Region 2A East third round, Clarke County (10-2) vs. Goochland (12-0), 7 p.m.
The basics: It’s been all chalk in the Region 2A playoffs, and when we say all chalk we mean the biggest upset has been sixth seeded Union beating fourth seeded Dan River last week. Out West, it’s defending state champions Appomattox facing that Union squad. It’s a 2-3 matchup with Richlands and Graham in the other game. On the Eastern side Stuarts Draft took down Madison County and East Rockingham beat Central Woodstock to pair up a 1-4 matchup. And then there’s Clarke County, a 3-seed who topped Buffalo Gap in a 3-6 meeting. So with Goochland cruising past Strasburg, 35-13, in a 2-7 get together, the tournament truly begins this week. Seven of the top eight seeds in this tournament have survived and Union was the ninth, so again, the chalk is the truth so far. Now with the big guns all lining up against each other, it’s a new kind of tournament. And in having two perennial powers like this meeting up, Clarke County paying a visit to Goochland, well this is where the cream rises to the top. Two teams that are built the same, have similar traditions, are like minded and now will do battle in what we expect to be an Ali/Frazier haymaker fest of run offense vs. run defense… So obviously a passing play will decide this one, right?
Key matchup: Goochland’s experienced defensive front seven against the same vetted and talented Clarke offensive line. In a perfect twist, the Bulldogs get a little taste of their own medicine in trying figure out the misdirection game that the Eagles run. It’s not the first offense Goochland has seen like this, but it’s definitely the most talented. The Bulldogs can draw from the experience they got playing against a Fork Union offensive line that was as big and gifted, but that was a different scheme. Stopping Hunter Rogers, Daniel Brathwaite and Patrick Cleary is easier said than done, but the Bulldogs are deep up front, have a strong linebacking corps behind that and then a secondary that is more than capable of providing that last line of defense.
Who to watch: Goochland quarterback Tanner Bradshaw… which is to say, Goochland coach Joe Fowler vs. Clarke coach Chris Parker. If you’re Fowler, is it a case of sticking with the game that brought you here, the deep running back stall of Marcus Burton, Calvin Martin, Jasper Carter and Cordell Mattox, or does Bradshaw become a larger factor in the running and passing game? Only Fowler knows and there’s no question that Parker is gearing up for trying to prepare for this wing-T attack knowing that the Bradshaw could be a factor in different ways too. So which coach lays down that first card? There isn’t a right or wrong answer here. This is a straight up chess match. And someone is going to make the first move.
The line: Goochland by 1. Clarke is the best team the Bulldogs have faced so far, but in a tournament of chalk, we’ll stick with the chalk, ever so slightly.