Orange County (4-4) at Monticello (7-1), 7:30 p.m.
The basics: Both these squads recently absorbed losses to Louisa County, but the Mustangs are already back on track with a 42-7 dismantling of Powhatan. The Hornets are looking to bounce back from a 62-25 loss to the Lions that looked similar to what the Mustangs endured two weeks ago. Whichever defense can figure things out enough against these two loaded offenses will make all the difference. Monticello’s Kevin Jarrell is the area’s only 1,000-yard passing, 1,000-yard rushing quarterback so far this year with 33 total touchdowns while Orange’s Kenyon Carter has thrown for 1526 yards and an area-leading 23 touchdowns. If you’re looking for scoring this is probably the top contest of the week. This is actually a tough two weeks of football for the Mustangs with a clash against Charlottesville looming next week as the Mustangs look to solidify their current playoff standing where they’re checking in at No. 3 in Region 3C behind Brookville and Heritage-Lynchburg. Orange is currently hanging on to the No. 8 spot in Region 5D, but they need at least one win in the next two weeks to guarantee a spot at the table.
Key matchup: Monticello’s secondary takes on Orange’s passing attack. The Hornets can whip the ball around and Darius Minor, Chris Washington and Ty Warren are dynamic athletes on the edge. Monticello has the skill position players to matchup, but it won’t be easy. Monticello’s defense got back on track last week, with Austin Haverstrom aiding that effort with an interception in the secondary. Can the Mustangs put together a similar lockdown effort?
Who to watch: Orange’s linebackers. The Hornets’ linebackers have their work cut out for them, with Monticello being equally capable of pounding it out on the ground or attacking over the top. That’s particularly stressful for linebackers who usually read and react to what’s going on, and against Monticello, with the Mustangs’ speed, Kevin Jarrell and Jerrick Ayers, second and ninth respectively in the area in rushing, are on you fast in the ground game. Orange needs stops in order to prevent this from becoming a track meet.
The line: Monticello by 7. This has the potential to be a shootout, last team that has the ball wins kind of clash.
Albemarle (4-4) at Powhatan (2-6), 7:30 p.m.
The basics: The Patriots handled business last week in a bit of a slow affair early with Fluvanna County. The Indians took one on the chin from Monticello. One year ago, this was a very big clash. This year it doesn’t have the sheen of 2016 but Albemarle still very much needs this one again. The Patriots have won three straight games after losing four straight. Taking down the Indians would put the Patriots over .500 for the first time since week one and complete the reversal of course they’ve undergone this season — a winless September followed by an unbeaten October. But Powhatan isn’t going to give this one away.
Key matchup: Indians linebackers Ben Nowacki and Xavier Trotman take on Albemarle quarterback J’quan Anderson. Powhatan doesn’t need to see tape of Anderson from this year — it knows quite well from last season just how hard it is to track down the senior quarterback. Do you spy him? Do you run contain on him? Do you rush him and hope to track him down? There might not be a right answer. But whatever happens, you can bet the burden of dealing with Anderson falls to Powhatan’s linebacking corps which has to decide just how to solve the problem.
Who to watch: Albemarle’s Kris Anderson. The Indians have shown a pretty solid amount of balance between the run and pass this season and as such, expect the Patriots’ secondary to be tested. Anderson is not only solid in coverage but he comes up with turnovers and has the ability to follow those with a big return. While the Albemarle offense should be able to handle business on its own, if the Patriots find they need a kickstart from the defense, don’t be surprised if Anderson provides with a big play defensively.
The line: Albemarle by 6. The Patriots take care of business.
Charlottesville (6-2) at Louisa County (8-0), 7:30 p.m.
The basics: This should be interesting. And were it not for the fact that the Lions handled Albemarle and Monticello with such ease, this game would have a lot more fan fare behind it. No team in the Jefferson District has played more close contests than the Black Knights. In that sense, they have truly been battled-tested. Against Western last week, Charlottesville dug itself out of a 14-0 hole to and won pretty convincingly, despite things getting to within eight points late in the fourth. The Lions have been so dominant they don’t know what a fourth quarter looks like without a running clock. Surely those days will come to end in the playoffs, but there’s little doubt that it wouldn’t hurt Louisa to get a really good game from the Black Knights and playing in a tight contest. It also wouldn’t hurt the Lions to stick with the status quo and keep its starters healthy on the sidelines in the second half. Regardless, Charlottesville has a great running attack. Louisa has a great running attack. Hopefully this is a good show. A lot of points on the line here for the playoffs.
Key matchup: The Lions linebacking corps takes on Charlottesville’s triple option. Preparing for the Black Knights is a bit complicated because you’re dealing with a lot of elements. It starts with the power running game inside with Sabais Folley. The Lions haven’t dealt with a runner of his size this year, but going up against their own in Malik Bell during practice gives them a pretty good idea of what it’s like. Then you have Rakeem Davis and Tre Durrett who bring great speed and power to the option. And of course last but not least is the conductor himself, Sam Neale, the guy pulling the trigger on the reads who’s no slouch of a runner either. Those are four great options. But the Lions are loaded at linebacker. The collision of Brandon Smith and Folley meeting in the middle might open some sort of wormhole and create a space/time continuum issue. Job Whalen and Raquan Jones on the edge against Davis and Durrett will be fascinating to watch. If the Lions shut down this run, it’s going to be a runaway in their favor. If the Black Knights find a way to run on this defense, they’ll have done something that none of the previous seven Louisa opponents has.
Who to watch: Louisa’s Dustin Matney. The defensive lineman is in the middle of traffic in this one. He has an opportunity to really disrupt this backfield and allow his linebackers to sworm in if he has his way. With so many teams keying in on the guy lining up next him, Tony Thurston — and also, understandably so — Matney has risen to the occasion and been problematic for interior offensive lines to bottle up. A big game from him here would be big against this triple option.
The line: Louisa by 7. Unfortunately for Charlottesville, the Lions are built for matchups like this.
Strasburg (4-4) at Madison County (2-6), 7:30 p.m.
The basics: If you’re Madison County, this week couldn’t come soon enough. Facing Central Woodstock and Clarke County in back-to-back weeks is cruel and unnecessary punishment for a young team. But, the worst is behind and now Madison can refocus on getting better rather than having to worry about getting physically mauled. The Rams have been a little bit all over the place, which you’d expect from a .500 team. Interestingly enough, against like opponents between Nelson County, Clarke County, Luray, and Rappahannock, the Rams and Mountaineers have both won and lost against the same teams — which is to say they both went 2-2 through that identical portion of their schedules. In that regard, this should be a fairly balanced game.
Key matchup: Madison’s rush defense against the Rams’ Austin Miller. Against Nelson last week, the Strasburg running back put together a 17-carry 224-yard showing with four of those touches going to the house. He also had a pair of catches for 20 yards. While Strasburg has a passing game between quarterback Dylan Hamrick and receiver Stephen Kloosterman, Miller is the straw that stirs the drink for the Rams and Madison will have to bottle him up to be succesful against this offense. Look for Jake Price and the front seven to key in on Miller and try and make Strasburg air things out.
Who to watch: Madison’s Jamar Turner. After going up against a pair of vaunted defenses, there’s little question that this Mountaineers offense is going to look a good bit different and be quite a bit more battle tested against the Rams. The openings should be bigger and the windows wider. Madison wants to become a power running team and to be that they need a strong effort from Turner and that also means a solid game upfront from the offensive line against the Strasburg defensive front. If Turner can control the clock, move the chains and help Madison sustain drives, this week will feel a whole lot better than the last two.
The line: Strasburg by 1. The Rams have a little more of a rhythm coming in having won two of their last three.
Fluvanna County (2-6) at Western Albemarle (1-7), 7 p.m.
The basics: Both these teams are in some unfamiliar territory going into this one. Fluvanna is currently in position to make the playoffs for the first since 2000 while Western is potentially staring down its first season without a playoff berth since 2008. What’s particularly frustrating for Western is that they’ve played really well against two of the district’s top four teams in Louisa and Charlottesville but they’ve been unable to snap this losing streak that started with a heartbreaking, narrow loss to Lord Botetourt in early September, who is 7-1 and ranked No. 2 in Region 3D. Western has been unable to find its groove since. Fluvanna won a pair of early games but have since dropped four straight. The Flucos’ challenge is to find a way to matchup with the Warriors, who have much more talent than their 1-7 record would indicate, and to seize a rare moment where Fluvanna could earn a postseason berth for the first time since before a number of players on the roster were born.
Key matchup: Fluvanna’s offensive line takes on the Warriors’ front seven. Western’s defense has been rock solid at times this year despite the Warriors’ seven-game slide while the Flucos have been at their best when the line opens up holes for a barrage of running backs and a pair of mobile quarterbacks in Colby Martin and Ethan Graves. Can the Flucos get some push against Western?
Who to watch: Western Albemarle’s Robert Sims. Since moving into the quarterback spot, Sims has showed some promise, throwing for three touchdowns and 158 yards last week against Charlottesville. Can he continue to settle into his new role and give the Warriors a spark against Fluvanna with a potential playoff spot on the line?
The line: Western Albemarle by 14. The Warriors have hung around in a lot of their games. This week they get over the top.
William Monroe (2-6) at Warren County (4-4), 7 p.m.
The basics: The Dragons have been in every game lately and Friday should be no exception. Warren County escaped against a Brentsville team that Monroe fell to 7-6, so this one should be pretty evenly matched, but the Dragons will have to shore up things defensively after surrendering 41 points last week to Skyline, their first defensive letdown since surrendering 35 to Fort Defiance in early September. If the defense can get back on track, the Dragons have a shot and a win could help them climb back into playoff contention — they’re currently 12th in Region 3B, they need to find a way to No. 8 to extend their season.
Key matchup: Warren County’s front seven takes on Alex Kinsey. The Dragons’ quarterback ran for 60 yards and threw for 155 last week, accounting for three total touchdowns. That dual threat ability puts pressure on the Wildcats’ front seven, can they figure out a way to hem Kinsey in?
Who to watch: William Monroe’s Jordan Gray. Gray is the area’s No. 4 receiver with 510 yards on 41 catches and he’s the Dragons’ most reliable option offensively, he catches everything. Can he put Monroe on his back as they try and finish strong.
The line: Warren County by 7. The Wildcats get the edge here at home.
Goochland (8-0) at Prince Edward (4-4), 7 p.m.
The basics: Goochland is closing in on its second-straight unbeaten regular season, with just Prince Edward and Amelia left on the schedule. Amelia is the season finale next week at home on senior night, and with the Raiders at 7-1 that’s likely going to decide the James River District championship. But in the meantime, the Bulldogs have work to do on the road. Expect the same combination of stingy defense and efficient running that have carried Goochland this far to show up again this week against Prince Edward.
Key matchup: Prince Edward’s defensive line takes on the Goochland offensive line. Jasper Carter has rushed for 943 yards at a steady clip of 8.42 yards per carry, so he’s fresher than most backs who’ve run for nearly 1,000 yards by this time of the year, carrying the ball just 112 times. He’s done that because the Goochland offensive line is opening big holes and springing him to the second level. Finding an answer against this unit isn’t easy, Prince Edward could struggle.
Who to watch: Goochland’s Ricky Mayfield. This guy’s numbers are rock solid. 12 tackles for a loss and six sacks this year make him one of the area’s best at disrupting the opposing backfield. Contending with him always makes for a long night for the oppositon.
The line: Goochland by 17. The only real threat to the Bulldogs is looking ahead to Amelia, but that’d be pretty out of character for Goochland.
Buckingham County (3-5) at Randolph Henry (0-8), 7 p.m.
The basics: What a difference three weeks makes. The Knights were sitting at 1-5 after their loss going into their bye week. Now they’re healthier and winners of two straight, the Knights are ever but surely putting themselves in position to get to .500 and potentially make the Region 2C playoffs. If they do, it will be quite the turnaround. After beating Bluestone in 34-19 last week, Buckingham gets a winless Statesmen team on the road for a chance to make it three straight wins. Randolph-Henry is coming off a 51-8 loss to Goochland.
Key matchup: Buckingham’s linebacking corps against Randolph-Henry running back Tyrie Blow-Tydings. The 5-foot-11 and 248 pound senior packs a load as a ball carrier. While the Statesmen have struggled this year to get a consistent running game going, that’s been more of an issue up front than anything. If this Knights linebacking corps led by Walter Edwards and Daniel Brickhill can get a hat on Blow-Tydings early, they’ll be a good shape. Don’t be surprised if the Buckingham defensive line gives this linebacking unit the opportunity to make some big plays too.
Who to watch: The Knight’s secondary. The Knights had four different players come up with interceptions last week and five picks total. Both Gerry Toney and Tyrese Ayres showed off their playmaking skills with big returns on theirs with Toney going the distance and Ayres setting up first and goal on his. If the Knights front seven does the job against the run, this secondary is going to get its chance to try and make some plays and break this game open.
The line: Buckingham by 7. The Knights are on a roll for a reason.
St. Anne’s-Belfield (3-4) at Hampton Roads Academy (4-4), 7 p.m. (8-Man game)
The Basics: Since starting 3-0, the Saints have dropped four straight, including another 8-man game against Hampton Roads just two weeks ago, a 30-24 clash at home. Can the Saints get back on track, particularly after a strong effort fell short against Covenant a week ago? They should have some confidence after the offense put together a top-notch effort with 344 yards of total offense last week, including Myles Ward hauling in two touchdowns despite the fact that opponents know that’s exactly who the Saints are going to try and get the ball to. STAB is fighting for a season north of .500 now and they’ll need two wins on the road to get it, this week is the first step.
Key matchup: STAB’s front seven takes on Hampton Roads running back Jalen Norton. Norton rushed for 162 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries last time these two met, expect Hampton Roads to feed Norton again.
Who to watch: STAB’s Gabe Decker. Decker is emerging as a threat in the passing game, having hauled in 78 yards and a touchdown on three catches last week. Can he keep that rolling?
The line: STAB by 7. The Saints return the favor here after losing to the Navigators at home two weeks ago and end this skid.
Fork Union (2-6) at Bishop O’Connell (1-7), Saturday 2 p.m.
The basics: By now, the Blue Devils are good and tired of the “but they were so close” narrative. Fork Union held a 12-0 lead on the Prep League’s first place squad in Collegiate after the first quarter. But a disastrous second quarter allowed the Cougars to come away with a 21-18 win. The Blue Devils out-rushed and out-passed Collegiate but lost in the turnover department. Now FUMA hits the road playing against a team with a sub-.500 record for just the third time this season with a trip to Bishop O’Connell. The Knights have lost four straight and are coming off a 35-21 defeat to Trinity Episcopal. If this season has been frustrating for the Blue Devils, they have an opportunity to take it out on an O’Connell team that’s lost by 28 points or more in six of their seven losses.
Key matchup: The Knights secondary against the Blue Devils’ wide receiving corps. With Luke Wilson spreading the ball around at quarterback, this receiving corps continues to put up balanced numbers. Larry Elder, Logan Justice and Malcolm Mays had big games against Collegiate last week with the Cougars keying in on the team’s leading receiver, Will Stupalsky. It’s going to be tough for the O’Connell secondary to take any one of these receivers out of the game, much less two of them. We’re not far removed from a 9-TD game from WIlson. Don’t be surprised if Wilson comes close to that and Elder, Justice, Mays and Stupalsky get even rations of receptions and yardage.
Who to watch: Fork Union running back Daniel Reynolds. The sophomore was a bit of a revelation last week against Collegiate with his 10 carries for 121 yards and a touchdown. Anytime that the Blue Devils can spell Iosefa Pua’auli and allow him to do his thing at linebacker rather than have to worry about too many carries at running back, they’re in a good spot. It will be interesting to see if Reynolds can replicate last week’s performance.
The line: Fork Union by 7. This should be a pretty solid rebound for the Blue Devils.
Trinity Episcopal (3-4) at Woodberry Forest (4-2), 2 p.m.
The basics: The Tigers back-to-back week tour of Richmond ended on a bright note. Woodberry bounced back from its heart breaking loss to Collegiate with a tight 35-26 win over Benedictine. Now back at home for the first time since September 30th, the Tigers will get a chance to show off their passing attack against a Titans team that has struggled against aerial assaults. Trinity has won two of its last three though including a 35-21 win over Bishop O’Connell last week.
Key matchup: The Titans pass rush takes on Woodberry quarterback Will Wideman. The Tigers senior went 13-for-18 passing with 252 and a trio of touchdowns against a strong Benedictine defense last week. What will he do to this Trinity defense? If the Titans don’t get a decent pass rush and get in Wideman’s face, this has all the makings of a Paul VI do-over where the Woodberry signal caller had seven touchdowns with six of them coming in the air. There’s no question Wideman and receivers Dequece Carter and Khalid Thomas have to be salivating at the opportunity this game presents after Fork Union quarterback Luke Wilson shredded this defense for nine touchdowns in a 86-42 blowout two weeks ago. So again, unless the Titans find a way to bowl over this Woodberry offensive line and pummel Wideman, it looks like it’s going to be a long Saturday afternoon.
Who to watch: Tigers running back Jameel Wilson. It’s not that it’s a surprise that Wilson had a 202-yard showing on the ground this year. It’s that he did it against a Benedictine defense. That’s quite the statement from the senior. If Wilson is putting up those kind of numbers on the ground, with as talented as this passing game is, opponents just don’t have a chance. It’s simply too much to stop. Wilson’s break away speed is going to be a real problem for Trinity, but not just when he totes the ball on the ground — he’s every bit as dangerous out of the backfield as a pass catcher too. And the wildest part of Wilson’s game is that he needs only a few carriers, a few receptions to put up gaudy numbers.
The line: Woodberry by 20. Tigers cruise at home for the fourth straight time this year.
Covenant (6-1) at North Cross (5-2), 2 p.m. Saturday
The basics: If you’d said in August that with Rick Weaver already out for the year that Donovan Jackson would also get knocked out but the Eagles would be competing for a playoff spot, it would’ve been a hard sell. What Covenant is doing right now is really impressive, a testament to first-year head coach Seth Wilson and the heart of a senior class that just keeps plugging forward. With North Cross losing last week to Roanoke Catholic, the door is open for Covenant to essentially control its own fate. This is most likely a must-win game for Covenant as there’s a razor thin margin to get into the playoffs in VISAA’s Division II with four the No. 2 through No. 6 teams all sporting six-win campaigns. This year, the VISAA has instituted a rule where the top six teams are playoff eligible but a vote will determine the top four squads that are actually in the mix. So, yeah, this is a big one and North Cross is a wounded animal, coming in off a frustrating loss to Roanoke Catholic and backed into their own corner when it comes to the playoff picture. High stakes for both squads, it’s another gut check for Covenant to see what they’ve got left in the tank after last week’s win over STAB.
Key matchup: Covenant’s secondary takes on North Cross’ deep receiving corps. While the Raiders haven’t whipped the ball around quite as efficiently or productively as they have in years past, this is still a dangerous passing game, with Nariq Bailey, Tyler Slash and Zae Baines presenting matchup problems. The Eagles’ defensive backs are going to have to tackle soundly and cover tight against this dynamic group.
Who to watch: Covenant’s John Huemme. Come on, this has to be the guy after five touchdowns last week. With Jackson and Weaver on the shelf, Huemme put the Eagles on his back in a thrilling rally against STAB. He’s got two more games now where Covenant will likely need repeat performances. Look for them to trust their senior signal-caller.
The line: Covenant by 1. The Eagles are going to need two emotional, hard-fought wins in a row in order to secure a potential playoff spot. Can they get it done on the road?
Fishburne (1-6) at Blue Ridge (6-1), 1:30 p.m. Saturday
The basics: Blue Ridge has been tuning up for the season finale against Benedictine and the playoffs the last two weeks including an unofficial game with Virginia Episcopal where the young players in the program took centerstage against an undermanned Bishops roster. This week against the Caissons, Blue Ridge should make short work of Fishburne with a lock down defense and an offense that has shown some promising balance.
Key matchup: Fishburne’s offensive line deals with Blue Ridge’s front seven. This is a tall task for any opponent as Blue Ridge isn’t afraid to bring everyone to disrupt an offense’s rhythm, they’ve got lockdown athletes on the back end to make that possible too. Fishburne could be in trouble.
Who to watch: Blue Ridge’s Cameron Carr. Carr is one of the area’s best two-way boundary players, a wide receiver who’s dangerous on end arounds and electric in the passing game as well as a dynamic cover guy who doesn’t get tested often but has a pair of interceptions this season. With a lot of top notch athletes on the field for the Barons, Carr can occasionally get lost in the mix, but make no mistake, he’s as good as having two elite players in one.
The line: Blue Ridge by 35. The Barons shouldn’t struggle in this one.