From 2009-11, Denbigh finished among the bottom two in rushing and among the top two in passing each year in the Peninsula District standings. The disparity was never greater than last season, when the Patriots averaged 59 yards rushing (10th) and 159.8 yards passing (2nd).

The first two games of the 2012 season had followed suit. Against Booker T. Washington and Kecoughtan, Denbigh rushed for 143 yards on 67 carries (2.1 ypg). The Patriots attempted 46 (completing 19) passes for 324 yards.

The result: Seven turnovers (six by interception), 19 points, and two losses.

So for last Friday night’s game against Menchville, Denbigh coach Marcellus Harris III switched things up a bit. The Patriots passed only seven times, likely a low since Harris came to Denbigh in 2008. The running game gained 120 yards on 36 attempts. Quarterback Terrence Dingle accounted for 86 yards on 17 carries himself.

Nobody will confuse it with Phoebus or Woodside, but Denbigh did well enough to end its 12-game losing streak with a 21-12 win.

“It was something the offensive coaches had planned on doing after realizing that in the first two games, we made quite a few mistakes that killed us,” Harris said. “We wanted to try to eliminate the mistakes as much as possible by going to the ground. Since training camp, running the ball has been a focus for us.”

So has defense, where Harris has seen major improvement so far. Denbigh is fifth in both points allowed (17 ppg) and total defense (212 ypg). Granted, the Patriots haven’t played the Peninsula District’s heavyweights yet, but it’s a step.

“At the start of the season, we wanted to be more physical in the front seven,” Harris said. “They’re doing a real good job. They’re not always doing the right thing, but they’re doing it fast and getting to the football.”

NOTE: Harris said cornerback/receiver Darius Banks, who has missed the first three weeks with a hamstring injury, is scheduled to see his doctor this week and might be cleared to play.