Nick Mathews heads for the end zone during Patriot’s first playoff football game, a loss to Robinson. Mathews and the Pioneers aim for even more success this season. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Favorite: Patriot (8-3)

Following their first playoff berth, the Pioneers enter their second season of varsity play primed for another breakthrough. Patriot made the leap from three wins to eight in its second year before falling in its first playoff game, and the majority of the Pioneers’ starters are back for more success. Quarterback Cody Agnew (2,205 yards and 17 touchdowns) and wide receiver Nick Mathews (team-high 946 receiving yards and seven scores) displayed a knack for big plays. Meanwhile, running back Jake Caparella (946 yards) stands to have an even bigger senior campaign following the graduation of Nick Ferrari-Smith. Defensively, the Pioneers are strong at the linebacker spot with Timmy Keenan and Nick Ntiros.

Contenders: Battlefield (6-4), Osbourn (3-7), Stonewall Jackson (8-5)

Around the league: Battlefield boasts experience, depth and size, beginning with returning starting quarterback Matt Gallagher. With Matt Scott and Zac Kerxton at wide receiver, the Bobcats might turn to the pass more, but balance likely will be their approach with a stable of running backs led by Corey Parker and Brendan Boney, and imposing offensive linemen in Jon Jacobs, Andrew Naylor and Noah Zentz. . . . Fresh off its run to the Virginia 6A state quarterfinals, Stonewall Jackson is expected to slow down a bit in its offense — but not its production — under new Coach Darryl Robinson. Anchoring the defense is the area’s top recruit in lineman Tim Settle, who will be backed by notable linebackers Ekoue Aziaba, Gahlia Gwangwaa, Siddiq Kanneh and Seun Ladipo. On offense, Nick Arnold will step in for graduated dual-threat QB Greg Stroman, while 1,000-yard rusher Reggie Floyd is set for a huge year after packing on 20 pounds. . . . At Osbourn, sophomores Anthony Pearson and Lorenzo Cota spent camp embroiled in a quarterback competition. Darren and Desmond Woodson, a pair of brothers who transferred from Stonewall Jackson, will look to be impact players at cornerback. Jauquan Waters is a name to watch at running back, while senior center Ryan Brode is a leader along the Eagles’ offensive line. . . . After missing half of last season with an ankle injury, senior Corey Walker returns at quarterback for Osbourn Park (3-7). Senior Lamar Hogan (6-3, 212 pounds) is a big, bruising runner who’s in line for plenty of touches and also lines up at corner on defense. Anthony Serafino, a junior transfer from Hylton, will make an instant impact at center.

Host Jessica Honesty and Brandon Parker preview high school football for the 2014 season in the Northern Virginia area. (Nick Plum for Synthesis/Koubaroulis LLC./The Washington Post)

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First-year quarterbacks take the reins for contending teams

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