The calendar has flipped to October, and the leaves are starting to fall. Believe it or not, the Peninsula District's football season has reached its midpoint.
We've seen some surprises, both of the positive and negative variety. And with the VHSL's new playoff format in place, six of the 10 teams are currently in the postseason picture with two more within striking distance.
Five weeks remain. And while there's no Peninsula District champion or trophy anymore, there's still plenty on the line.
Here's a look at the first half:
Marshawn Williams, Phoebus
Pretty easy call here. Williams, a power back with speed, has rushed for 1,012 yards and 17 touchdowns — a terrific full season, let alone a half season. He is the first back in the Peninsula District to break 1,000 yards in five games since the Phantoms' Elan Lewis in 2003. Lewis is also the PD's only back to reach 2,000 in the regular season, which Williams is on pace to do.
1. Phoebus (4-1, 4-0 PD). The Phantoms haven’t always been sharp, both offensively and defensively. They keep drawing too many penalties, and their offense is one-dimensional. But that one dimension (Williams, along with an excellent front line) has been unstoppable, and until proven otherwise Phoebus remains the team to beat.
VHSL rating: No. 2 among 24 teams in Group 4A South (16 will make the playoffs).
2. Heritage (5-0, 4-0). Most predicted a drop-off with the graduation of back Khalid Abdullah, but the Hurricanes have taken it up a notch. The offense is scoring 36 ppg (up 11 from 2012), and the defense is allowing 11.0 (down 11 from 2012). But the second-half schedule is tougher with both Phoebus and Woodside left.
VHSL rating: No. 1 in Group 4A South.
3. Woodside (4-1, 3-1). If not for an inexplicable meltdown in the fourth quarter against Bethel, the Wolverines would be undefeated and near the top of the ratings. Then again, Woodside nearly blew a 20-point lead last week at Gloucester. When the Wing-T is clicking, there isn’t a better offense in the district. But the D needs to improve for a long run.
VHSL rating: No. 5 in Group 6A South’s eastern half (eight of its 13 teams will make the playoffs).
4. Bethel (3-2, 3-1). Led by Ricky Walker and Evan Scott, the Bruins are excellent on defense. Disregard the 44 points hung by Heritage — Walker barely played and starter Javon Smith was out. The problem is on offense, where the Bruins have trouble moving the ball on good defenses. They do have a good threat on the edge in WR Antonio Killebrew.
VHSL rating: No. 8 in Group 6A South’s eastern half.
5. Denbigh (3-2, 2-2). The Patriots still have the PD’s best passing game behind QB Terrence Dingle (949 yards, 11 TDs), but the big difference is their improved defense. They’re allowing 26 points per game, but throw out a 49-21 loss to Phoebus and that drops to 20.3 ppg. Denbigh hasn’t been 3-2 since 2009.
VHSL rating: No. 8 in Group 4A South.
6. Hampton (2-3, 1-3). Remember, this is where the Crabbers are, not where we believe they’ll end up. Hampton will get better, and the second half of the schedule is softer than the first. Still, there are many issues, most notably on defense, where the Crabbers are allowing 30 points and 224 rushing yards a game (seventh and eighth, respectively, in the PD).
VHSL rating: No. 4 in Group 5A South’s eastern half (eight of its 14 teams will make the playoffs).
7. Kecoughtan (3-2, 2-2). Another team we’ll learn more about in the coming weeks with Bethel, Woodside, Heritage and Phoebus remaining. So far, the Warriors have been solid on defense and improved on offense behind QB Desmond Savage, who is completing a PD-best 68 percent of his passes for 707 yards and six touchdowns.
VHSL rating: No. 9 (one below the playoff cutoff) in Group 6A South’s eastern half.
8. Gloucester (1-4, 1-3). Remember all the concern about head coach Brandon Kelley’s inexperience? No more. The Dukes are unquestionably the district’s most improved team, even if they have only one win to show for it. They took Woodside to the wire last week. And with James Scott running the offense, Gloucester is tough to stop.
VHSL rating: No. 9 (one below the cutoff) in Group 5A South’s eastern half.
9. Warwick (0-5, 0-4). With a new coaching staff and inexperienced players in key spots, the Raiders are off to their worst start since 1995. The defense hasn’t been as bad as the numbers (33 points, 344 total yards per game) but it’s getting no help from the offense (10 ppg, 120 ypg). The second-half portion of the schedule is tougher.
VHSL rating: No. 14 (six below the cutoff) in Group 5A South’s eastern half.
10. Menchville (0-5, 0-4). The Monarchs also have a new coaching staff, and they also have inexperienced players in key spots. But things have gone even worse than expected. Menchville not only is winless, it has been outscored 257-3. And how’s this for a way to start the second half? Phoebus on Saturday afternoon.
VHSL rating: No. 11 (three below the cutoff) in Group 5A South’s eastern half.
Five key dates
Oct. 4: Woodside vs. Heritage, Todd Stadium.
Oct. 10: Hampton vs. Denbigh, Todd Stadium.
Oct. 18: Woodside vs. Phoebus, Darling Stadium.
Oct. 26: Phoebus vs. Heritage, Todd Stadium.
Oct. 31: Bethel vs. Hampton, Darling Stadium.
Johnson can be reached by phone at 757-247-4649.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun