Programs on the rise

Once River Hill players hoisted the final state championship trophy of the
2008 football season, talk quickly shifted to next year's contenders.

Sure, Linganore tops the list with a slew of juniors from a state runner-up team. Programs such s Eleanor Roosevelt, Sherwood and Dunbar are always mentioned among the elite.

But today, we take a look at programs on the rise.

To define a program "on the rise" we are looking for programs with modest success in recent years that could turn a corner next year - al beit getting a win or making the playoffs. This is not a list of projected state champs or even playoff teams. We are looking for teams that are showing signs of being better in 2009.

Counting it down:

No. 5 Owings Mills

Why is Owings Mills, losers of 50 straight games, a "team on the rise?"

Simple - there's only one place to go! Next season FINALLY should be the year Owings Mills breaks into the win column for the first time since Week 10 of the 2003 season.

The Eagles dressed more than 40 varsity players in 2008 and almost quadrupled its scoring production over the 2007 season. Of more than was not hard to do considering the 2007 Eagles scored only 19 points.

Owings Mills pushed Maryland School for the Deaf before losing 34-20 and almost beat Lansdowne, losing 12-8. The team will return running back Abe Tadros, who was one of the team's top performers and leading scorers.

There will not be many wins on Owings Mills' record next year, but there should be at least one - which would mark a major improvement for this program.

No. 4 Bohemia Manor

In 2002, Bohemia Manor was the Class 1A state champion.

Starting in 2003, it took the program four years combined to reach the number of wins it posted during its 11-2 showing in 2002.

The Eagles have posted back-to-back 6-5 seasons in 2007 and 2008, but 2009 figures to be the program's best team since the state championship squad.

Bohemia Manor returns four first-team All-County performers, and all four play key positions: quarterback Madison Neddo, fullback Matt White, tight end Corey McDaniel and linebacker Conor Countryman.

The biggest challenge facing Bohemia Manor will be the fact Joppatowne, a perennial state tournament contender, remains Class 1A and will be in the same region as the Eagles. Therefore, don't expect to see Bohemia Manor in the state semifinals, but count on this team posting more than six wins in

No. 3 Northwest

Not long ago, Northwest was a Class 3A state champion and a Class 4A state runner-up.

However, the past two seasons matched the lowest two-year win total (11) and highest loss total (10) in the program's 10-year history.

The Jaguars might be ready to change their fortunes in 2009.

Northwest returns 11 starters including quarterback Jarrhett Butler, running back Hassan Dixon, lineman Ali Tolson and linebacker David Katembwe.

In addition, the new two-year schedule currently has dropping defending 4A state champ for Class 3A Bethesda-CC, which went 2-8 in 2008.

No. 2 McDonogh

This is "o" McDonogh of the MIAA A Conference - not "ou" McDonough from the SMAC.

After four straight three-loss seasons, the Eagles dipped to 6-4 in 2007 and 4-6 in 2008.

Top prospects Rudy Johnson (QB) and Curtis Holmes (WR/DB) and a host of returning starters provides ample reason to believe McDonogh will be in the MIAA A Conference chase in 2009.

This largely junior team in 2008 capped only its second sub-.500 season since 1995 with a victory over former Top 10 Gilman in the season finale.

Damico, already the program's all-time winningest coach, should go over the 100-win mark during the 2009 season. He has a coaching record of 95-46.

No. 1 Wise

OK, so how exactly does a state semifinalist qualify as a team on the rise?

Well, it's pretty easy - Wise barely qualified for the 2008 playoffs before making a stunning run to the semifinals. It marked the young program's first playoff appearance, and if any school is a sleeping giant in talent-rich Prince George's County, it's Wise.

Coach DaLawn Parrish, the first former Consensus All-State player to return and coach a team to the state semifinals, expects 33 returners from this year's 44-player roster, including defensive back Titus Till (already offered by Maryland) and lineman Anthony McDaniel (a first-team all-county selection). In addition, Wise's leading tackler (Deontre Johnson) and team-leader in interceptions (Andre Mackell) return.

Simply put, Wise will go from the status of playoff fringe team in 2008 to Class 4A South favorite next season.

Sheldon Shealer covers high school sports for ESPNRISE.com