There is a school of thought among football coaches that offense sells tickets but defense wins games.

Mount Vernon combined both to win the Virginia AAA state championship last year. If all-Met linebacker John Rymiszewski has his way, the Majors will earn a third straight Northern Region championship as well.

"Ski is a fine football player," Coach Bruce Patrick of Mount Vernon said. "You don't get many like him. He does so many things for us."

With Rymiszewski, all-Met tackle Lance Doty and many starters from last year's 13-1 team, the Majors certainly rank as the team to beat -- at least in the Gunston District.

The one team that likely can beat out Mount Vernon for the regional championship is T.C. Williams. Loaded with speed, talent at skill positions and experience, the Titans, with all-Met split end Shawn McNeil, should win over W.T. Woodson and Robinson in the rugged Northern District.

Annandale looks much better than the other teams in the Potomac District, and Madison and Marshall look the strongest in the Great Falls District.

The Commonwealth District is a toss-up, with Potomac looking just a bit stronger than Stonewall Jackson, Fauquier and North Stafford.

In the Potomac District, Annandale (8-2 overall, 5-1 in the district) should do very well because of all-district Steve Caro, who will play running back in addition to safety, quarterback/kicker Mark Lenert, linebackers Dan McGuire and Dave Furman and nose guard Sean Thomasson.

Defending district champion Stuart (10-1, 5-0) has a fine secondary of Fred Carr, Karl Stock and Dwain Collier, an excellent receiver in Mike Smith, a tough nose guard in Ramon Estaban and a new coach with plenty of enthusiam, Tom Arehart. Unfortunately, quarterback Tom Arehart Jr. is out with a broken thumb and the lines are inexperienced.

Wakefield went 6-4 and 3-3 for Coach Jim Hufschmidt last year, and he would be happy with another .500 season. He should get it with guard Richard Creed, tackle John Rodas, end Lewis Hunter and fullback Kenny Smith.

Fairfax (2-8, 0-6) returns eight starters, including quarterback Cliff Norris, the leading rusher as a tailback last season; linebacker Jimmy Doyle, and tackle Mike Ashooh.

Fred Welch takes over at Chantilly (3-6-1, 2-3-1) and has his work cut out for him. Three of the four returning starters -- tackle Reggie Burgess, linebacker/tight end Mark Roberson and fullback/tackle Dan Wharton -- will play on offense and defense.

Jefferson (6-4, 2-4) may have problems reaching the break-even mark. Linebacker/center Randy Blanchetti, tackle Chris Cooper and end Doug Fishcher are among the players who will have to play on offense and defense.

The biggest problem at Falls Church (2-7-1, 1-4-1) is lack of depth. Lineman Jerry McGinn, end Jeff Louis and safety/fullback Will Boyer are among the few experienced players.

Gunston favorite Mount Vernon averaged 24.1 points a game last season and allowed an average of 7.2 points. The Majors lost a few key performers, but still will be strong.

In addition to Rymiszewski and Doty, players returning include running back Woody Wright, end William Hinshaw, linemen Dan Mullins and Pat Hood and kicker John Gould.

Should the Majors slip, Fort Hunt (6-4, 3-2) is big and quick and could win the district championship. All-Met running back/kick returner Willie McCallum; fullback Eric Lindsey; linemen Eric Henderson, Kenny Hasel, Joe Davis and Dennis Phillips, and a veteran secondary are talented enough to challenge anyone.

Three-year starter Jeff Jarosz returns to Lee (5-4-1, 4-1) and his presence at quarterback should enable the Lancers to better .500. Safety Tom DiGulian is the leader on defense for first-year Coach Steve Singstack.

Hayfield (4-6, 1-4) showed much improvement a year ago. A good group of returning starters, led by linemen Dan Kutruff (6-2, 245) and Tony Mayberry (6-4, 235), Kevin Clarke (6-1, 200) and Dan Badinger (6-2, 230), along with tailback Dexter Lott, should enable the Hawks to reach .500.

Edison (2-8, 2-3) has tackle Ken Oravac, guard Richie Sarrano, safety David Raypass and tailback Earl Wilkins, but otherwise has to fill too many holes to be a serious contender.

Groveton (1-9, 0-6) gave up 266 points a year ago and unless Coach Vaughn Lewis discovers more help for tailback Orvin Boyd and linemen Jim Benton, Maurice Donais and Darryl Payne, it will be a long year again.

Since Marshall (5-5, 4-3) had one of its biggest turnouts in years, depth shouldn't be a problem for the Great Falls District favorite. Tailback Kevin Warhurst will run behind a big line anchored by guard Al Myers. The two also play defense, and they, along with end Jim Pugh and tackle Vic Baskerville may get the Statesmen in the regional playoffs.

Scoring should come easy for Madison (6-4, 5-2); stopping other teams may be the problem. The secondary is intact, but help is needed up front and at linebacker. Jonathan Hall may be the best quarterback to play for Coach Chuck Sell at Madison. Chris Bennett and all-District John Gorman are fine receivers.

Herndon (8-2, 6-1) lost 18 starters but should be respectable if a few spots are filled. Linemen Bukasa Kalombo, Tom Huminik, Pete Guilfoyle and Tom Blundell and backs Terrence Brundidge and Rick Regull are a good nucleus around which to build.

Defending district champion and regional finalist South Lakes (9-3, 7-0) was one of the few winning teams to give up more points than it scored. With one returning starter on defense, end Greg Hulbert, Coach Tom Secules has a major concern. Tony Arko takes over at quarterback and has Lance Herring and Leighton Webb as receivers.

For Yorktown (3-7, 3-4), at least eight players will have to play on offense and defense, and that's never a a good situation. Joe Bailey, a 6-3, 225-pound tackle, and Chris Hallett, John Henderson and Neal Erdossy are in for a long season.

Like several other teams in the district, lack of experience, size and depth will keep Langley (2-8, 2-5) from posing a serious challenge. Tim Bresnan, a 6-5, 260-pound tackle, and fullback Richie Schwieker are quality players.

Winning one game is the first objective for McLean (0-9-1, 0-6-1). With a handful of experienced players -- defensive stalwarts end Joaquim Perez, Keith Hilderbrand and guard Phil Vera included, a few victories could be forthcoming.

Washington-Lee (0-9-1, 0-6-1) is also seeking that first victory. Improving a defense that gave up 233 points last year is a major concern. The Generals will also have to score more than last year's total of 64.

Northern District rivals will have to contend with the speed of T.C. Williams (9-2, 5-0). With at least five players running the 40 in 4.6 or faster, scoring should be easy. McNeil, tailback Bren Lowery, quarterback Glen Williams, two-way tackle Carlton Hallums (6-3, 243) and defensive backs Larry Bryant and Leighton Fisher are good enough to take the Titans back to the regional playoffs.

Kenny Poates, instrumental for putting Chantilly football on the map, takes over a tradition-rich program at W.T. Woodson (9-1, 4-1). He has two strong performers in all-Met linebacker/end Andy Heck (6-5, 230) and quarterback/safety Greg Kimball.

Robinson (6-4, 2-3) will go as far as all-Met tailback Chris (Smooth) Warren's gliding strides can take it. Warren, a senior, along with an offensive line led by Sam Roots and Jim Grusheski and a solid defense anchored by Steve Christiansen, Bob Sweeney and Mike Dwyer, should be good enough for at least eight victories.

Oakton (5-5, 1-4) has a new quarterback. He is J.D. Gibbs, son of Washington Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs. The younger Gibbs, who transferred from Bethlehem Baptist, has good receivers in Roger Valliere, Jim Mauker and Scott Pendergast.

The fortunes at West Springfield (3-6-1, 1-4) can improve if Coach Bill Hanley finds some linemen to block for quarterback Keith Yates. The defense could also use a few large bodies or else a secondary of David Spille, Greg Bayshore and Ronnie Mobayed will be forced to make a lot of tackles.

Defense is the key for Lake Braddock (4-6, 2-3). Linebacker Hank McCracken, tackle Shane Allen and end Steve Harmon are the leaders of the Bruins' stopper unit.

Potomac (5-5, 5-2) finished strongly last year, winning five of six games. That momentum, bolstered by the return of a dozen starters could add up to a championship in the Commonwealth District. Top players include linebacker/center Lee Wilson, linebacker Tony Nattaniz, tackle Kevin Lohr, quarterback Mike Berry and receiver Larry Mason.

Finding linemen is a must for defending district winner Stonewall Jackson (8-3, 5-2). Running backs Bino Ramires and all-district Andre Southerland (1,361 yards, 13 touchdowns) and linebacker Derrick Jackson will keep the Raiders above water until the lines jell.

Fauquier (8-2, 5-2) has had fine back-to-back seasons (17 victories) and Coach Dean East is looking for a third. The offense is hurting a bit since only tackle Moses Coates (6-4, 245 pounds) and end Bill Yurgaitis are back. The defense has linebacker James Shellington, cornerback Kurt Rogers, and tackle Rich Coram.

For the first time in a long time, Woodbridge (6-4, 5-2) may have to settle for the role of a spoiler. There is very little experience at the skill positions and depth and the Vikings will need stellar performances from defensive specialists Chris Piacesi, Jim Bishop and Duane Wilder and offensive tackle Ed Kidwell to stay above .500.

Like Woodbridge, Gar-Field (6-4, 5-2) is hurting in several areas. There is some experience in the offensive line with Rick Divvers, Emerson Creel and Sean Anthony and receiver Donnie Hart and linebacker Bart Rogers.

The team to watch is North Stafford (3-7, 2-5). There is plenty of experience on both sides of the line, including quarterback Pat Sweet, running backs Dave Parker and Brian Berryman and linebacker/center John Martin and end/linebacker Keith Howarth.

James Wood (4-6, 1-6) bounced back from a disastrous 1-9 season the year before. The Colonels faded the second half of last year, losing four straight games by a combined score of 94-24. There is enough returning talent to reach the break-even mark.

Stafford (1-9, 0-7) lost its last eight games in 1983. Linebackers Ricky Brown and Earl Coffey and ends John Wilcox and Kevin Allard will lead the defense. Tailback Darryl Smith is the key to an offense that was shut out four times last year.

Osbourn Park (4-5-1, 3-3-1) moves up from AA but Coach Chuck Hornfeck has 15 returning starters. The offensive backfield returns intact. Quarterback Don Harvey, backs Tommy Chambliss, Thomas Keith and running back Vic Cahoon are all quick and game-breakers.