The early rounds of the high school football playoffs can be overwhelming. With so many good teams and players competing, it’s easy for a casual fan to lose track of what to watch for.

This weekend will be one of the most confusing ones as most of the top teams in the District, Maryland and Virginia begin postseason play. To help you get a grasp of everything that’s going on, we compiled a list of 10 story lines to keep an eye on.

In D.C.

Wilson looks to speed past Ballou, into the Turkey Bowl

Reigning Turkey Bowl champion Ballou (5-4), the No. 3 seed, will face No. 2 seed Wilson (8-2) in the semifinals of the DCIAA Stars playoffs. In their midseason matchup, Wilson beat Ballou, 28-12.

If Ballou wants to make a return appearance in the Thanksgiving Day game, it will have to find a way to shut down Wilson’s speedy offense. The Knights will want to watch out for senior running back Amir Gerald, who has 1,011 rushing yards and nine touchdowns.

— Madeline Rundlett

In Maryland

Suitland and Flowers compete for a shot at Wise

With Wise expected to beat first-round opponent Eleanor Roosevelt, 16th-ranked C.H. Flowers (9-0) and Suitland (8-1) will compete for the chance to try to stop the perennial powerhouse in the regional finals. In their previous meeting, Flowers downed Suitland, 14-7, with a last-minute touchdown from senior quarterback Julius Duvall.

With its offensive output waning in the final two games of the season, Flowers’s defensive line may be a difference-maker. Through nine games, the Jaguars have allowed just seven touchdowns, shutting out opponents four times.

— Madeline Rundlett

Churchill’s pro-style offense gets another chance against Northwest

When Churchill faced Northwest on Oct. 5, the Bulldogs had the score tied entering the fourth quarter before the Jaguars scored 12 unanswered points for a 40-28 victory. That was the only game Churchill lost all season, and now in the playoffs for the first time since 2012, the Bulldogs will host Northwest again Friday in Maryland 4A West.

Unlike most public schools, Churchill runs a pro-style offense, and with two NFL coaches on their staff, the Bulldogs hope to reach the second round of the playoffs for the first time in seven years. Northwest’s defense features two Pittsburgh commitments, but Churchill’s Michael Janis has been one of the most consistent quarterbacks in Montgomery County this season.

Can Blake finally make some noise in the playoffs?

Blake’s past two postseason appearances have ended with a loss in the first round. Last year, the Bengals fell to Linganore in Maryland 3A West, but they’ll get another shot at the defending state champion Friday. Blake enters the playoffs with momentum: El’Jhon Ward’s late interception return for a touchdown against Watkins Mill on Friday sealed the Bengals’ postseason spot. The Bengals feature one of the school’s best front sevens, but they’ll have to perform their best to stick with the Lancers’ dominant offensive line, which helped them to a 9-1 record.

St. Charles makes its first playoff appearance

While players on most regions’ top teams have playoff experience, Maryland 3A South’s top seed, St. Charles, is making its first postseason appearance since the team started five years ago. Maryland commitment Kameron Blount, who usually only plays linebacker, filled in at quarterback and led the Spartans to their first winning season. Now, they will try to carry that success into the postseason. In the first round, St. Charles plays Northern, which it beat, 12-0, in September.

“Our offense last year was pretty slow,” Blount said in September. “This year, it’s more fast-paced and up to date.”

— Kyle Melnick

In Virginia

Freedom-Woodbridge has history with Hylton

Freedom has looked dominant in Prince William County, but it did last year as well — until Hylton upset the Eagles in the second round of the playoffs. The teams meet again in Region 6C’s 2-vs.-7 matchup. The Eagles won their regular season meeting in late September, a chippy affair that featured plenty of trash talk and some brief sideline skirmishes.

New contenders face off in Loudoun County

The young program at Riverside has never won a state playoff game. Loudoun County hasn’t advanced to the second round since 2012. Either of those facts could change this week as the eight-win teams meet in the 4-vs.-5 matchup in Region 4C. The Raiders handed the Rams their worst loss of the regular season, a 28-0 shutout led by Nick Barts’s three touchdown passes. Can the Rams find a way to slow down Barts and the rest of the Raiders’ weapons?

Back-to-back battles for South County and Lake Braddock

For Lake Braddock, the only bright side to Saturday’s 16-14 loss to South County had to be that the Bruins would get another shot at the Stallions this weekend. The win for South County meant it will host the Region 6C game, instead of the other way around.

Last week’s game featured two successful deep balls that scored or set up a touchdown. Could the big arms of the Stallions' Matthew Dzierski and the Bruins' Billy Edwards determine this weekend’s outcome?

— Michael Errigo

Private schools

Georgetown Prep vs. Bullis could come down to stopping the run

Georgetown Prep and Bullis boast powerful running games. For Georgetown Prep, Jalen Hampton is a workhorse, averaging nearly 160 yards over eight games. Bullis uses a spread offense with unique schemes and is led by running back Eric McKay. It will be hard to stop either team’s run game, but whoever can limit the opponent probably will come out on top.

It’ll be Robinson vs. Wete and the line in St. John’s-Gonzaga

For the second straight week, St. John’s will face Gonzaga, this time in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference playoffs. Running back Keilan Robinson, an Alabama commitment, is expected to be back from injury, adding more firepower to the Cadets' already-stacked offense. The Eagles' stout defensive front, led by Oklahoma commitment Joseph Wete, will look to stop the Cadets' ground game and avenge last week’s loss.

— David Kim