Monticello (3-5) at Albemarle (6-2), 7:30 p.m.
The basics: The Mustangs put together a strong first half against Louisa County but fell 26-12 for their second straight loss, putting them in a tight spot to try and make the playoffs. Albemarle held off Powhatan 35-28 for a huge road win and their fourth straight victory. The Patriots came into this game with a 6-2 record last year and took it on the chin, so expect them to come out early and to try avoid falling into a hole. As we’ve seen whether it’s Charlottesville or even early last week, Albemarle has a knack this year for racing back out in front, but surely the Patriots would like to avoid having to mount a comeback. For Monticello, this is their third-straight game facing a dynamic offense, but Albemarle presents a different task than trying to slow the power run games of Orange or Louisa. This is a must win for Albemarle to get a home playoffs game. It’s a must win for Monticello to get a playoff game. Expect things to be hyped, particularly early.
Key matchup: Albemarle’s J’quan Anderson and Monticello’s Kevin Jarrell. This is a fantastic quarterback duel. Both can whip it around the field. Both have strong receivers. Both are dangerous threats to run. The big key for both in this one will be the turnovers. Given the big play threats these two offenses can put together, neither side can afford to give the other extra cracks at putting points on the board. Between Anderson and Jarrell both defensive lines have to contain.
Who to watch: Albemarle’s Lorenz Brown. With Tyquan Rose sustaining a concussion last week, the Patriots will have to lean on Brown more in the passing game. The good news is that Brown was downright special when his number was called against Powhatan. Monticello’s secondary is green and hasn’t faced a potent passing attack like this since their 29-14 loss to Western Albemarle in week 4. Obviously the Patriots will stick to pounding the ball with running back Jamal Thompson, but don’t be surprised if Brown winds up playing a big role in this one.
The line: Albemarle by 9. The Patriots appear to be peaking at the perfect time and will have a raucous crowd behind them to get them going early.
Orange County (5-3) at Louisa County (7-1), 7:30 p.m.
The basics: The premiere rivalry in the Jefferson District — this one has a lot on the line. The Hornets have won three straight and in convincing fashion including last week’s 48-14 win over Charlottesville. The Lions bounced back from their loss to Western Albemarle with a 26-12 win over Monticello. Yes, Louisa is dealing with some injuries and illnesses, but don’t be too fooled, this team still is quite capable of showing what we saw from them in their first six games. The Jungle will be packed for this one on both sides. These are two great rushing teams. This is going to be an old fashioned ball game and while there’s a great deal of hype about this coming in, there’s no reason both sides can’t meet that hype and make this one a classic. It’s certainly the most anticipated meeting between these two in a long, long time.
Key matchup: Louisa County’s defensive front against the Orange County offensive line. For the most part, all things are equal in this game — except the Lions’ front eight which has been dominant all season long, and yes, was still very good against Western. The Lions need this unit to get the kind of penetration they did against Albemarle. Of all the JD teams Louisa has faced, Albemarle is the most similar to this Orange squad. On the flip side, the Hornets need to make sure that quarterback Kenyon Carter gets enough protection in the passing game and obviously, that running backs DeAngelo Hunt and Trevon Smith have enough time to get up their heads of steam. This game will likely be decided by Lions defense upfront and Orange’s o-line, one way or the other.
Who to watch: The running backs. Take your pick, Smith, Hunt or Louisa’s Job Whalen, and Raquan Jones. Obviously if Malik Bell is healthy enough to play, this game changes and you have to throw his name into the mix. But at the end of the day, these are two physical offenses that are throwbacks, old school and simply fun to watch. The clock is going to melt in this game. There should be a great back and forth between these two groups.
The line: Louisa by 1. The Hornets have the momentum coming in but the Lions have the last seven games, a 7-1 record this year and a home crowd behind them.
North Cross (8-0) at Covenant (3-5), 4 p.m.
The Basics: Covenant got a huge performance from Rick Weaver with a 300+ yard outing last week, but still fell to cross-town rival St. Anne’s because the Eagles fell into a hole and couldn’t climb out as the Saints kept matching the Eagles’ scoring. Covenant will face another stiff challenge this week against North Cross. The Raiders are ranked No. 1 in the state in VISAA’s Division II and they’ve beaten squads like Blue Ridge and STAB that have beaten Covenant already. With a balanced offense and a stingy defense, North Cross will be a tough matchup.
Key Matchup: Covenant’s defense takes on North Cross’ one-two punch of Miles Lowman at quarterback and Isaac Harris at running back. Lowman has thrown for 1,790 yards while Harris has run for 805. Some of that success is due to some well-established balance that makes the Raiders particularly unpredictable this season. Covenant’s defense struggled to hem in STAB’s Jaylen Alexander last week and they’ll need to shore things up to have a chance this week.
Who to watch: Covenant’s John Huemme. Huemme made his return to the lineup, a weclome development for an Eagles’ squad that’s been beat up at quarterback with Nic Sanker, who should’ve been Huemme’s backup going into the year without Huemme’s offseason injury. With Huemme and Weaver back, Covenant can build for next year by finishing on a high note with their backfield’s core back in the mix.
The line: North Cross by 14. The Raiders are just a little too much for the Eagles.
Charlottesville (4-4) at Western Albemarle (4-4), 7 p.m.
The Basics: The records are dead even but the momentum each team is playing with couldn’t be more different. The Black Knights have dropped three straight after starting the year 4-1 and now they take on the Warriors and then Louisa needing at least one win and maybe two to get into the 12-team Region 4A West playoffs. The Black Knights sit at 14th right now and have to close strong to get in the field. On the flip side, Western has won two-straight including a shocking victory over Louisa that breathed new life into a season that appeared destined to become a rebuilding effort after losses to Powhatan and Orange County. Quite suddenly, Western is just one spot away from hosting a playoff game in the opening round. They’ve improved drastically and should be a tough out for anyone they face as they close out the year against rivals Charlottesville and Albemarle. This is a study in contrasts as it has been for several years with the Black Knights’ power option running into the Warriors’ spread. Look for Western to try and jump out to a fast start and then try and control the game from there, the Warriors were slow starters at the beginning of the season and have really locked in the last two weeks on getting off on the right foot.
Key Matchup: Western’s front seven takes on Charlottesville’s running backs. The Black Knights are struggling right now but when the offense gets in rhythm, it’s very tough to slow down Sabias Folley at running back or whoever attacks the Warriors on the edge. Western counters with leading tackler James Buetow, defensive ends Luke Tenuta and Noah Crutchfield and the versatile Jarrett Smith. That quartet will have to play responsibility football like they did against Louisa in order to shut down the option. If they’re on point, Charlottesville could stall out on that side of the ball.
Who to watch: Western’s Derek Domecq. A big part of the reason that Western is improbably back at .500 is because Domecq has settled in. The junior signal-caller is fourth in the area in passing at 1,025 yards while also rushing for 744 yards. The Warriors’ offense is built to have have the quarterback do damage both through the air and on the ground, and when Domecq gets outside the pocket and on the edge, he’s particularly dangerous. Charlottesville has to hem him in or disrupt him in some way in order to throw the Warriors off track.
The line: Western by 7. The Warriors are riding some momentum but Charlottesville’s playoff life is on the line in this one. Both teams should be motivated.
Culpeper County (3-5) at William Monroe (4-4), 7:30 p.m.
The Basics: William Monroe fell last week to Central Woodstock, taking an outside shot at a Bull Run District title off the table, but the Dragons still have a lot to play for right now. They’re currently in playoff position in Region 3A East and now they face an out-of-district foe in Culpeper that’s also fighting for a spot in that tournament, currently clinging to the No. 16 spot. William Monroe has to get things going against the Blue Devils after last week’s stumble, and closing strong with a pair of wins has the potential to setup a more managable first round playoff opponent.
Key Matchup: Monroe’s defense contends with Culpeper playmaker Malik Roy. Last week against Manassas Park, Roy got the ball in the ground game on end-arounds. He’s typically a receiver. The Dragons have to figure out where Roy is on each play but not get so locked in that one of the Blue Devils’ other weapons like power back Gabe Frye makes them pay. The Dragons’ defense has actually put together a strong campaign, and this will just be another test for a unit that held an explosive Madison team to just 18 points two weeks ago.
Who to watch: William Monroe Kam’ron McCain. The basketball standout has been solid at receiver in his first year playing football for the Dragons, catching seven balls for 89 yards and a touchdown last week. If he can stretch opposing defenses and open things up for the Dragons’ ground attack that would be a huge lift.
The line: William Monroe by 7. The Dragons should pick up a win here to solidify their playoff resume.
Powhatan (6-2) at Fluvanna County (1-7), 7:30 p.m.
The Basics: Powhatan dropped a barnburner last week to Albemarle and now the Indians look to bounce back against a Fluvanna team that continues to try and overcome injuries and struggled to contain Western Albemarle last week. Friday they’ll face an offense capable of piling up yards on the ground with Justin DeLeon leading the way and that’s trouble for a Fluvanna defense that has struggled against the ground game.
Key Matchup: Fluvanna’s defense takes on Justin DeLeon and the Powhatan ground game. As Albemarle coach Brandon Isaiah said last week, DeLeon can run the ball 40 or 50 times a game. Behind a capable offensive line, the Indians have been happy to given it to DeLeon and watch him move the chains or break off an 80-yard run like he did last week against the Patriots.
Who to watch: Fluvanna’s Jordan Melton. On a team searching for playmakers, Melton has the potential to make things happen, but the Flucos have to figure out how to protect him when he’s throwing and open some lanes on the ground. Against a squad as sound as Powhatan, that’s a tall task.
The line: Powhatan by 27. The Flucos will likely struggle to shut down DeLeon.
Nelson County (0-8) at William Campbell (3-5), 7:30 p.m.
The Basics: Nelson continues their push through the Dogwood, this time with a road trip to William Campbell where they’ll face a squad that’s also finding a tough road in the Dogwood but has a win over Gretna. With a small roster and frustration mounting, the Governors are trying to build some momentum going into next year, but they’ll find it tough against the Generals on the road.
Key Matchup: Nelson’s secondary takes on William Campbell quarterback Josh Rosser. Rosser is a proficient passer, with 692 yards and seven touchdowns on the season already. The Governors’ defensive backs will have to step up if the Generals take to the air.
Who to watch: Nelson’s Drai Taylor. The Governors’ running back is one of their best options for moving the ball. Feeding him early and often will likely be a big part of the game plan.
The line: William Campbell by 21. Nelson has its hands full once again.
Goochland (9-0) at Bluestone (4-4), 7:30 p.m.
The Basics: Things are setting up really nicely for Goochland right now. They’re in position to grab home field advantage throughout the playoffs as the current No. 1 seed in Region 2A East right now, and they could wrap up an unbeaten run through the James River District for the first time since 2012’s state title campaign. A team that isn’t nearly as flashy as the last few editions of the Bulldogs simply gets the job done night in and night out, and giving a squad like that a chance to play in front of a home crowd for the first few rounds of the playoffs is a dangerous proposition for the rest of the region. Only Bluestone stands in the way of that now as the Bulldogs have a bye week in the final week of the regular season to get healthy and re-focused for the third stage of their year, the postseason.
Key Matchup: Goochland’s defense takes on the productive Bluestone passing game. Bluestone quarterback Tevarius Brooks has thrown for more than 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns this year, but testing the Bulldogs’ secondary is a risky proposition. Calvin Martin has picked off three passes at cornerback and Goochland has snagged 11 as a team with Cordell Mattox, Devin McCray, John King and Cole Nuckols combining in a ball-hawking unit that would likely love for Bluestone to try and air it out.
Who to watch: Goochland’s Dallas Holmes. While the Bulldogs obviously get things done on the ground, Holmes is an interesting pass catching option who averages more than 20 yards per catch. As the Bulldogs get pointed at the playoffs, he and Mattox, another capable receiving threat could give Goochland an added wrinkle opponents have to look out for.
The line: Goochland by 14. The Bulldogs should keep plugging away in this one.
St. Anne’s-Belfield (2-5) at Virginia Episcopal (0-8), 2 p.m. Saturday
The Basics: What a difference a week makes. After a frustrating performance that had to be cut short as injuries piled up for the Saints against Blue Ridge, STAB beat Covenant 35-25 to pick up its second win of the year. The Saints even jumped out to a 21-0 lead against the Eagles, showing some early offensive punch that had largely been missing from their performances this year. The tough news is that getting in the playoffs still doesn’t seem to be in the mix for the Saints, though they get a chance to finish the season on a strong note against a winless VES squad before taking on Norfolk Academy next week.
Key Matchup: VES’s front seven takes on Jaylen Alexander. STAB’s running back is fifth in the area in rushing as just a freshman, making a huge impact for a team that graduated essentially every playmaker from the 2015 campaign. Alexander is a capable one-cut-and-go style back, perfectly suited to STAB’s scheme that’s thrived with those kind of decisive backs. The Saints may not be in the playoff picture this year, but Alexander has the potential to put them in that mix in the near future.
Who to watch: STAB’s Myles Ward. Alexander is the engine that makes the Saints’ offense go, but Ward is the deep threat, capable of taking the top off the defense like he did with a 50+ yard touchdown catch and run against Covenant last week. Ward makes STAB’s offense that much more dangerous when things are clicking.
The line: STAB by 21. The Saints got on track last week and VES is still trying to get its footing.
George Mason (2-6) at Madison County (4-4), 7:30 p.m.
The basics: The Mustangs are in a skid having lost six straight including last week, a 23-13 loss to Warren County. The Mountaineers can empathize with that, or at least partly as they’ve dropped three straight including a 34-32 loss on the road to Strasburg last week after an amazing start to the year. Madison played yet another one-possession game, their fifth of the year, so that should help them going into this one. But with that said, if ever the Mountaineers were in need of a blowout, a solid routing, it’s right here and now. They’ve got the advantages on all sides of the field, but they can’t just show up and expect to win.
Key matchup: The Madison offensive line against Mason’s eight man front. The Mustangs haven’t been great defensively, but what they have up front is the best part of what they’ve been able to put together this year. They’ve held five opponents to 29 or fewer points and considering the struggles they’ve had on offense, that actually means something. The Mountaineers have find a way to seal the edge for Isiah Smith and Chris Smith, make holes here and there in the middle of the field. Those two are awfully fast so it doesn’t take an awful lot, but the holes have to be there none the less. If Smith and Smith are rolling, Madison will be in great shape for their regular season home finale.
Who to watch: Madison’s Dre Twyman. When you can run the ball so effectively with Smith and Smith, the passing game gets a little less emphasized, but Twyman’s numbers have been down the last three weeks. He’s a physical presence, he’s got speed. It’d be great for this team heading into the playoffs to have Chris Smith and Twyman reestablish the connection, the big plays they had early on this year and even what they had last year.
The line: The Mountaineers by 7. Madison knows it can’t afford to lose this game, and if they do all the things they are capable of, they won’t.
Randolph-Henry (1-7) at Buckingham County (1-7), 7 p.m.
The basics: The Statesmen fell 45-40 to Prince Edwards last week after picking up their first win of the year against Cumberland. The Knights had one of the most needed bye weeks ever as they were ravaged with injuries just a few weeks ago. They’ll try and bounce back from four straight losses in their home finale.
Key matchup: Buckingham’s Tyrese Ayres against the Randolph-Henry linebacking corps. Regardless of where coach Josh Wallace decides to line up his bright young playmaker, the Statesmen have to find a way to make sure that Ayres doesn’t get into space or get to the edge. He’s got a lot of skill whether he’s running up the middle, hitting the corner or playing as a receiver. The Knights need a big game out of him to pick up a win.
Who to watch: The quarterback situation. Ayres or Daniel Brickhill. If he’s healthy enough to go, Brickhill is the more experienced player and allows the Knights offense to move Ayres around the field in different situations. If it’s Ayres playing quarterback, the offensive line has to find a way to give him opportunities to make plays.
The line: Buckingham by 1. Two evenly matched teams, but bye week preparation and the fact that this is the home finale should inspire this Knights team to get the job done.
Benedictine (5-2) at Fork Union (2-6), Saturday 12 p.m.
The basics: Both squads took their lumps last week. The Cadets got thumped 43-7 by Woodberry Forest. The Blue Devils, who were missing their top two rushers and linebackers fell hard 49-7 to Collegiate on the road. Benedictine has to have this game to solidify their VISAA Division 1 playoff prospects after last week’s loss. Fork Union is dangerous because they’re playing for pride and looking to continue the progress they’ve made this month in particular.
Key matchup: Fork Union’s secondary against Benedictine’s receiving corps. The Cadets obviously will try and get running back Alex Williams back rolling after the Tigers basically took him out of the game, but when you’ve got a 6-foot-6 and 210-pound receiver like Sterling Palmer and a quarterback like Isaiah Anderson, you’re going to work that angle hard too. Fork Union’s Larry Elder and company will have their hands full try to match Palmer’s physicality at the line of scrimmage and will have to blanket him up front much in the way that Woodberry did last week.
Who to watch: Fork Union’s Iosefa Pua’auli. He was missing last week against Collegiate and it showed. Whether he’s toting the ball in the back field or playing linebacker, Puaauli is a pure playmaker for this team. If he’s there, the Blue Devils’ offensive playbook diversifies and quarterbacks Luke Wilson and Hayden Miles and receiver Logan Justice become bigger factors.
The line: Benedictine by 9. The Cadets are talented and had quite the off-day against Woodberry. They are big and mean and probably won’t have two straight weeks like that.
Blue Ridge (5-2) at Randolph Macon (5-2), Saturday 1 p.m
The basics: The Barons have won four straight and put together a second-straight shutout together after a 56-0 romp of Virginia Episcopal. The Yellow Jackets won their second straight with a 31-0 win over Christchurch. These are two even teams record wise. But Blue Ridge is healthy, and has played a tougher slate that Randolph-Henry. So while this looks even up front, don’t surprised if the Barons wind up rolling here. A win would also likely sew up a playoff berth for the Barons, so there’s a lot to play for.
Key matchup: The Yellow Jackets defensive line against Blue Ridge quarterback Justin Armwood. He’s a runner, he’s a passer. He’s got a ton of talent around him in the backfield and at receiver. Randolph Macon has to find a way to keep Armwood from killing them on the ground and getting after him when he drops back to pass. That’s going to be tough since running back Jamison Harrison commands his own attention. But Armwood has been the back breaking this four game run.
Who to watch: Blue Ridge’s Tariq Gough. His play at linebacker has been huge for a team that’s already physically gifted with a talent up front in Jhalil Puryear. Gough has range, is one of the the Barons’ top tacklers and is making his presence felt each week. That makes a team that’s already loaded at the skill positions that much better.
The line: The Barons by 14. Transitive properties here. The Yellow Jackets struggled with STAB and Hargrave. Blue Ridge blew both out.
St. Christopher’s (5-2) at Woodberry Forest (6-1), Saturday 1 p.m.
The basics: For the second straight week, a top-ranked VISAA Division 1 team tries to show they deserve it by playing the team that many consider to be the best private school team in the state, period. The Saints have won five straight including last week’s 35-21 win over Bishop Ireton. The Tigers destroyed Benedictine in all facets of the game in a 43-7 win. Woodberry is on a roll and gearing up to capture a Prep League title before it gets ready for what will be the game of the year for them with Episcopal two weeks from now.
Key matchup: St. Christopher’s secondary tries to figure out Woodberry’s receiving corps. We’ll keep harping on this until it’s not the case. Terrell Jana, Dequece Carter, Kyle Bilodeau and Khalid Thomas are simply shredding teams right now and it’s not even close. The Saints have been winning with offense and having to win more than a handful of games in shootouts. Woodberry is the last team they can afford a shootout with. Lindell Stone is the Scrimmage Play area all-time passing leader for a reason. And he’s got a receiving corps that is somehow better than what he had last year. The Tigers are going to put up some serious points on the board in this one. St. Christopher’s secondary has to find a way to make plays here and there to keep this thing close.
Who to watch: Woodberry’s Bebe Olanyian. The senior corner will have his hands full as this Tigers secondary faces a solid challenge trying to keep the likes of Justin Jasper and Willy Bemis quiet. Last week, Olanyian and company (with plenty of pressure from the defensive line) basically negated any semblance of a Benedictine passing game. It’s hard to believe that Olanyian is putting his name in the books with the most recent outstanding corners at Woodberry like Nathaniel Terrell, Michael Davenport and Logi Portugal, but he has picked up where those recent graduates have left off.
The line: Tigers by 17. This is the best and most complete Woodberry team we’ve seen in Scrimmage Play’s eight years covering high school football. They should roll in this one.