As summer fades to fall, the start of another high school football season is just around the corner with the first games kicking off on Sept. 10.

The Post will look at several aspects of the upcoming Northern Region football season during the next few weeks, starting today with the top storylines.

Encore Performance?

1 Last season, just four years after the school opened its doors, Westfield stormed to the Virginia AAA Division 6 championship. The Bulldogs went 14-0 playing one of the toughest schedules in the area -- nine of their 13 opponents (they played Herndon twice) finished with records of .500 or better, two ended the season ranked in The Post's Top 10 and three of them -- playoff opponents Robinson, Hylton and Landstown of Virginia Beach -- suffered their only losses of the season against Westfield.

Westfield became the first Northern Region team to finish the season ranked No. 1 by The Post since Robinson shared the top spot with Seneca Valley in 1997.

So what will the Bulldogs do for an encore?

They will be without more than half of last year's starters on both sides of the ball, including quarterback Sean Glennon, a first-team All-Met selection last season, and receiver Eddie Royal, the All-Met offensive player of the year. Both graduated in the spring and now are at Virginia Tech.

The Bulldogs will lean more heavily on junior running back Evan Royster, who rushed for 1,723 yards and 22 touchdowns as a sophomore last season. Westfield won't get many breaks, however, considering . . .

Concorde Power

2 The Concorde District could be the toughest league in the entire Washington area. In addition to Westfield, traditional powers Centreville, Chantilly, Oakton and Herndon are in the district.

Teams from the district have won two of the last four Virginia AAA Division 6 titles (Westfield in 2003 and Centreville in 2000), and Oakton reached the final in 2002 but lost to Hylton, 6-0.

Last season, all the Concorde teams finished with records of .500 or better. Centreville and Oakton both had 6-4 records last season but have most of their starters back, Herndon will attempt to get back to the playoffs and Chantilly will have an inexperienced roster and a new coach -- Marty Riddle -- one of many in the region.

New Faces on Sideline

3 Northern Region coaches likely will have to do more scouting than usual this year, because many of the tendencies they have gotten used to from opponents may be obsolete. Besides Riddle, there will be nine other new head coaches on the sidelines this season.

Tim Churchill and R.J. Windows take over at Wakefield and Washington-Lee, respectively, in the National District, and in the Patriot District, Eric Henderson (West Potomac) and Jim Poythress (Lake Braddock) inherit a pair of 3-7 teams.

The Liberty District will be the most different this year, however, as five of the eight teams will have new head coaches -- Fairfax (Mat Shannon), Lee (Chad Lewis), McLean (Rick Rivera), South Lakes (John Ellenberger) and W.T. Woodson (Gerry Pannoni). Lewis takes over the defending district champs, who will have to replace most of last year's offense and defense.

Who's Back?

4 Royster, one of the top rushers in the Washington area last season, certainly has to be considered the best returning running back. Statistically, the top returning passer in Northern Virginia is West Springfield senior Joey Skaff. Last season Skaff completed better than 50 percent of his passes for 1,434 yards, 21 touchdowns and just six interceptions.

The top returning receiver is Lake Braddock senior David Jones, who caught 38 passes for 546 yards last season. Jones will benefit from the return of his quarterback Mark Wade, who threw for more than 1,000 yards.

Fairfax returning quarterback Michael Britt tries to evade the tackle of a Lee defender last season. The Rebels are one of 10 Northern Region schools with a new coach as Mat Shannon takes over this season.Lake Braddock first year Coach Jim Poythress is one of 10 new faces on the sidelines this season in the Northern Region.Westfield senior Evan Royster is back for defending state champion Westfield after rushing for 22 touchdowns last season.