Some area high school football teams will hit the midway point of the season this week.

Believe it or not.

And with district play kicking off last week, the intensity has been ratcheted up at practices and during games on Friday night. While a loss in early September might not have been crippling — except in the case of rivalries — a defeat now could be enough for coaches to start looking ahead to next season.

Four weeks into the season is more than enough time to get a feel for which teams appear headed for a postseason berth and which programs might be building for the future.

Take South Sumter, for starters. Not many teams would consider an 8-3 record — including the playoffs — to be a down year, as the Raiders finished last year, but that’s how high the bar sits in Bushnell.

Even with a change at the top — legendary coach Inman Sherman retired and was replaced for Ty Lawrence, a longtime defensive coordinator under Sherman, the Raiders — 3-0 overall and 1-0 in Class 4A-District 4 — haven’t missed a beat. South Sumter opened play in Class 4A-District 4 last week with a 41-0 win against Umatilla and picked up a pair of wins prior to that against Leesburg and Brooksville Hernando.

Even with critical Class 4A-4 contests at Dunnellon (Oct. 21) and at Mount Dora (Oct. 28) still on the schedule, South Sumter appears in the driver’s seat for its sixth-straight postseason berth and 21st in the past 24 seasons.

Prior to those games, the Raiders likely will find out just how good they are when the Class 5A state champions, Orlando Bishop Moore, pull into Inman Sherman Field for a non-district matchup.

Other local teams looking at the potential for postseason glory this year are: Mount Dora, Eustis in Class 5A-13, East Ridge in Class 7A-4, along with First Academy of Leesburg and Mount Dora Christian Academy in the Sunshine State Athletic Conference. There may be others — a hot stretch could elevate other programs into the playoffs — but these six appear to have the strongest arguments for life after the regular season.

In the case of Eustis (3-1 overall, 1-0 in Class 5A-13), especially with Bishop Moore in the district, this might be a case of the Panthers — and the rest of the district — vying for second place. And while Eustis coach Mike Hay hasn't conceded the district title, knocking off the Hornets on Oct. 28 might be expecting too much from the Panthers.

Then again, that game will be played at the Panther Den.

Eustis made a statement on Friday when it blasted Class 5A-13 foe — and rival — Tavares 48-7. The Panthers will get tested this week with a non-district battle against Mount Dora.

As for Mount Dora, the Hurricanes improved to 2-1 overall and 1-0 in Class 4A-4 when it beat The Villages 47-8 on Friday in convincing fashion. Mount Dora dominated on both sides of the ball in a win Hurricanes coach Chris Stephenson considered a “must win,” because of Class 4A-4 games against Dunnellon and South Sumter still on the schedule.

The Hurricanes might have one of the most-difficult roads to the postseason. But, it could be worse.

Friday's win against the Buffalo likely means Mount Dora would have to beat South Sumter or Dunnellon to earn a postseason bid, instead of having to beat them both. 

Mount Dora hosts Dunnellon on Sept. 30 and South Sumter on Oct. 28.

East Ridge begins play in Class 7A-4 on Friday when it hosts Ocoee for homecoming. The Knights enter the game with a 2-1 overall mark — their only loss coming in a 59-14 drubbing by Miami Central, a South Florida-area powerhouse.

The Knights’ next six games will be district contests.

Other teams in the massive district — one of the largest in Central Florida — who appear in the running for a postseason berth include: Oviedo Hagerty, Ocala West Port, Ocoee and Winter Park Lake Howell.

In addition to playing Ocoee this week, the Knights will square off against Hagerty on Oct. 7, Ocala West Port on Oct. 12 and Lake Howell on Oct. 28. Only the game against Lake Howell will be on the road.

But, for those games to be crucial, East Ridge will need to take care of business in road games against Lake Minneola (Sept. 29) and Orlando Edgewater (Oct. 21).

First Academy of Leesburg, the last area team to win a championship when won the SSAC title in 2013, leads the Coral North Florida Division in the SSAC with a 2-0 league record and sports a 3-1 overall mark. Mount Dora Christian Academy, winless a year ago, is third with a 2-2 overall mark and a 1-1 division record.

The Eagles have have four regular-season games remaining, all against SSAC opponents. First Academy’s annual matchup against MDCA — the battle for the Orange Crate — is set for Oct. 7 at Sleepy Hollow.

MDCA also has four league games left. The Bulldogs’ final three games will be on the road, where the Bulldogs have yet to win.

Of the 13 area football programs, only Wildwood — an independent in the Florida High School Athletic Association — is ineligible for the postseason. No eligible program has been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.

The FHSAA state finals will be held in December at Camping World Stadium — formerly the Citrus Bowl — in Orlando.