After years in the wilderness in the late stages of the football state playoffs, Bay Rivers District football got a little spoiled.
Bruton came within a whisker of winning the 2009 Division 3 state final. Poquoson succeeded in 2010 where Bruton had failed, making the big plays down the stretch to edge Richlands for the Division 3 state championship.
So 2011 proved to be a glass of cold water, as James Monroe easily dispatched the district's top two teams – Lafayette and York – en route to the D-3 regional title, before Division 4 state champ Briar Woods rolled over Region I champion Grafton in the state semifinals.
District state title hopes probably rest again on Grafton overcoming Briar Woods, but four or five others are likely to join the Clippers in the playoffs.
Strengths: Solid defense and dynamic skill players with FCS offers: DB/RB Marcus Spearman and WR/DB Jesse Santiago.
Weaknesses: Minus all-state DE Dylan Stallings, a dominant defender must emerge.
Key stretch: Opener on the road at state power Powhatan, followed by a home game against nemesis Poquoson.
Best-Case Scenario: Enough improvement to give Briar Woods a battle in state semis.
Worst-Case Scenario: Anything less than a regional championship repeat will be considered a missed opportunity.
Strengths: Experience defense and perennially strong offense line.
Weaknesses: Lost six players who occupied eight spots on All-Region I team.
Key stretch: Beating York and Poquoson to end the regular season would clinch a nice playoff seed.
Best-Case Scenario: Berth in Region I Division 3 final and more respectable showing against James Monroe.
Worst-Case Scenario: Lack of firepower prevents Rams from becoming district/regional contender.
Strengths: Tough and talented JMU commit DE/OL Cody Hendrickson and game-breaking WR/DB Tywaun Lewis.
Weaknesses: Offensive line depth and inexperience.
Key stretch: The Falcons hope to enter games with Lafayette (Oct. 25) and Grafton (Nov. 2) with a chance to win the district title.
Best-Case Scenario: Offensive line stays healthy, young players mature quickly and Falcons contend for district/regional titles.
Worst-Case Scenario: None of the above.
Strengths: Explosive skill tandem of Reggie Lipscomb-Devonte Dedmon, and Virginai Tech commit OL/DL Parker Osterloh.
Weaknesses: New offensive line and rush defense that allowed 200-plus yards routinely.
Key stretch: Lions open season with 2011 playoff teams Park View, York and Poquoson.
Best-Case Scenario: District title contention and a run at Grafton for the Region I Division 4 crown.
Worst-Case Scenario: Porous defense results in .500 season and early playoff exit.
ON THE BUBBLE
Strengths: Panthers always possess solid skill players and go-getters willing to hit for Coach Tracy Harrod.
Weaknesses: Rebuilding on both lines.
Key stretch: Win two of three against Lafayette (Sept. 14), Grafton (Sept. 21) and Warhill (Sept. 28) the Panthers clearly are back.
Best-Case Scenario: At least six wins and a return to serious contention in the Region I Division 3 playoffs.
Worst-Case Scenario: Another .500 season.
Strengths: RB tandem Stas Szczepanski and Daivon Turner loaded with potential, and Alex Peck is as good as either if healthy.
Weaknesses: Inconsistency – clubbing Warhill 50-33 one week then losing to the Lions the next – has plagued the program for years.
Key stretch: Aug. 31 opener with Park View will tell a lot.
Best-Case Scenario: Seven regular season wins and a serious Region I Division 4 playoff run.
Worst-Case Scenario: A first-round playoff exit or no playoff berth at all.
Strengths: Junior DE/RB Grayson Boyce is a rugged D-I prospect and there are plenty of talented, if young, hard-htters.
Weaknesses: More inexperience in the trenches and a QB than in many years.
Key stretch: Reloading or rebuilding. Sept. 14 Warhill and Sept. 21 Tabb games will tell.
Best-Case Scenario: Young talent matures quickly, grinds out six wins and extends playoff streak to six seasons.
Worst-Case Scenario: Inexperienced team falls below .500, misses playoffs.
Strengths: QB Dan Schiele might have the best arm in the district.
Weaknesses: Defense gave up 36 or more points in five games in 2011.
Key stretch: The district opener with Jamestown (Sept. 7) is perfect barometer of where the Tigers stand.
Best-Case Scenario: Tigers flirt with .500 and a playoff berth.
Worst-Case Scenario: 2011 again.
Strengths: Experience on the offensive line and several capable skill players.
Weaknesses: Defense that allowed 32.5 points and 268 yards per game must get better.
Key stretch: If the Trojans have playoff potential, their regular season closers against Poquoson, Smithfield and Bruton are key.
Best-Case Scenario: Ending streak of seven straight losing seasons.
Worst-Case Scenario: Another one- or two-win season.
Strengths: LB/RB Chuck Sharon is role model with his toughness, talent and leadership.
Weaknesses: Defense, particularly poor tackling, was fatal last season for Packers, who gave up 30 points or more in six losses.
Key stretch: The Bruton game, Sept. 7 at home, is always a tell for the Packers.
Best-Case Scenario: .500 record and playoff contention would be a nice step forward.
Worst-Case Scenario: Anything like the 1-9 nightmare of a year ago.