca Valley routed No. 7 Annapolis, 35-13, in the 3A quarterfinals. The Screamin' Eagles from Montgomery County were the eighth seed and went on to add to their Maryland record for state titles by recording No. 12 over Linganore, 14-7.
In 2A, fifth-seeded Hereford of Baltimore County, The Sun's No. 2 team, invaded No. 10 and fourth-seeded Southern and escaped with a 14-7 victory in the quarterfinals.
The Bulls then finished 13-0 for a second straight season by humbling No. 4 Edmondson, 35-8, in the semifinals and defeating Middletown, 20-9, in the 2A state final.
The other two Anne Arundel schools eliminated in the first round were 4A schools knocked out by Montgomery County teams: No. 5 Broadneck lost to Damascus, 25-7, and No. 9 Old Mill fell to Gaithersburg, 35-13.
"I think the biggest factor why Montgomery County teams win more state titles than we do is that they can have more assistant coaches," said Annapolis coach Roy Brown, pointing to the advantages of bigger staffs in scouting, preparation and more individual attention.
"They have staffs as big as college and NFL teams because they have no limit on how many they can have. We do."
Anne Arundel football staffs are limited to five paid coaches and two volunteers, while Montgomery and other counties can have nine or 10 assistants.
"They have a budget for assistants and can split it up any way they want," Brown said. "We are not allowed to do that. I would personally coach for nothing and use my salary to bring in and pay qualified coaches. But our county doesn't want one school to have something over another school because that would not be politically correct."
Anne Arundel teams have won only three state football titles. Arundel won in 1975, Annapolis in 1978 and North County in 1994.
Montgomery County teams have won 37 state titles.
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