Here are the top 10 questions we expect the 2013 high school football season to answer:
1. Can Montgomery County break its state-title drought? No Montgomery County team has won a championship since 2008, when Sherwood claimed the Class 4A title. Only once before, 1982 and 1983, had the county gone even two consecutive years without a championship.
2. Will Quince Orchard break through its runner-up ceiling? Quince Orchard has narrowly lost the last two 4A state championships, and again, the Cougars appear poised to advance deep into the playoffs. Add wide receiver/running back Kevin Joppy and defensive lineman transferring in, and Quince Orchard is a favorite to win its third state title.
3. Is the county’s best team a public or private school? Usually, Good Counsel holds the title of the county’s, if not the state’s, top team. But hit heavily by graduation, Good Counsel showed vulnerability in an opening-week loss to Gilman. Quince Orchard might have enough talent to outrank Good Counsel’s recruits. Private Bullis is a wildcard that could be ready to assume the crown if Good Counsel and Quince Orchard falter.
4. What level has Bullis reached? Pat Cilento, in his fourth season at the helm, continues to lift Bullis into the upper echelon of the area’s football scene. Prior to hiring Cilento, Bullis went 4-26 in its previous seasons. This season, Bullis is ranked in top five of The Washington Post rankings.
5. Will Damascus maintain its playoff streak? Damascus has made the playoffs the last 15 years, the longest streak ever. However, competing in a deep 3A West and having several question marks could leave the Swarmin’ Hornets on the outside looking in. Last season, two 7-3 teams and an 8-2 team missed the playoffs in the region. This year, the region could be just as deep, though perhaps not quite so top heavy.
6. Will Damascus or Seneca Valley — or any other Montgomery County team — win the 3A West? Damascus and Seneca Valley held the top two seeds in the 3A West the past two years, only to see a Frederick County team win the region title. A region championship here would be a point of pride for Montgomery County.
7. Which teams will join Quince Orchard in the 4A West playoffs? Quince Orchard seems like a playoff lock. Churchill and Northwest appear to have good chances, too. Bethesda-Chevy Chase, Gaithersburg, Wootton, Wittman and Richard Montgomery are also part of a deep field of contenders.
8. Can Gaithersburg turn around? In the past five years, five Montgomery County teams — Quince Orchard, Damascus, Seneca Valley, Sherwood and Gaithersburg — have won a region title. In that same span, those five teams have combined for two losing seasons: Gaitherburg’s 5-6 2011 and Gaithersburg’s 3-7 2012. With Northwestern recruit Solomon Vault at running back, the county’s most bipolar team could again stand with the Cadillac programs of the area.
9. How will a new coach affect teams already on the rise? Sherwood (6-4 to 9-3), Bethesda-Chevy Chase (6-5 to 7-4), Richard Montgomery (5-5 to 6-4) and Montgomery Blair (0-10 to 2-8) all improved their records from 2011 to 2012. All also hired new coaches following last season. Chris Grier, Josh Singer, Joshua Klotz and Andrew Fields are wrinkles to already-intriguing programs.
10. Are any coaches still establishing their programs ready to break through? Several coaches entering their second or third season at the helm, to varying degrees, are still trying to make their mark. Mike Neubeiser (5-5 and 8-4 at Northwest) has won a playoff game, but not a region. William Gant (4-6 and 7-4 at Poolesville) has reached the playoffs, but not won a postseason game. Kevin Watson (4-6 and 7-3 at Watkins Mill) and Jermaine Howell (4-6 and 6-4 at Einstein) have a winning season, but not a playoff berth. Tyree Spinner (4-6 at Wootton), Ernie Williams (4-6 at Wheaton), Adam Bahr (4-6 at Springbrook), Kevin Bernot (1-9 at Magruder), Seth Kenton (1-9 at Rockville) and Carlos Smith (3-7 and 3-7 at Kennedy) don’t have a winning season under their belts. All will attempt to change that in 2013.