Three games into the season, Potomac Coach Ben Stutler already has stopped trying to analyze scores involving Prince William County teams.
"I don't worry about who beats who . . . because nothing makes sense," Stutler said. "You can't get into that and I don't even look at it any more. After the first three weeks, who knows?"
That applies in particular to the Cedar Run District, whose teams this week play their first league games. Each of the four schools can make a reasonable case for contention, and each has its shortcomings:
* Osbourn Park, winner of 13 straight district games and the past two Cedar Run titles, is 0-3.
* Stonewall Jackson (2-1) looks like a formidable challenger but has lost 12 of its past 13 district games.
* Potomac (2-1) has a legitimate shot -- but the teams the Panthers have beaten the past two-plus seasons have gone 23-54.
* Osbourn (1-2) might be considered a capable dark horse but is 16-57 as a Virginia AAA program.
Osbourn Park, which opens the district schedule against Stonewall this week, misses its 16 all-district players who graduated in the spring. The team has lost by 17 points to each of its first three opponents.
"It's not the district," junior running back Devin Thompson said Saturday night, as a way to soothe himself after a 31-14 home loss to Woodbridge. "All I'm worried about is the district."
Thompson has carried 58 times for 362 yards; the other Yellow Jackets have carried 21 times for 20 yards. In the loss to Woodbridge, Thompson and senior quarterback Addison Carr were the only ball carriers.
"I've never used the word rebuilding, and don't want to," said fourth-year Osbourn Park coach Brian Beaty, whose team has reached the past two Virginia AAA Division 6 Northwestern Region championships.
"Our goal was to develop a good program. You just try to get people to step in and keep that level of intensity up, and we're not there yet. To be a good program, you need to learn to work through those things and try to get better week to week."
As the Yellow Jackets have fallen back, the other Cedar Run teams have risen, continuing a trend of sorts: Osbourn Park beat district opponents by 20.2 points in 2002, a number that dropped to 11.8 last season.
Stonewall appears to be on the upswing, particularly offensively. Junior quarterback Ricky Milbourne has thrown for 556 yards and, in a 28-20 win over Gar-Field last week, hit three receivers for touchdowns to snap the Raiders' six-game losing streak in the series. In addition, three Raider backs have rushed for 135 yards or more. The team's loss was to Hylton.
"Everybody felt like the Cardinal [District] was going to be superior to the Cedar Run," Stonewall Coach Loren Johnson said. "We're finding out we have just as much talent on this side of town as that side of town. Maybe not as a collective group at one school. . . . I think coaches felt that way, I just don't think fans or people who follow individual teams knew that."
Potomac has been inconsistent in recent seasons but might have experienced a breakthrough of sorts in a 55-26 win over Forest Park last week, a victory devoid of the penalties and turnovers that marred the Panthers' first two games.
Senior quarterback Mike McClain threw for four touchdowns against the Bruins, two shy of his 2003 season total.
"We were pretty sure nobody had really stopped us offensively except ourselves," Stutler said. "I think it should help our confidence a little bit and just allows them to see for themselves what we've been telling them all along and maybe let them know [the coaches] aren't as dumb as they think we are."
During one seven-play span in the Potomac-Forest Park game, the teams combined for five touchdowns. That is a pace not likely to continue in the Panthers' district opener at home tomorrow against Osbourn, a ball-control team that can frustrate opponents if its single-wing offense is clicking.
Osbourn has beaten Woodbridge and played Hylton to a 28-10 loss.
"We still feel good about our [district] chances," Eagles Coach Steve Schultze said. "Our kids have been working extremely hard and are starting to realize if they cut out their mistakes we can win a lot of ballgames. . . . If we put a full game together, we feel like we can compete and win a game against any team in both districts."