In predicted order of finish
COACH| Jeremy Blunt (second full season, 18-3 after taking over in Week 5 of 2012)
2013| 10-2, 9-0 (lost to King's Fork in 4A South quarterfinal)
Last time not in playoffs| 2000
Home field| Darling Stadium
Aug. 28| at Gloucester, 7 (W, 41-20)
Sept. 5| at Lake Taylor, 7
Sept. 12| Warwick, 7 (W, 56-7)
Sept. 18| Denbigh, 7 (W, 49-21)
Sept. 26| Hampton, 7 (W, 42-0)
Oct. 4| at Menchville, 1 (W, 51-0)
Oct. 10| at Bethel, 7 (W, 35-7)
Oct. 17| at Woodside, 5 (W, 35-14)
Oct. 25| Heritage, 2 (W, 26-9)
Oct. 31| Kecoughtan, 7 (W, 23-6)
Jr. | 5-10 | 190 | WR/CB
Had four interceptions, including a pick-six, in nine games last season. Also returned three kicks for touchdowns that totaled 227 yards. The Phantoms will want the ball in his hands.
Sr. | 6-1 | 255 | OL/DL
A high-energy tackle with 4.6 speed, Lewis has already committed to Virginia Tech, where he is expected to play defense. Also an outstanding offensive lineman, which Phoebus always seems to have.
Sr. | 5-8 | 165 | QB/WR
Splitting time last year, he completed 54 percent of his passes for 447 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. But he'll spend most of his time at WR this year.
State title or bust. The Phantoms are 22-3 over the last two seasons, but none of that matters on Ireland Street without a ring. Phoebus won seven of them from 2001-11 but hasn't made it past regional play since.
Who heads Tailback High? Marshawn Williams was Phoebus' latest great back, but he's off to Virginia Tech. Blunt says it'll be by committee with senior Breon Baskerville (147 yards, 4 TDs) and juniors Jomari Becnel (219, 1) and Traonte Hamlin among those sharing time.
No longer invincible? To some, Phoebus isn't as intimidating as it once was. But that's fine with Blunt, who says he'd rather be the hunter than the hunted. He also believes anyone writing this team off is crazy.
"Replacing a Marshawn Williams is the same as replacing a Tony Pittman and a Tyree Lee was. Here at Phoebus, we believe the next great back is ready to go. … All of the offensive linemen have been in the system since the 8th grade. We have five juniors, and three of them played big minutes last year … We have unfinished business. Our focus is to get ourselves back on the mountain top."
COACH| George Massenburg (fourth year, 21-14)
2013| 12-2, 8-1 (lost to Dinwiddie in 4A state semifinals)
Last time not in playoffs| 2011
Home field| Todd Stadium
Aug. 29| at Wilson, 7 (W, 48-7)
Sept. 5| Denbigh, 7 (W, 33-20)
Sept. 13| Hampton, 1 (W, 21-14)
Sept. 19| at Menchville, 7 (W, 35-0)
Sept. 27| Bethel, 1 (W, 44-14)
Oct. 3| Woodside, 7 (W, 28-24)
Oct. 10| at Gloucester, 7 (W, 21-14)
Oct. 17| at Kecoughtan, 7 (W, 24-19)
Oct. 25| at Phoebus, 2 (L, 9-26)
Nov. 1| Warwick, 1 (W, 40-6)
Sr. | 6-1 | 190 | WR/LB
One of those kids who can play just about anywhere. Scored 8 TDs last season (three rushing, three receiving, one blocked punt recovery, and one fumble recovery) and averaged 24.3 ypc.
Sr. | 5-11 | 165 | WR/DB/KR
An electrifying athlete whose 11 touchdowns (five receiving, four rushing, two kickoff returns) covered 567 yards. Only had 34 touches from scrimmage, which should grow.
So. | 6-0 | 180 | QB
After not attempting a pass the first four games, Boyd became the Canes' QB1 in week five and ran with it. Completed 56-of-105 passes for 1,286 yards with 17 TDs and 6 INTs.
Keeping on. Heritage went from 0-10 to 12-2 in three years, the best turnaround in district history and one of the best in the state. Sure, graduation took some key players, but the Canes have more than enough returning to make another run.
A different backfield. Maybe the key loss is TB Juany'e Patillo, who rushed for 1,199 yards last season. Gone, too, is backup DaQwane Sabb. Who's next? Massenburg says it'll be by committee: Tra'Sean Shackleford, Omar Martin, Marcus Van Hook, and Holloway.
Versatility. Heritage has a lot of those "slash" players — as in, guys who play just about anywhere. Holloway, Holden-Bethea and Vanhook are among those who can line up in the backfield on one play and at wide receiver the next. Or vice versa.
"We knew we were close last year, but we don't even discuss last year because it's over with. We have to continue to build. … Boyd is doing a great job. He's put on about 10, 15 pounds over the summer and he's gotten a little bit taller. He has a complete understanding of the offense. … When Tim gets the ball, we expect big things to happen. … We're expecting some big things at 5800 Marshall Avenue."
COACH| Mike Smith (44rd year, 444-77-2)
2013| 7-5, 5-4 (lost to Salem in 5A South quarterfinal)
Last time not in playoffs| 2002
Home field| Darling Stadium
Aug. 28| at Indian River, 7 (W, 38-0)
Sept. 5| Woodside, 7 (L, 44-65)
Sept. 13| at Heritage, 1 (L, 14-21)
Sept. 19| Kecoughtan, 7 (W, 28-21)
Sept. 26| at Phoebus, 7 (L, 0-42)
Oct. 2| at Warwick, 7 (W, 60-3)
Oct.. 9| Denbigh, 7 (L, 13-35)
Oct. 17| at Gloucester, 7 (W, 35-27)
Oct. 23| Menchville, 7 (W, 42-0)
Oct. 30| at Bethel, 7 (W, 38-0)
Jr. | 6-1 | 190 | QB/DB
Had a breakout sophomore year with 2,382 total yards (949 rushing, 1,433 passing) and 23 TDs (15 and 8). In the same playmaking mold as Ronald Curry and Tyrod Taylor.
Sr. | 5-10 | 180 | WR/DB
Led the Peninsula District in receiving yards last year with 744, of which 234 came in one game. Also scored 10 touchdowns, including on a direct snap in the Single Wing.
Jr. | 5-9 | 190 | RB
The district's top returning tailback with 887 yards (6 ypg) and 10 TDs. Has breakaway speed and, despite his size, is a surprisingly strong inside runner. Will also start at LB.
Bouncing back. For most programs, 7-5 season is a solid season. But Hampton, which has won 12 state championships, isn't most programs. The Crabbers expect better, and with the talent they have returning they should get it.
Skilled players. No team in the district has a trio like Quillen, Strickland and Wilkins returning on offense. This is a team that hung 44 on Woodside, 31 on Bethel, and 45 on Great Bridge. Scoring shouldn't be a problem.
However … Those 44 points Hampton scored against Woodside? They weren't enough, because the Wolverines scored 65 (with 522 total yards). That's the most the Crabbers have ever allowed. Hampton also gave up 22 ppg, twice as much as it does in a normal season.
"Some games last year, we couldn't stop water on defense. But I think we got a little better as the season went on. … At this point, we're not playing (Quillen) on defense. We may play him in the nickel package some. … Dazz Newsome is going to be a tremendous football player. … They've worked hard and they'll get better. Now, how do we stack up against everybody else? I don't know that."
COACH| Danny Dodson (16th season, 91-69)
2013| 6-5, 5-4 (lost to Ocean Lakes in 6A South first round).
Last time not in playoffs| 2012
Home field| Todd Stadium
Aug. 29| at Granby, 7 (W, 38-0)
Sept. 5| at Hampton, 7 (W, 65-44)
Sept. 12| Menchville, 7 (W, 60-3)
Sept. 20| Bethel, 1 (L, 10-20)
Sept. 26| Gloucester, 7 (W, 27-24)
Oct. 3| at Heritage, 7 (L, 24-28)
Oct. 11 | at Kecoughtan, 2 (L, 15-29)
Oct. 17| Phoebus, 5 (L, 14-35)
Oct. 24| at Warwick, 7 (W, 49-14)
Oct. 31| at Denbigh, 7 (W, 44-41)
Jr. | 6-0 | 170 | QB/DB
Emerged as the starting quarterback in Week Six. His shining moment came against Denbigh, when he completed 15-of-20 throws for 234 yards and 3 TDs, including the game-winner with 57 seconds left.
Sr. | 5-10 | 180 | RB/DE
Not the biggest kid around, but he gives the Wolverines a strong runner who had 359 yards and three touchdowns last season. Will be in the mix at DE.
Jr. | 5-10 | 150 | WB/LB/S
Has the ability to make plays on both sides of the ball. Will see some time in the backfield but will make his biggest impact on defense at LB/S.
More experience. The Wolverines had only 13 seniors, and though some were major contributors — Trey Reed and Darius Howell, to name two — most of the starters were juniors and below. Dodson feels good about the athletes he has coming back.
Avoiding the lull. In 2013, Woodside started and finished strong in the regular season. The middle that was the problem. After a 4-1 start, the Wolverines lost three straight. Then they won their last two to barely make the playoffs.
A new star? Dodson wasn't ready to declare him the starter as we went to print, but Taylor is the one to beat. He completed 30-of-48 passes for 423 yards and 4 TDs in his last two games and engineered a comeback win.
"We have a lot of young kids who played last year. We started several freshmen in our playoff game. Those guys are back and hopefully stronger. … We got a transfer from Salem named Davonte Williams. He reminds me of (former Wolverine back) Joacim Wigfall. … I think we have a lot of potential. We seem to be a little more cohesive than we were this time last year, even the year before."
COACH| Alonzo Coley (third year, 9-11)
2013| 5-5, 4-5.
Last playoff appearance| 2002
Home field| Darling Stadium
Aug. 28| Warwick, 7 (W, 13-0)
Sept. 4| Granby, 7 (W, 25-22)
Sept. 11| Denbigh, 7 (L, 26-47)
Sept. 19| at Hampton, 7 (L, 21-28)
Sept. 27| at Menchville, 4 (W, 35-0)
Oct. 3| at Bethel, 7 (L, 0-33)
Oct. 11| Woodside, 2 (W, 29-15)
Oct. 17| Heritage, 7 (L, 19-24)
Oct. 24| at Gloucester, 7 (W, 36-14)
Oct. 31| at Phoebus, 7 (L, 6-23)
Jr. | QB | 5-10 | 170
Had a memorable sophomore year, which included a career-high 398 yards vs. Heritage and a game-winning touchdown pass on the final play at Granby. Completed 57 percent of his throws for 1,482 yards.
Sr. | 6-2 | 200 | TE/LB
After spending most of his time at QB his first two years, Carrera was the district's best tight end last fall with 27 catches for 365 yards and 3 TDs. Also starts at LB.
Jr. | RB/DB | 5-11 | 170
Did the bulk of the Warriors' running with 493 yards and 8 TDs. Also proved to be an effective receiver with five catches for 160 yards and a TD.
A veteran offense. Savage gained 15 pounds (the good kind) in the offseason. Grandy and Carrera caught a combined 52 passes, and Fugate is one of the PD's fastest players. Kecoughtan should improve on last year's 21 ppg and 239 total ypg.
However … Graduation took its toll on the defense with six starters lost. This from a group that allowed 20.3 ppg. Coordinator Greg Narvid will be relying on ends Tyler Crist and Carey Hollis along with LBs Tahjuan Taylor and Greg Bennett.
Breaking that drought. Kecoughtan has gone 11 consecutive years without a postseason appearance, longer than anyone in the PD except Menchville and Gloucester. If the Warriors are to get back to where they once belonged, the defense will have to come along.
"We have 10 starters returning on offense, and it's definitely a lot easier with the transition and getting things done. On the other side of the coin, we lost so much on defense. … Our goal this year definitely is to get in the playoffs. … I think (Savage) is the best quarterback in our district. … We'll have a smaller backfield, so we'll try to throw a little bit more. … We'll be a bit younger."
COACH| Bubba Hooker (fourth season at Bethel, 20-12; 10th year overall, 24-68)
2013| 5-5, 5-4 Peninsula District.
Last playoff appearance| 2012.
Home field| Darling Stadium
Aug. 29 | Menchville, 7 (W, 65-0)
Sept. 6 | at Western Branch, 7 (L, 20-21)
Sept. 12 | at Gloucester, 7 (W, 56-19)
Sept. 20| at Woodside, 1 (W, 20-10)
Sept. 27| at Heritage, 1 (L, 14-44)
Oct. 3| Kecoughtan, 7 (W, 33-0)
Oct. 10| Phoebus, 7 (L, 7-35)
Oct. 18| at Warwick, 1 (W, 31-0)
Oct. 24| at Denbigh, 7 (L, 25-43)
Oct. 30| Hampton, 7 (L, 0-38)
Jr. | 5-9 | 165 | WR/CB
Accounted for 147 yards from scrimmage on 22 touches last season, and the Bruins will need that to grow exponentially. Will also anchor the secondary, which has little depth.
Sr. | 5-9 | 195 | RB/LB
The Bruins' leading returning rusher with 262 yard and 4 TDs. Had a career-high 71 yards in a loss to Western Branch. Will also start at linebacker.
Sr. | 6-3 | 190 | QB
His moment came against Woodside, when he completed 3-of-4 passes for 103 yards and a touchdown in the final 7 1/2 minutes of a 20-10 win.
Youth up front. Last year, with current Virginia Tech Hokie Ricky Walker, the lines were Bethel's strong point. This year, there's little experience or depth at where coaches say the battle is won. In the middle will be sophomore Drew Barker.
Change of plans. Hooker plans to shake up the offense a little to accommodate for the team's strength (skilled players) and weakness (the line). Bethel will go with four wideouts and no tight end to create a little more space.
A different look. The schemes and colors will be the same, but the personnel will be almost entirely different. Last season, 24 of the 39 Bruins' players were seniors, and some of those expected to return didn't. Now, it's the junior and sophomore class that has the numbers.
"We'll throw more than we did the last couple of years, but we won't throw as much as when Coach (Jeff) Nelson was here. We're trying to spread them to get them out of the box as much as possible and get the ball to those kids in space. … Up front is where we lost a lot of people. That was our strong suit last year. It's probably our weak point this year."
COACH| Marcellus Harris III (seventh season, 23-39)
2013| 8-4, 6-4 (lost to Heritage in 4A South quarterfinal).
Last time not in playoffs| 2012.
Home field| Todd Stadium
Aug. 29| Tabb, 7 (W, 28-21)
Sept. 5| at Heritage, 7 (L, 20-33)
Sept. 11| at Kecoughtan, 7 (W, 47-26)
Sept. 18| at Phoebus, 7 (L, 21-49)
Sept. 25| Warwick, 7 (W, 28-0)
Oct. 4| Gloucester, 4 (W, 42-14)
Oct. 9| at Hampton, 7 (W, 35-13)
Oct. 17| Menchville, 7 (W, 56-0)
Oct. 24| Bethel, 7 (W, 43-25)
Oct. 31| Woodside, 7 (L, 41-44)
Sr. | 5-11 | 305 | LG/DT
Returning for his fourth season as a starter, his job will be a little different this year in that the offensive philosophy will be more focused on the run.
Sr. | 5-4 | 130 | RB
The Patriots' top returning rusher (322 yards, 2 TDs) and receiver (4 catches, 83 yards, TD), he'll be asked to step up his production this season.
Sr. | 6-0 | 210 | PK/P
PATs are hardly automatic in high school, but Hebert, who also plays soccer at Denbigh, was a model of consistency last season. Also a dependable punter.
Out with the old … Denbigh lost 28 seniors from last year, including a quarterback who threw for 2,527 yards and four receivers who combined for 151 catches. The only similarity from the 2013 season will be the uniforms and the coaching staff.
Different philosophy. In 2013, the Patriots passed 49 percent of the time. But with the O-line now the strength, Harris plans to run more. Sparks and Bruton transfer Elijah Rice (175 yards, 3 TDs) will handle most of the carries.
Big shoes. Replacing Terrence Dingle, the most prolific QB in school history, won't be easy. Harris has junior Casey Vick, a transfer from Menchville, and sophomores Shaquan Jones and Marquis Rhodes all in the mix. Whoever emerges, they won't be asked to duplicate Dingle.
"We'll definitely run the ball this year, and we have some guys we think can get the job done. (Quarterback) is the million dollar question. … This is probably one of the bigger teams I've had size-wise since I've been here. … We've got a good little mix of guys who got some experience last year and guys who will be fresh. … I think we can still be pretty good this season, but it'll be a different kind of good."
COACH| Brandon Kelley (second year, 2-8)
2013| 2-8, 2-7
Last playoff appearance| 1986 (Group AA)
Home field| Gloucester HS
Aug. 28| Phoebus, 7 (L, 20-41)
Sept. 5| at Norview, 7 (L, 0-27)
Sept. 12| Bethel, 7 (L, 19-56)
Sept. 18| at Warwick, 7 (W, 40-29)
Sept. 26| at Woodside, 7 (L, 24-27)
Oct. 4| at Denbigh, 4 (L, 14-42)
Oct. 10| Heritage, 7 (L, 14-21)
Oct. 17| Hampton, 7 (L, 27-35)
Oct. 24| Kecoughtan, 7 (L, 14-36)
Oct. 30| at Menchville, 7 (L, 12-21)
Sr. | 5-10 | 180 | RB/LB
Though James Scott handled the bulk of the offense, Pullen rushed for 489 yards and 3 TDs in 2013. He also had a 67-yard pick-six and a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
Jr. | 6-2 | 175 | WR
Though the Dukes didn't throw much last season, he was their top receiver with six catches for 160 yards and a touchdown. A long athlete who can run.
Sr. | 6-3 | 300 | OL/DL
Not only is he the team's biggest player, he's the lone senior on the offensive line. He'll be counted on to provide some experience and stability to the grunts up front.
No Great Scott. Perhaps the best back in school history is off to Towson, and so goes a huge hunk of Gloucester's offense. Pullen proved he can make plays, but it'll be different this year with opposing defenses keying on him instead of Scott.
Taking over at QB. Scott held the position in name only, but this year the Dukes should have a true quarterback — whoever he might be. As we went to print, junior Caleb Smith and freshman Isiah Spencer were neck-and-neck for the job.
Year Two. Only 28 when he was hired last year, Kelley faced plenty of skeptics. He's won most of them over. The Dukes only won two games, but they gave Phoebus, Heritage, Hampton and Woodside fits in respectable losses. The program looks to be moving forward.
"I feel like we've made a lot of headway. We had a great offseason and the attitudes are different. … The kids have been really enthusiastic on the practice field. The only problem is, a lot of kids have to grow up quick. We have two sophomore offensive linemen and two quarterbacks with no varsity experience. … Our line is smaller than we were last year. But I feel like we're faster."
COACH| Glenn Tidwell (second year at Menchville, 1-9; 16-34 in five overall seasons)
2013| 1-9, 1-8
Last playoff appearance| 1993
Home field| Todd Stadium
Aug. 22| Maury, 7 (L, 0-62)
Aug. 29| at Bethel, 7 (L, 0-65)
Sept. 12| at Woodside, 7 (L, 3-60)
Sept. 19| Heritage, 7 (L, 0-35)
Sept. 27| Kecoughtan, 4 (L, 0-35)
Oct. 4| Phoebus, 1 (L, 0-51)
Oct. 10| Warwick, 7 (W, 17-13)
Oct. 17| at Denbigh, 7 (L, 0-56)
Oct. 23| at Hampton, 7 (L, 0-42)
Oct. 30| Gloucester, 7 (L, 12-21)
Jr. | 5-9 | 185 | RB/CB
Was the Monarchs' rushing leader with 262 yards — 240 coming against Warwick and Gloucester — and two touchdowns. His added strength over the offseason should make him a more effective inside runner.
Sr. | 6-4 | 280 | LT/DT
Menchville hasn't had much size or experience up front in recent years, but Kirby gives them both. He will lead a line that will try to improve a rushing attack that averaged 21.6 ypg.
Jr. | 5-7 | 150 | RB/CB
Rushed for 235 yards, second on the team, with 93 of that coming in Menchville's 17-13 win over Warwick. He and Guilford should make The Ville's veer more effective.
Further along. Last year, Tidwell didn't meet his team until June 15. This year, he was with them all through the offseason. His players know the system and the Monarchs return most of their starters, especially at the skilled positions.
More talent at QB. Regardless of who starts — sophomores A.J. Wyatt or Shamar Butts or senior NaiQuan Cooper — Tidwell feels he'll have more athleticism at the position than last year. Whoever doesn't start will most likely play elsewhere.
Giving away points. Menchville had 22 turnovers last season — probably fewer than you'd expect of a 1-9 team. The problem was, five were returned for touchdowns. Others came deep in the Monarchs' territory or as they were driving. Changing that trend will be critical.
"We're nowhere near as strong as we want to be, but we're stronger than we were. We've gotten faster and stronger in the offseason. … We'll do different things out of it, but (the veer) is our base offense. … Had (TE/DE Elijah Murphy) played his sophomore year, he'd be a four- or five-star recruit already. … I don't know how many wins it'll be, but I think we'll be better. We'll be better than 1-9."
COACH| Corey Hairston (first season)
2013| 0-10, 0-9
Last time in playoffs| 2011
Home field| Todd Stadium
Aug. 28| Kecoughtan, 7 (L, 0-13)
Sept. 5| at Maury, 7 (L, 16-28)
Sept. 12| at Phoebus, 7 (L, 7-56)
Sept. 18| Gloucester, 7 (L, 29-40)
Sept. 25| at Denbigh, 7 (L, 0-28)
Oct. 2| Hampton, 7 (L, 3-60)
Oct. 10| at Menchville, 7 (L, 13-17)
Oct. 18| Bethel, 1 (L, 0-31)
Oct. 24| Woodside, 7 (L, 14-49)
Nov. 1| Heritage, 1 (L, 6-40)
Sr. | 5-10 | 170 | PK
Was the team's most valuable offensive player last year with six field goals, including a career-long 45-yarder against Hampton. Also led the team in scoring with 26 points and will get recruiting looks.
Sr. | 6-0 | 220 | LB
Probably the Raiders' top returning defender from last season, Diggs' had one of his best games against Maury with nine tackles, including two for a loss of yards.
Sr. | 6-0 | 205 | TE/DE
The only returning player on Warwick's roster who scored a touchdown last season. That came in the second game of the season when Young caught a 66-yard scoring pass against Maury.
Nowhere to go but up. For the first time in school history, the Raiders went 0-10. The good news is, the bar isn't set very high. For examples that 0-10 isn't always a fatal blow, Hairston can point to Heritage and Denbigh.
A lot of new faces. Hairston says he will have 30 players on the varsity, a doable number but one he hopes will grow in the future. The veterans like Diggs, Young, Norton and Malik Harris will need to take the leadership role and help the newcomers along.
Skilled spots. The quarterback spot is up in the air between sophomores D.J. Nunn and Travis Williams. When one is under center, the other might be lined up elsewhere. None of the tailbacks expected to play extensively had a single carry last fall.
"We've put last season behind us and we're building for the future. We're not focused on last year at all. That's a distant memory. … Warwick has always had good athletes, and that will continue. We've had a rise in the kids who didn't play last year who are now interested. They're coming out. … We're bringing back the tradition Warwick used to have. … They've bought into the system and we expect big things from them."
— By Dave JohnsonCopyright © 2015, CT Now