Osbourn, which has not finished .500 or above since 1997, is 4-1. Osbourn Park, like the Eagles coming off a 3-7 season, also is 4-1.
Is dramatic change afoot at the midway point of the Prince William County high school football season? Not necessarily. Hylton and Manassas Park are unbeaten. Again. Just like they were last year at this time, and just like they were in 2003.
That continued excellence may seem ho-hum to others, but not to Manassas Park Coach Jeff Lloyd.
"What makes this group different is that it's different kids," said Lloyd, whose team has outscored the opposition 158-37 this fall in running its regular season winning streak to 29 games. "I think a lot of people expected this team to be average. These kids are used to winning, and they have found a way every . . . night to do that thus far."
Hylton Coach Lou Sorrentino was happy to scrap the former district schedule format, in which teams played their league mates twice per season. He has relished the opportunity to schedule teams from outside the area.
Already this fall, Hylton has played Sorrentino's old school (Culpeper), a team from Richmond (Henrico) and a new school (Battlefield). The Bulldogs are refreshed for Cardinal District play.
"I think there's been more of an excitement playing different teams and new teams and [having] a little bit of the unknown," Sorrentino said.
The unknown is most prevalent in the Cedar Run District, which seems more wide open than ever with defending champion Stonewall Jackson, improved Osbourn and Osbourn Park, capable Battlefield and first-year members Fauquier and Culpeper all vying for the league crown.
Osbourn had won four straight before losing at Woodbridge last week. The Eagles' path to their first playoff berth since 1992 got rockier with the indefinite suspension of junior quarterback Brandon Hogan after the third game.
Osbourn Park recovered from a 55-0 drubbing by Hylton in its third game to win its next two. The 4-1 record is a promising beginning, but the four conquered opponents are a combined 4-16, not the type of victories that will scare off the other Cedar Run challengers heading into the district openers tomorrow.
"Now it really starts," Osbourn Park Coach Brian Beaty said. "You can say what you want, but the bottom line is the district winner is going to go [to the playoffs]. It starts all over. I kind of feel like I'm going right into two-a-days."
Here are highlights and story lines from the first half of the 2005 season, and a peek at the next five weeks:
Best upcoming Cardinal District game: Woodbridge at Hylton, Oct. 28. Woodbridge knocked off the Bulldogs last regular season before falling to them in the playoffs. In the 10 combined games the teams have played this fall, they have given up only 40 points (nine by Hylton).
Best upcoming Cedar Run District game: Tough to choose just one. Could be Osbourn Park-Osbourn on Friday, Stonewall-Osbourn on Oct. 21 or Osbourn Park-Stonewall on Nov. 4.
Best upcoming Bull Run District game: Given the history of the league, that would be Strasburg-Manassas Park on Friday, but it could turn out to be George Mason-Manassas Park on Nov. 4.
Best chance at 10-0: Manassas Park's next five opponents -- its fellow Bull Run members -- have an overall record of 8-16. Hylton's next five -- its Cardinal brethren -- are 8-17.
Best chance at avoiding 0-10: Forest Park must face the stiff Cardinal District competition, but that group includes 1-4 teams Freedom and Gar-Field. The past two weeks, the Bruins have lost by one point to Battlefield and in double overtime to Stonewall. Of Brentsville's five remaining opponents, three have winning records, and another, James Wood, snapped a 21-game losing streak against the Tigers last year. Brentsville has dropped 13 straight games.
Toughest schedule: Gar-Field is 1-4, with losses to Varina (6-0), North Stafford (3-2), Petersburg (3-2) and Osbourn Park (4-1). Two of the losses were by a touchdown or less.
Most deceptive schedule: Virginia A Manassas Park scheduled, and beat, three AA teams. But those teams -- Potomac Falls, Broad Run and Brentsville -- are a combined 1-14.
Most overlooked nondistrict win: In the opener, Osbourn edged Brooke Point, 16-14. The Black-Hawks (4-1) have not lost since.
Best rebuilding job: The Woodbridge defense returned only one starter, senior linebacker Zack Weatherington, but has given up just one touchdown the past four games.
Costliest injury: Gar-Field senior running back-linebacker Mike King, the heart and soul of the Indians, suffered a knee injury late last month and is out for the rest of the season.
Costliest suspension: Osbourn junior quarterback Brandon Hogan, the player the Eagles built their spread offense around, had amassed 855 offensive yards and nine touchdowns in the first three games and led the program to its best start in more than two decades. He has been suspended indefinitely.
Best import: Manassas Park senior quarterback Jay Terrell, who attended Brentsville last year, has thrown for 439 yards and eight touchdowns and rushed for 519 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Best debut: Battlefield senior Chris Ahern, a Westfield transfer, intercepted three passes and recovered two fumbles in a season-opening 26-0 win over Brentsville.
Longest field goal: Woodbridge senior Eric Buckenmeyer booted a 46-yarder in a win over Battlefield.
Longest layoff: Because of a bye week, weather postponement and Cumberland bus breakdown, Manassas Park went from Sept. 23 until Oct. 10 without playing a game. "It was almost like starting over," said Lloyd, the coach.
Best brother act on the same team: Osbourn Park senior Anthony Bratton, and Keenan, a junior, are the Yellow Jackets' two leading receivers. Anthony has caught 16 passes, including seven touchdowns, and Keenan has caught seven passes.
Best brother act on opposing teams: This week, Stonewall Jackson senior offensive lineman-linebacker Scott Beitzell will face Battlefield junior running back-linebacker Patrick Beitzell. "I don't live in that household, so I don't know what's being said," Stonewall Coach Loren Johnson said. "I'd hate to be the father or mother in that situation."
Best workhorse: Osbourn Park junior running back Danny Mason has carried the ball 100 times for 459 yards.
Best defensive quarter: Four Hylton defensive players returned interceptions for touchdowns in the second period of a 55-0 win over Osbourn Park. Those Bulldogs, with return lengths, were seniors Marshall Dill (59 yards) and Tony Keiling (26 yards) and juniors T.J. Johnson (17 yards) and Omoniyi Bakare (30 yards).
Best defensive minute: Woodbridge senior defensive back Jose Gonzalez returned a fumble 47 yards for a touchdown and an interception 62 yards for a touchdown within 55 seconds in a 31-6 win over Osbourn last week.
Best previously unknown quarterbacks: Hylton junior Darius Reynolds, a junior varsity receiver last year, has thrown for 449 yards with eight touchdowns and two interceptions. Osbourn Park junior Ed Bohl, who attended Fork Union Military Academy part of last school year, has thrown for 471 yards and seven touchdowns, with seven interceptions.
Most up and down: Potomac won its first two games, giving up only 19 points, but has lost its past three games, surrendering 101 points.
Most welcome return: Stonewall sophomore running back Ryan Williams, who racked up more than 1,000 offensive yards last season, came back Monday from a knee injury that had caused him to miss the first four games. Williams ran for the Raiders' last two touchdowns in a 28-21 double-overtime victory over Forest Park.
Most extreme: Battlefield has played two one-point games -- a 10-9 loss to Gar-Field and a 21-20 win over Forest Park -- and been involved in three blowout shutouts -- a 26-0 win over Brentsville, a 34-0 loss to Woodbridge and a 27-0 loss to Hylton.
Best milestones: Battlefield notched its first varsity win by beating Brentsville in the opener, and notched its first win over a AAA opponent with a 21-20 victory over Forest Park in the fourth game. Freedom won its first varsity game in the opener, a 25-3 victory over new Stafford County school Mountain View.
Stingiest defense: The Hylton defense has given up three points (a Culpeper field goal) in five games. Henrico scored the lone touchdown against the Bulldogs this season on a return of a blocked punt.
Best budding talent: Virginia has offered a scholarship to Hylton junior William Alvarez, a 6-foot-5, 305-pound lineman. Sorrentino believes other big-time schools will get on board soon; Virginia had a head start because Alvarez attended camp there.
Best distribution: Nine Potomac players have caught passes, led by junior Deante Steele and senior Ronnie Norman.
Warmest welcome: Hurricane Katrina evacuee Tal Raboteau, from Bay Saint Louis, Miss., found a new home with Stonewall Jackson and cousin Damien Thigpen, a freshman running back-defensive back. Raboteau carried 11 times for 38 yards in his first appearance with the Raiders before breaking his collarbone. He is expected back within two weeks.