Class 4, Region B Semifinals: Louisa (11-0) at Monacan (11-0), 7:30 p.m. Friday
The basics: This region. Wow. There’s no time to try and get comfortable when Eastern View is a No. 4 seed and four unbeaten teams call this newly formed region home. Business is about to pick up for the Lions in a big way but they come into another matchup with Monacan a year and six days later much healthier, much fresher. Blowouts during the second half of the regular season have allowed Louisa, who came into last year’s clash with the Chiefs using duct tape and safety pins to keep the lineup together, to look like they’re hitting on all cylinders. The Chiefs last year were pretty reliant on the passing game with quarterback Syour Flood throwing the ball 23 times a game, and he’s back in the lineup and could become a problem for a Louisa secondary that has occasionally surrendered some big plays. But if you’re trying to throw, you’ve also got to deal with the pass rush pressure of a Louisa front seven that just flat out gets after it with sacks spread all over the lineup (six for Job Whalen, six for Devin McGhee, four for Tony Thurston, two for Brandon Smith) despite the fact that they’ve been able to take a break in the second half of some blowouts. Instead, Monacan will likely do what they’ve done in some big wins this year, like a victory over L.C. Bird, and try and run the ball first. Senior Korey Bridy has rushed for 1,370 yards and went for 203 yards on 27 carries against Louisa. Of course, Louisa has a counter for that too with that band of versatile, ball-hunting group of linebackers. Of course, Louisa’s offense has its own set of problems as they take on a defense that has surrendered just 12.6 points per game. It’s worth noting too that Louisa will be looking to complete its revenge tour for its losses in 2016 in this one. So far, they’re 2-for-3 having beaten Western and Charlottesville squads that beat them a year ago.
Key matchup: Monacan’s front seven contends with the single wing. With a low of 38 degrees Friday night, it doesn’t appear to be set to be nearly as cold as it was last Friday, but you expect that Louisa is going to start by trying to control the clock and grind against the Chiefs because that’s what they do and it’s the most tried and true path to victory. Of course we’ve seen that Malik Bell can air it out when required like he did against Charlottesville, but the Lions know their identity better than anyone. We’ll see how Monacan chooses to approach taking on the Louisa ground game early, and the Louisa coaching staff will start feeling things out and making adjustments quickly, but success on the ground feels like a necessary part of a winning formula for the Lions.
Who to watch: Louisa’s Raquan Jones. Jones is exactly the kind of player a program needs if they want to get to 11-0, if they want to win district titles, if they want to play deep into the postseason. Jones is one of the tougher backs in the area to tackle, averaging 7.5 yards per carry, and he made 39 solo stops in the regular season at linebacker. Whatever the Lions need, wherever they need him, Jones is there. He remains not quite as heralded as his classmates Bell and Whalen, but everyone knows at this point that if Jones is getting the ball it’s not to give those two a break. It’s because he’s a weapon all on his own.
The basics: Louisa by 1. It’s very clear Monacan is really good. Louisa’s defense though continues to be the difference-maker, the unit that seems unsolvable until proven otherwise.
Class 3, Region C Semifinals: Monticello (9-2) at Brookville (9-2), 7 p.m. Friday
The basics: A time comes for everything. All streaks end. All runs end. The big question that looms this week is obvious. Can Monticello end a string of second round playoff losses and vault themselves into the Region C final? Can a program that has dropped the last three second round games they’ve played in survive and advance? If they’re going to do so, they’re going to have to do it in dramatic fashion as they square off against Brookville and former Louisa County coach John Meeks. Under Meeks, Brookville has also stumbled in the second round of the playoffs, losing in 2014, 2015 and 2016. So something has to give for one of these programs in this cursed round for both of them. This matchup almost didn’t happen as the Bees had to rally to survive Rustburg in the first round. Monticello’s offense has been cooking lately as quarterback Kevin Jarrell continues to put together one of the most productive seasons in school and area history and is the school’s career leader in passing, total offense and quarterback rushing. Considering the players who’ve played that spot in the last 20 years, that is a noteworthy feat. He’s got weapons around him and a line that’s done an excellent job protecting him and opening lanes on the ground. Can the offense continue this torrid pace against the Bees who looked vulnerable last week?
Key matchup: Monticello’s front seven takes on Brookville quarterback Tanner Bernard, who threw for 163 yards and rushed for 70 last week. The two major times that Monticello’s defense has struggled were against Charlottesville’s triple option and Louisa’s single wing. They’ve defended spread sets pretty well, including a particularly strong first half performance against Albemarle and J’Quan Anderson. If Garrett Porterfield and company can put together a repeat performance against Bernard, keep it simple and get off the field on third downs, it’ll be a huge step toward surviving and advancing.
Who to watch: Monticello’s Jerrick Ayers. If the Mustangs get into a shootout — which they’re going to try and avoid at all costs — Ayers can be a gamechanger. He’s shown an ability to pick up tough yards and prevent opposing defenses from locking in on Jarrell. He’s also been able to slip out of the backfield and pick up big yards or scores as he’s done on several occasions when Jarrell has been able to find him. That’s the kind of on the fly adjustment two seniors can make and don’t be shocked if they connect again with Brookville focusing on Austin Haverstrom and Trenton Johnson.
The basics: Brookville by 1. The Bees get the nod with the game in Lynchburg, but if the Mustangs’ defense that showed up last week shows up this week and the offense stays in a rhythm, this could be the year.
Class 3, Region A Semifinals: Amelia (8-3) at Goochland (11-0), 7 p.m. Friday
The basics: Goochland gets kind of an interesting break here. Either way, they were going to face a team they beat earlier this year as Amelia got the better of Nottoway in the first round, but Amelia winning was an upset. Not that an 11-0 team with a powerful ground attack that’s hitting on all cylinders needs a break. In the regular season finale matchup, Goochland pulled away 42-28 after some early, out-of-character struggles with some strange plays. Now they get a chance to keep things rolling with a better idea of how to attack the Amelia defense and how to shut down the Raiders’ occasionally explosive offense. This is the kind of game some teams would struggle with focusing on mentally, but Goochland has rarely gotten tripped up in this kind of situation, a testament to how locked in the entire program is on the postseason from the first time they lift a weight in the offseason. Expect the Bulldogs to be ready to take care of business Friday.
Key matchup: Amelia tries to stop Jasper Carter and his band of maulers up front. Carter has rushed for 1,258 yards at a clip of nearly 8.5 yards per carry. That’s just flat out dominant. And he recently piled up 198 yards against the Raiders in that regular season finale. With that group of road graders in front of him, Carter is a force. Amelia has its work cut out for it.
Who to watch: Goochland’s Perry Snead-Johnson. Glue guys make things work. They find ways to contribute. Snead-Johnson isn’t the backfield’s marquee name, that’s Jasper Carter. He isn’t the defensive star, that’s Sam Brooks and Ricky Mayfield. But with with 35 total tackles, good for third on a stingy defense, and an 8.2 yard per carry average and six touchdowns on the ground, Snead-Johnson is the kind of player that helps you get to 11-0. Amelia is familiar with the basics against the Bulldogs, could Snead-Johnson add in a wrinkle?
The basics: Goochland by 10. Bulldogs beat the Raiders next time.