COACH: Bubba Hooker (third season at Bethel, 15-7; ninth year overall, 19-63)
2012: 8-3, 8-1 (lost to Western Branch in Eastern Region quarterfinal)
Last time not in playoffs: 2010
Group: 6A South
Aug. 30 | at Menchville, 7 (W, 32-7)
Sept. 6 | Western Branch, 7 (L, 23-21*)
Sept. 12 | Gloucester, 7 (W, 41-0)
Sept. 20 | Woodside, 7 (W, 45-19)
Sept. 26 | Heritage, 7 (W, 41-18)
Oct. 4 | at Kecoughtan, 7 (W, 42-28)
Oct. 11 | at Phoebus, 7 (L, 19-17)
Oct. 19 | at Warwick, 2 (W, 20-13)
Oct. 25 | at Denbigh, 7 (W, 42-13)
Oct. 31 | at Hampton, 7 (W, 17-13)
Sr. | 6-2 | 270 | OL/DL
It's not easy to make all-region on both sides of the ball, but Walker did it last season. He had 70 tackles and 11 sacks. The district's top-rated recruit, he recently narrowed his twenty-some offers to five.
Sr. | 5-11 | 190 | FB/LB
Filling in for the injured Jihad Hudson, Moore rushed for 452 of his 539 yards and all five of his touchdowns in the season's final four games. Certainly one of the PD's best returning backs.
So. | 5-10 | 160 | DB
The Bruins have high hopes for this kid, who started six games as a freshman and intercepted four passes. He's already emerged as one of best top shut-down corners in the district.
Who will be QB1? One of the 20 departing seniors is Trey Jackson, last year's starter. It's a three-way race for the No. 1 job between senior Anthony Slade, junior Beau Morgan and sophomore Tyree Givers-Wilson. Whoever emerges will have a strong line in front of him.
Speaking of which … Hooker believes the both lines will be the team's strength. In addition to Walker, the Bruins have returning starters Javon Smith, Grant Gibson and Josh Jones on offense. Walker and Smith return on the defensive line.
Big numbers. Every year, it seems, Bethel graduates a large senior class. But when you have a big team, that rarely becomes an issue. Hooker said that for the first day of practice, 131 kids came out for both varsity and JV. "It's a good problem," he said.
The ending wasn't pretty, but there's no taking away Dennis Kozlowski's legacy at Bethel. From 1974-98, Koz went 170-85-7 and won three state championships (the first coming in his initial season). He was known for his long-sleeve shirt and tie (no matter how hot or cold) and wishbone offense. Of Mike Smith's 72 career losses, seven were to Kozlowski.
COACH: Marcellus Harris III (sixth season, 15-35)
2012: 2-8, 2-7.
Last playoff appearance: 1992
Group: 4A South
Aug. 29 | at Tabb, 7
Sept. 6 | Heritage, 7 (L, 31-20)
Sept. 12 | Kecoughtan, 6 (L, 27-13)
Sept. 19 | Phoebus, 6 (L, 43-6)
Sept. 27 | at Warwick, 7 (L, 21-17)
Oct. 3 | at Gloucester, 7 (W, 28-3())
Oct. 10 | Hampton, 6 (L, 42-0)
Oct. 18 | at Menchville, 7 (W, 21-12)
Oct. 25 | Bethel, 7 (L, 42-13)
Oct. 31 | at Woodside, 6 (L, 48-24)
Sr. | 5-11 | 175 | QB/S
He led the district in completions (78), attempts (153), and yards (1,002) through the regular season. With his top receivers coming back, he should have another prolific year.
Sr. | 5-8 | 140 | WR
Caught 18 passes for 342 yards and a pair of touchdowns last season. Along with Ka'lihl Wharton, Tyrik Burns and Rakewon Bailey, he'll likely see a lot of passes coming his way.
Sr. | 6-0 | 205 | OL/LB
A second-team All-PD linebacker as a junior. Had a solid season, which included a 23-yard interception return for a touchdown against Bethel.
Everyone is back. Well, not everyone, but Denbigh had only seven seniors on last season's roster. Dingle and his top six receivers are back. So is top rusher Patrick Alston, the linemen, linebackers, etc. Harris hopes this will mean more wins.
Balancing the offense. In the first two games of last season, Denbigh attempted 46 passes for 324 yards. The rest of the way, Harris made it a point to get the running game more involved. Still, with Dingle and his receiving corps back, you have to think the pass will be a big part of the game plan.
Improving the D. In finishing 0-10 in 2011, the Patriots gave up 41 points a game. Last year, Denbigh cleaned it up on defense by allowing 27 ppg. More progress could help the Patriots to a .500 season for the first time since 2009.
In 47 seasons of varsity football, Denbigh has finished above .500 only seven times. Three of those winning seasons came during Bob Schmidt's six-year stay on Denbigh Boulevard. Schmidt coached the Patriots to their first (and, all these years later, only) playoff appearance in 1992. He was reassigned to Woodside, which had just opened, in 1996.
COACH: Brandon Kelley (first year)
2012: 0-10, 0-9
Last playoff appearance: 1986 (Group AA)
Group: 5A South
Aug. 29 | at Phoebus, 7 (L, 55-3)
Sept. 6 | Norview, 7
Sept. 12 | at Bethel, 7 (L, 41-0)
Sept. 20 | Warwick, 7 (L, 24-7)
Sept. 27 | Woodside, 7 (L, 37-3)
Oct. 3 | Denbigh, 7 (L, 28-3)
Oct. 11 | at Heritage, 7 (L, 42-0)
Oct. 17 | at Hampton, 7 (L, 60-0)
Oct. 25 | at Kecoughtan, 7 (L, 28-14)
Nov. 1 | Menchville, 7 (L, 35-0)
Sr. | 6-1 | 205 | QB/LB
An unknown coming into last season, he rushed for 1,117 yards and accounted for 77 percent of the Dukes' offense. The Towson commitment will play mostly QB this season out of the shotgun.
Sr. | 5-8 | 170 | RB/LB
Though undersized, he never backs down, which helped him earn honorable mention All-Peninsula District last season. Will be counted on for more help on offense this year.
Sr. | 6-3 | 250 | OL/DL
You can't put a price tag on experienced linemen, and Brown is a returning starter. Scott will be the first to tell you: He's going nowhere without his linemen.
No more one-man show. There's little secret that Scott is Gloucester's best offensive weapon — and one of the best in the district. But one player accounting for three-fourths of the offense is too much, and Kelley wants to get others involved.
The young guy in charge. It raised some eyebrows when the 28-year-old Kelley was hired with no head coaching experience, but he's hit the ground with energy. He looks like he could still play himself. In fact, he isn't shy about getting in the middle of thing sand mixing it up during practice.
Getting it started. After an encouraging 3-7 finish in 2011, last season couldn't have gone much worse. Not only did the Dukes go winless and get outscored 377-33, they had a coaching change in the middle of the year. Kelley wants to establish continuity.
The Dukes don't have a proud tradition, but they were pretty good during Turnley Todd's 17-year run. His career record was under .500 (81-90-1), but Todd guided the Dukes to seven winning season — including what remains the program's last in 1987. Gloucester is on its ninth coach since Todd retired after the 1992 season.
COACH: Mike Smith (43rd year, 437-72-2)
2012: 9-3, 7-2 (lost to Phoebus in Eastern Region semifinal).
Last time not in playoffs: 2002
Group: 5A South
Aug 30 | Indian River, 7
Sept. 7 | at Woodside, 1 (W, 42-20)
Sept. 13 | Heritage, 7 (W, 16-0)
Sept. 19 | at Kecoughtan, 7 (W, 49-0)
Sept. 27 | Phoebus, 7 (L, 21-19; L, 35-21)
Oct. 3 | Warwick, 7 (W, 41-0)
Oct. 10 | at Denbigh, 6 (W, 42-0)
Oct. 17 | Gloucester, 7 (W, 60-0)
Oct. 26 | at Menchville, 4 (W, 64-0)
Oct. 31 | Bethel, 7 (L, 17-13)
So. | 6-0 | 170 | QB/DB
As a receiver last season, he caught four passes for 139 yards — and four touchdowns. Also emerged as a dangerous return man. This year, he'll have the ball in his hands on every play. A legit dual threat.
Sr. | 6-1 | 200 | WR/DB
With his size and athleticism, he'll likely become Quillen's top target. Caught seven passes for 138 yards and four touchdowns as a junior last season. Has terrific potential.
So. | 5-6 | 150 | RB/DB
His listed size is probably an exaggeration, but Strickland had some moments last year as the Crabbers' third-string back. He rushed for 195 yards on 23 carries and scored twice.
Replacing firepower. Together, QB Deon Newsome and RB Marshawn Williams rushed for 2,300 yards last fall. Quillen will should give defenses fits in the gun but he'll need help from Strickland and junior Tyquan Wilkins. The line, with Arrington Bazemore and Jamonte Spriggs, should be a plus.
Filling holes on defense. Newsome and Williams also were excellent linebackers. And the Crabbers graduated all-district starters Daquin Moore, Troy Garrett and Daunte Wilson. Also gone is Cal Kee, a junior who transferred to Nansemond River. But the Crabbers always have athletes.
A change in competition. Things will look a little different when Hampton gets to the playoffs. No longer will Phoebus and Lake Taylor be in the way — they've gone down to Division 4A. The Crabbers' chief competition in the 757 should be Salem.
Hampton was good before Mike Smith. He just took it to an entirely different level. In 42 seasons, from Nixon to Obama, the King of Queen Street is 437-72-2. That's tops in the state and No. 5 in the NFHS Record Book. It's hard to say which is more amazing: His 12 state championships or his winning percentage of .855.
COACH: George Massenburg (third year, 9-12)
2012: 6-5, 5-4 (lost to Phoebus in Eastern Region quarterfinal).
Last time not in playoffs: 2011
Group: 4A South
Aug. 29 | Wilson, 6
Sept. 6 | at Denbigh, 7 (W, 31-20)
Sept. 13 | at Hampton, 7 (L, 16-0)
Sept. 20 | Menchville, 7 (W, 44-0)
Sept. 26 | at Bethel, 7 (L, 41-18)
Oct. 4 | at Woodside, 7 (W, 30-26)
Oct. 11 | Gloucester, 7 (W, 42-0)
Oct. 19 | Kecoughtan, 1 (W, 32-17)
Oct. 26 | Phoebus, 1 (L, 28-27)
Nov. 1 | at Warwick, 7 (L, 35-14)
Marcus Van Hook
Jr. | 6-0 | 165 | WR/DB
Though Heritage rarely threw last year, Van Hook caught six passes for 169 yards (28.2 ypc) and two touchdowns. He was named second-team all-district.
Sr. | 5-10 | 265| C/DT
A returning starter at the most important position on the offensive line. A solid veteran who also makes a contribution on defense.
Sr. | 6-3 | 260 | OL/DL
Another veteran who has seen how far this program has come. He'll be counted on for high energy and leadership on both sides of the ball.
Life without Khalid. It won't be easy replacing PD Offensive Player of the Year Khalid Abdullah. But Massenburg likes Juanye Patillo, who rushed for 188 yards and four touchdowns as the backup, and Daqwane Sabb. "It'll be by committee," Massenburg said.
The passing game. Richard Outlaw provided a passing threat last year, which took some pressure off Abdullah. But he's gone, and the job likely will fall to junior Malik Deloatch, who started some as a freshman. Dimitri Holloway, Rasean Streater and Van Hook have playmaking ability.
Building on success. The 2012 Hurricanes had a winning season and made the playoffs for the first time since 2007. And though the losses of Abdullah and Outlaw will hurt, Heritage actually returns more starters than its losing. "Hopefully, something good will happen," Massenburg said.
With a pair of two-year stints, John Quillen wasn't around long. But he left his mark by leading the Hurricanes to their only state championship in 2000. That team, led by future collegians Michael Johnson and Darryl Blackstock, went 14-0 and was rarely tested. Quillen left after that season but returned in 2003. His four-year record at Heritage is 32-14.
COACH: Alonzo Coley (second year, 4-6)
2012: 4-6, 3-6.
Last playoff appearance: 2002
Group: 6A South
Aug. 29 | at Warwick, 8 (W, 41-30)
Sept. 6 | at Granby, 7
Sept. 12 | at Denbigh, 6 (W, 27-13)
Sept. 19 | Hampton, 7 (L, 49-0)
Sept. 28 | Menchville, 2 (L, 9-3)
Oct. 4 | Bethel, 7 (L, 42-28)
Oct. 12 | at Woodside, 4 (L, 20-10)
Oct. 19 | at Heritage, 1 (L, 32-17)
Oct. 25 | Gloucester, 7 (W, 28-14)
Nov. 1 | Phoebus, 7 (L, 55-7)
Sr. | 5-11 | 225 | FB/LB
Rushed for 201 yards and two touchdowns last season. With Kecoughtan's new offensive scheme, he'll be more of an H-back than a true fullback. A tough dude on defense.
Jr. | 6-2 | 190 | TE/LB
In and out as the Warriors' starting quarterback the last two years, Carrera will spent more time at tight end on offense. Caught two balls for 39 yards last season.
Sr. | 6-2 | 255 | OT/DE
He's added some pounds and strength during the offseason. He already was quick, and Coley sees him as one of the district's premier pass rushers.
Changing the offense. Last season, Kecoughtan ran the ball three times more than it passed. Which actually was more balanced than in 2011, when it was more than 4-to-1. Coley wants to spread things a little this year and believes QB Desmond Savage (35-of-68, 445 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs) can do it.
Shoring up the D. After losing some key players, the Warriors' defense slipped last fall by allowing 28 ppg. It gave up 30 points or more in five games, including a game it won. The Warriors allowed 222 yards a game on the ground, and you can't win doing that.
Replacing Cannon. Kecoughtan's offense relied almost exclusively on Trenton Cannon last fall, so he'll be missed. But it could make the Warriors' scheme more diverse. Jacion Fugate, a transfer from Booker T. Washington, will be the starting tailback.
Since its first season in 1963, Kecoughtan has played in 14 playoff games. Curt Newsome was the Warriors' head coach in all but two of them. During his time on Woodland Road from 1987-97, Kecoughtan went 86-34. The Warriors won a school-record 11 games in each of his final two seasons and advanced to the Division 6 title game in '97.
COACH: Glenn Tidwell (first year at Menchville; 15-25 in four overall seasons).
2012: 3-7, 2-7.
Last playoff appearance: 1993
Group: 5A South
Aug. 23 | at Maury, 7
Aug. 30 | Bethel, 7 (L, 32-7)
Sept. 13 | Woodside, 7 (L, 43-3)
Sept. 20 | at Heritage, 7 (L, 44-0)
Sept. 28 | at Kecoughtan, 2 (W, 9-3)
Oct. 5 | at Phoebus, 2 (L, 44-3)
Oct. 12 | Warwick 1 (L, 30-9)
Oct. 18 | Denbigh, 7 (L, 21-12)
Oct. 26 | Hampton, 4 (L, 64-0)
Nov. 1 | at Gloucester, 7 (W, 35-0)
Sr. | 6-2 | 220 | FB/ILB
An active force whose blocked punt and 20-yard return sparked the Monarchs' 9-3 win over Kecoughtan last season. Also rushed for a touchdown in a win over Gloucester.
Sr. | 5-10 | 170 | QB
Had his moments last year by completing 39-of-86 throws for 421 yards and two touchdowns with six interceptions. Will be running the veer offense this season under Tidwell.
Jr. | 5-8 | 160 | PK
Made three field goals last year at Warwick, including a 43-yarder in a loss to Bethel. He's filling big shoes: Dillon Christopher, the VHSL record holder with a 60-yard field goal.
Another new start. Former coach Melvin Moore went 5-15, which is actually the program's best two-year run since 2001-02. Tidwell, who coached four seasons at Kecoughtan, has been hired to advance the program another step.
Practice like you want to play. Tidwell says his biggest challenge has been getting the players to understand how to practice. "We want practice to be tougher than the games," he said, "and they haven't figured that out yet."
Changing the culture. Menchville's last winning season was 1995, and the Monarchs have gone 2-8 or worse 11 times in the last 13 years. Every coach the program has had during that time has tried to change the losing mentality. Tidwell believes success is the only way.
After nine seasons at Newport News High, during which he helped ease tensions as public schools were integrated, Charlie Nuttycombe coached Menchville to a 91-79-10 record over 18 seasons. That included a 9-1 finish, the best in school history, in 1975. Since Nuttycombe left in 1988, the Monarchs have had two winning seasons.
COACH: Jeremy Blunt (first full season, 8-1 after taking over in Week 5 of 2012)
2012: 12-1, 9-0 Peninsula District (lost to Lake Taylor in Eastern Region final).
Last time not in playoffs: 2000
Group: 4A South
Aug. 24 | DeMatha, 5 (Virginia Beach SportsPlex)
Aug. 29 | Gloucester, 7 (W, 55-3)
Sept. 14 | at Warwick, 1 (W, 59-7)
Sept. 19 | at Denbigh, 6 (W, 43-6)
Sept. 27 | at Hampton, 7 (W, 21-19; W, 35-21)
Oct. 5 | Menchville, 2 (W, 44-3)
Oct. 11 | Bethel, 7 (W, 19-17)
Oct. 18 | Woodside, 7 (W, 40-7)
Oct. 26 | at Heritage, 1 (W, 35-7)
Nov. 1 | at Kecoughtan, 7 (W, 55-7)
Sr. | 6-0 | 220 | RB/LB
A bruising runner, Williams rushed for 1,809 on 259 carries (7.0 ypc) in two seasons at Hampton before changing addresses. He'll fit in immediately in the Phantoms' power running game.
Jr. | 6-1 | 250 | OL/DL
Was a key member of a defense that gave up only 87 points in nine Peninsula District games. Has become pretty hot property with six Division I offers, including Virginia and Virginia Tech, according to Rivals.com.
So. | 6-2 | 190 | QB/P
He started from Day One as a freshman and had a solid season by completing 34-of-68 passes for 687 yards, 12 TDs and only one INT. He also ran for five scores.
Bouncing back. For the first time since 2007, the Phantoms didn't win a state championship. Not only that, they ended the season with a humbling 54-0 loss to Lake Taylor in the Eastern Region final. That no doubt left a sour taste, along with some added motivation, during the offseason.
Welcome to Ireland Street. The loss of Tony Pittman and backup Daquan Lane seemed to leave Phoebus in something of a bind at tailback, but the arrival of Williams has been a huge boost. Blunt also likes Breon Baskerville, who he says is pushing Williams for the No. 1 spot. Phoebus is, after all, Tailback High.
Another solid front. If you've heard it once, you've heard it a thousand times: the game is won in the trenches. Phoebus should be strong as usual there. Walt Brantley (6-2/300), Jamal Earls (6-3/270), Kevin Lyles (5-10/225) and Lewis are among the returning grunts.
To say Phoebus football was nothing before Bill Dee's arrival wouldn't be hyperbole. In its first nine season, the program had gone 23-64-2. The Phantoms finished 1-9 in Dee's first season but made it to the playoffs his second. In Dee's 24-year run, Phoebus went 215-64 (.770) and won four of its seven state championships.
COACH: Bernard Griffin (first year at Warwick; 19-32 in five overall seasons).
2012: 4-6, 4-5.
Last time in playoffs: 2011
Group: 5A South
Aug. 29 | Kecoughtan, 8 (L, 41-30)
Sept. 5 | Maury, 6
Sept. 14 | Phoebus, 1 (L, 59-7)
Sept. 20 | at Gloucester, 7 (W, 24-7)
Sept. 27 | Denbigh, 7 (W, 21-17)
Oct. 3 | at Hampton, 7 (L, 41-0)
Oct. 12 | at Menchville, 1 (W, 30-9)
Oct. 19 | Bethel, 2 (L, 20-13)
Oct. 24 | at Woodside, 6 (L, 27-21)
Nov. 1 | Hampton, 7 (L, 41-0)
Sr. | 6-3 | 230 | OL/DL
Griffin really likes this kid's versatility and football IQ, which is why he'd feel comfortable starting him at guard or tackle on offense and tackle or end on defense.
Sr. | 5-11 | 200 | RB/LB
As Cardon Johnson's backup last season, Smalls rushed for 131 yards on 22 carries. He would have gotten more chances if not for separating his shoulder in Week 4. He's the No. 1 back now.
Sr. | 6-4 | 195 | P
Ask Griffin who has impressed him the most in preseason camp, and Shrader is one of the first names he mentions. A first-team All-PD pick, he averaged 41 yards a punt.
New direction. Warwick felt it was in something of a rut with five consecutive 6-5 seasons that ended in the first round of the playoffs. But last year, the Raiders limped to a 4-6 finish and missed postseason. So they turned to Griffin, whose most recent stop was at Thomas Jefferson in Richmond.
The backfield. Electrifying QB Josh Butler and two-time 1,000-yard rusher Cardon Johnson are gone. It's wide open to replace Butler with DeShaun Bradshaw and Denbigh transfer Mike Curtis neck and neck. Smalls will take over for Johnson.
Skip to October. Over the last four seasons, Warwick has gone 5-12 in September but 17-9 the rest of the way. Coming out of the gate will be especially important this year with Bethel, Woodside and Hampton in the final three weeks.
Bill Lyons was let go in 1994 after three consecutive losing seasons. But from 1985-91, the Raiders went 50-28 and made three playoff appearances. Lyons' 1986 team won a school-record nine games — they'd match that twice before he left — and finished as state runner-up. He remains Warwick's only coach to win a playoff game.
COACH: Danny Dodson (15th season, 85-64)
2012: 5-5, 5-4.
Last time not in playoffs: 2012
Group: 6A South
Aug. 30 | Granby, 8
Sept. 7 | Hampton, 1 (L, 40-22)
Sept. 13 | at Menchville, 7 (W, 43-3)
Sept. 20 | at Bethel, 7 (L, 45-19)
Sept. 27 | at Gloucester, 7 (W, 37-3)
Oct. 4 | Heritage, 7 (L, 30-26)
Oct. 12 | Kecoughtan, 4 (W, 20-10)
Oct. 18 | at Phoebus, 7 (L, 40-7)
Oct. 24 | Warwick, 6 (W, 27-21)
Oct. 31 | Denbigh, 6 (W, 48-24)
Sr. | 5-9 | 165 | QB/DB
As the Wolverines' latest dual-threat quarterback, Howell was having an excellent year until dislocating his left elbow in the eighth week. He accounted for 947 yards and 8 TDs while completing 43-of-80 passes.
Sr. | 6-2 | 180 | WB/DB
Was a first-team All-PD selection with 30 catches for 462 yards, both of which led the district, and 2 TDs. But Dodson plans to use him also as a runner. He had an 82-yard TD run vs. Bethel last fall.
Sr. | 5-11 | 290 | OL/DL
Opponents probably think he should be in college by now (and a junior at that), but he's back for his fourth year as a starter He'll play both ways.
Getting back. Woodside followed an undefeated regular season in 2011 with a 5-5 finish in '12, which resulted in no postseason for the first time since '06. With reclassification, making the field will be easier. Advancing from a group that includes Grassfield, Oscar Smith and Western Branch is another matter.
Air out the Wing T? Dodson prefers a more traditional approach to his offense, but don't be surprised to see the Wolverines spread it some. A big guy with good hands, Reed presents matchup problems. And Howell was one of three starting QBs in the PD to complete half his passes.
Incoming help. Sherod Ryland, a second-team All-Eastern District lineman at Granby last fall, is now at Woodside. He's 6-2, 240, and very athletic. Also, a new lineman will be in the mix: Gary Ruckman. He is the younger brother of Woodside alums Nathan and Andy.
On the surface, Danny Dodson looks more like a chemistry teacher (which he is during the day) than a football coach. But few do it better. After a 6-14 start in his first three seasons, Dodson is 79-50 with six playoff appearances. The 2011 Wolverines went 10-0 and became the first team other than Phoebus or Hampton to win the PD since 2000.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun