By Jon Buzby
Quince Orchard High School finished the 2007 season with the state’s No. 2 ranking by MaxPreps.com. The Cougars ran through and over the competition, compiling a 14-0 record culminating in a 36-30 victory over Arundel – sparked by a 29-point fourth quarter – in the Class 4A state championship.
Following such a successful 2007 campaign – which included six wins over Maryland top 25 teams – their opponents can only hope the 2008 season is a rebuilding one.
No such luck. Quince Orchard – 34-4 during the past three years – should begin the 2008 season right where they left off. The Cougars return 13 starters, including four future Division I players, with one goal in mind: Becoming the first school to capture back-to-back state championships in the Class 4A division since Seneca Valley (1997-1998).
Senior Travis Hawkins will lead the Cougar offense while seeing playing time at running back, quarterback and receiver. Hawkins has already received numerous scholarship offers, most notably from Florida and this preseason’s No. 1 ranked team, Georgia.
The Cougar defensive line is stacked with Division I prospects. Jason Ankrah, Cody Magill and Terrence Stephens (All-State selection in ’07) have all received scholarship offers and will anchor a strong defense which gave up just 146 points last season.
The main ingredient missing from Quince Orchard’s state championship run in 2007 is offensive coordinator Eric Wallich. Wallich (more on him in a moment) is the new head coach at Damascus, which should raise the rivalry to a new level when the two schools meet on Sept. 19.
Damascus Welcomes a New Coach
The 2007 season saw Damascus win its third Class 3A state title in the past five seasons. The 13-1 Hornets’ lone loss was to Class 4A state champion Quince Orchard.
The aforementioned Wallich has huge shoes to fill as he enters his first season at the helm for the Hornets. With just two previous years of head coaching experience on his resume (9-11), Wallich hopes to live up to the expectations set by his predecessor, Dan Makosy, who led the Hornets to a 102-20 record and three state championships during his 10 years building the Hornet football program into a powerhouse.
A year ago at Quince Orchard, Wallich’s offense racked up 471 points en route to the state championship. Wallich is a 1990 graduate of Damascus.
Wallich’s offensive coaching experience will certainly come in handy as the biggest hole to fill from last year’s roster will be at the quarterback position. Three-year starter Kyle Frazier is gone but could be replaced by his brother, sophomore Connor Frazier. Junior Drew Kinuske will compete with Frazier for the starting job.
Hornet fans can only hope the transition at each key position, coach and quarterback, is a smooth one.
River Hill Building Championship Tradition in 2A
River Hill has strung together five straight Howard County championships, capped off with an undefeated run (14-0) to the Class 2A state championship in 2007.
The Hawks’ 2007 campaign included 11 shutouts (tied state record) while giving up only 21 points the entire season. River Hill was almost as dominant offensively, racking up 551 points.
Coach Brian Van Deusen’s team returns four players who have started since their freshmen year: Wake Forest-bound Michael Campanaro, Leron Eaddy (114 tackles at linebacker), Sean Hull, and Malek Redd (2 TDs in title game).
Campanaro, an All-State selection in 2007, returns for his senior season after rushing for 1,820 yards and scoring 32 touchdowns last year. He will be joined by Redd in the Hawks’ backfield to form one of the state’s top one-two offensive punches.
Defensively, River Hill will have to replace two-time All-State linebacker Zach Martin. Van Deusen expects seniors Patrick McCleaf and O.B. Ilupeju to join Eaddy in the Hawks’ defensive backfield.
Expect the Hawks to run the table against their Howard County opponents. Their only obstacle might be Wilde Lake, which returns the majority of its starters from last year’s 10-3 season, with two of those losses coming against eventual state champions (River Hill and Damascus).
Class 1A finds 2007 Storybook Season Hard to Top
Perhaps the best story of the 2007 season came from the Class 1A ranks. The Poets from Dunbar overcame the sudden death of head coach Ben Eaton just two weeks prior to the start of their 2007 campaign and capped off a perfect season (14-0) with a 58-34 win over Allegheny in the state championship game.
Allegheny also entered the title game undefeated (13-0) with high hopes of mailing a “We are State Champions” postcard to head coach Tom Preaskorn, who took a leave of absence to serve in Iraq.
With a championship story line like that, clearly there was no loser in last year’s title game, just one winner, as the Poets captured their fifth state championship overall and second in as many seasons.
Head coach Lawrence Smith welcomes back 12 starters as he enters his second season at the helm for the Poets. Senior RB/DB Tavon Austin (2,553 yards and 32 TDs), the state offensive player of the year and a much-sought-after Division I recruit, scored a record 196 points in four playoff games.
When they aren’t handing the ball off to Austin, the Poets will look for seniors Jonathan Perry and Sean Farr to continue hooking up successfully through the air. Perry threw for 2,290 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2007, with Farr being on the receiving end of over half of those yards (1,408) and nearly all of the touchdowns (18).
Defensively, senior Horace Miller returns to anchor a strong defense following a season in which he recorded a team-high 17 sacks. Senior Tevin Brown’s 130 tackles were a team high and Gary Onuekwusi returns for his senior season following a junior year during which he contributed 128 tackles.
Dunbar’s first test in its quest for another undefeated season will come early when it squares off against 3A/2A Gwynn Park on Sept. 6.
Jon Buzby is the Maryland correspondent for MaxPreps.com. Reach him at JonBuzby@hotmail.com