* Battlefield and Freedom high schools open, with no senior classes. Haymarket school Battlefield, led by former Falls Church and W.T. Woodson coach Mark Cox, will play two varsity games to start the season -- against Dominion and Brentsville -- then settle into a junior varsity schedule. Woodbridge school Freedom, coached by former Hylton assistant John Brown, will play a full JV schedule. The two new schools will meet twice, including Nov. 12 at Battlefield, a Friday night, as opposed to the usual JV format of Thursday night games.

* Joe Mangano takes over as Gar-Field's coach. He was an assistant at Stonewall Jackson last year, and at Woodson and Lake Braddock before that. Former Gar-Field coach Jim Poythress resigned after three seasons to take over the Lake Braddock program.

* District champions will not necessarily host first-round playoff games. The Virginia High School League decided to seed playoff teams based on their power ratings, the point system determined by wins and losses and strength of schedule. Under the prior playoff format, a district champion would automatically be seeded higher than an at-large qualifier.

* This will be the last season with four-team Cardinal and Cedar Run districts. Based on a planned VHSL realignment, Potomac is expected to rejoin the Cardinal in 2005, along with Freedom, to form a six-team district. Battlefield, Culpeper and Fauquier are expected to form a six-team Cedar Run in 2005.

-- PRESTON WILLIAMS