Woodberry Forest (7-1) at Fork Union (2-7), 2:30 p.m.
The basics: The Tigers won their sixth-straight game, also their sixth-straight blowout, with a 48-6 win to set up a potential fourth straight perfect Prep League record. The Blue Devils fell hard for the second-straight week with a 49-6 loss to Benedictine. This a tough matchup for FUMA as Woodberry is not only coming in hot and might be the best team in the state, but is also getting close to playing for something more than football. The Tigers can’t look past Fork Union in anticipating of the meeting with Episcopal next week though.
Key matchup: Fork Union’s front four against Woodberry Forest running back Jameel Wilson. The Blue Devils have to devote their entire secondary to trying to cover the spread that the Tigers put on the field. That leaves this defensive line in a problematic spot as they need to pass rush Woodberry quarterback Lindell Stone but cannot let Wilson gash them for big yardage. Wilson is dirty quick and once he gets past the line, he’s got moves and breakaway speed. If you’re Fork Union, you can’t let Woodberry have their way in the air and on the ground and expect to win.
Who to watch: Woodberry’s Will Wideman. He’s a tackling machine, he’s a special teamer, he’s a little bit of everything and one of the yeoman personalities that drives this Tigers team as a whole. Players like Wideman don’t get the attention that big statistical leaders get, but he’s a sparkplug for a team that’s already loaded with talent.
The line: Woodberry by 17. The Tigers win a fourth straight Prep League title in impressive fashion.
Western Albemarle (4-5) at Albemarle (7-2), 7 p.m.
The basics: The Warriors had a tough second half in a 56-35 loss to Charlottesville and now get another rival itching to reverse a trend. Albemarle dug up a hard fought 17-15 win over Monticello last week to set up the potential for a home playoff game should they beat the one JD team that’s given them fits for a long, long time. There are a lot of dynamic playmakers on the field for this one, so we don’t expect a defensive battle. These games have been great as of recent and so we don’t expect anything different here either. As far as regular season finales go, this is about as good as you could hope for on either side.
Key matchup: Western Albemarle’s defensive line against Albemarle quarterback J’quan Anderson. The Warriors have to do what every team is finding out quickly when they play the Patriots — you can’t let Anderson have space to maneuver and you can’t break contain. With Lorenz Brown and Tyquan Rose at receiver, it’s only a matter of time before they get open. When Anderson has time to get the ball down field it results in big plays. But you can’t get too greedy as a defense and let him move the chains on the ground. It’s a delicate balance but with Noah Crutchfield and Luke Tenuda, the Warriors have the talent up front to walk that fine line.
Who to watch: Albemarle’s Zykal Foster. The senior linebacker/edge rusher has been an absolute force in back-to-back weeks against Powhatan and Monticello. In having to chase down quarterback Kevin Jarrell last week, Foster and this defense got a taste of what to expect with Western. Call it in-game practice if you will as Western quarterback Derek Domecq presents similar problems. It will be up to Foster to apply the pressure and try and keep Domecq from putting together a big game. There are great battles all over the field in this game, but Foster vs. Domecq is an awfully good one that will likely dictate the flow of the game.
The line: Albemarle by 3. The Patriots are rolling and have a great deal of balance on both sides of the ball right now.
Louisa County (8-1) at Charlottesville (5-4), 7 p.m.
The basics: This one is huge. The Lions are fighting to hold on to a home game in the playoffs because they play in Region 4A East’s sectionalized bracket while Charlottesville is essentially playing for its playoff life, sitting a spot out of the Region 4A West playoff picture. That’s enough stakes in and of itself, but this one is also a matchup of two of the area’s best power run teams with both offense’s fueled by a combination of big backs and speed. Malik Bell and Job Whalen on the Lions’ side and Sabias Folley and the deadly trio of Lorenzo Louderback, Tre Durrett and Rakeem Davis on the edge for Charlottesville. Heavyweight, prize fight type matchup between these two offenses, plus physical, tough defenses. Louisa won one of these games last week against archrival Orange eeking out a win. Charlottesville, meanwhile, got on track in a big way against Western as they essentially began their playoff push. Can Louisa get healthy enough after getting banged up some more against the Hornets? That’ll go a long way toward determining how the Lions perform on Friday.
Key matchup: Charlottesville’s offensive line locks up with Louisa’s defensive front. With Quinton Ragland and Anthony Thurston as bookend defensive ends, Louisa’s line generally has a sizeable physical advantage. But the Black Knights fleet of running backs doesn’t need much of a seam to get loose. A sliver will do. Can the Black Knights’ front five led by J.D. Buckholz and Larry Henderson block well enough to open those gaps and seal the edge by reaching the defensive ends? That’ll help determine what the Black Knights can do offensively.
Who to watch: Louisa’s Malik Bell. He’s been the guy here a lot this year. Job Whalen is an unbelievably dangerous running back, but Bell was the pick down the stretch last week against Orange coming off an ankle injury against Monticello. Instead of limited action he carried the ball 31 times against the Hornets and closed the door with an incredible, clock-melting final drive at the end of the game. Bell can give anyone problems, and Charlottesville will have to be ready.
The line: Louisa by 1. Lions get the edge here, but it won’t be easy.
Covenant (3-6) at Randolph-Macon (5-3), 3 p.m.
The basics: Both Covenant and RMA are on the outside looking in of the VISAA Division II playoff picture but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something to play for this week. Both teams could use some momentum going into the offseason and this is also a huge opportunity to try players in new spots or in different combinations. A jolt of confidence for a player or a particular unit can be a huge way to start the offseason and help build a program. Look for both squads to try some different things this week, there’s no time to leave something in the tank or in the playbook for next week now.
Key matchup: Randolph Macon Academy’s front seven takes on Covenant’s productive ground game. The Eagles continue to make a major impact on the ground even if it isn’t currently translating into wins. Rick Weaver has been solid since his return to the lineup after offseason surgery. RMA, on the flip side, has struggled in matchups with two other area squads, Blue Ridge and STAB. Can the Jackets step up on that side of the ball or will they be stuck trying to win another shootout.
Who to watch: Covenant’s Joseph Payne. Payne is the Eagles’ top two-way lineman and the senior has been a serious force, including combining for an early blocked punt with Weaver against North Cross last week. One of just two seniors on the Covenant roster, Payne has set a strong example on both sides of the line for the rest of the Eagles’ young guys in the trenches, and while he’ll close out his career against RMA, the impression he and classmate Ben Arrington have left will stick around for a long time.
The line: Covenant by 1. The Eagles get an opportunity to build some momentum heading into the offseason and they take advantage.
Norfolk Academy (6-3) at St. Anne’s-Belfield (3-5), 4:30 p.m.
The basics: It hasn’t happened very often over the years because STAB is usually fighting for playoff positioning late in the season, but the Saints get a chance to play spoiler here. The Bulldogs are currently trying to wedge their way into the 4-team VISAA Division I playoffs, and their surest way in is a win over STAB and a St. Christopher’s loss to Collegiate. That sets the Saints up as spoilers as STAB’s ground game led by Jaylen Alexander and Juwan Woodson looks to wreak some havoc on the Bulldogs’ playoff prospects.
Key matchup: STAB’s defense takes on a balanced Norfolk Academy offense. The Bulldogs put up 65 points a couple of weeks ago against Nansemond Suffolk Academy, and they did it with a combination of the ground game and the passing attack. The Saints have struggled at times on defense, particularly on the ground, but they’ve seen a little bit of everything so far this year and should be ready for whatever the Bulldogs and running backs Tyler Tabor and George Stedfast throw at them.
Who to watch: STAB’s Thomas Harry. With a full year of trial-by-fire under his belt, Harry is positioned to be a strong option at quarterback for the next couple of years. It’s the start of a similar journey that Lee Parkhill took a few years back and that had some big-time results for the Saints.
The line: Norfolk Academy by 7. Bulldogs have a lot to play for in this one.
Powhatan (7-2) at Monticello (3-6), 7:30 p.m.
The basics: The Indians rolled last week against Fluvanna County 43-12 and sit in good playoff position. The Mustangs are officially in win-or-go-home territory after a 17-15 loss at the last second to Albemarle. This is a less than ideal matchup for Monticello as the power running teams have really given them woes, particularly in the second half like with Charlottesville, Orange County and Louisa County. Powhatan is probably as good or better at pounding the football as anyone in the JD. The Mustangs played great defensively against Albemarle and will need that and a breakout performance on offense to make it seven straight playoff appearances.
Key matchup: Monticello’s defensive front eight against the Powhatan offensive line. The Mustangs know what’s coming but that doesn’t make it any easier to stop it. To bring running back Justin DeLeon down you have to be able to get to him at the line of scrimmage. That’s the simple part in theory, but the Indians offensive line is as good or better than any in the Jefferson. Look for Monticello to try and get creative with its run-blitzing packages and hope that they guess right on key third down plays and wrap up for the bulk of the night.
Who to watch: Mustangs quarterback Kevin Jarrell. The Monticello junior is having a pretty incredible season. He’s a great passer. He’s a vastly underrated rushing threat. He’s a smart player and he’s tough as nails. Does he have it in him to pull off the upset? That’ll likely mean a big game in the air to receivers like Reid Huffman and Austin Haverstrom in combination with something close to a 100-yard rushing performance.
The line: Powhatan by 6. Maybe the Indians get caught looking ahead to the playoffs, but maybe not. If not, Powhatan is not the team you want to face in a do-or-die situation like Monticello is right here.
Buckingham County (1-8) at Prince Edward (5-4), 7 p.m.
The basics: The Knights, who remained banged up and short on players, fell 20-0 in their home finale with Randolph-Henry. The Eagles had a bye week and have won three straight with their last, a 45-40 win over Randolph-Henry. Buckingham is looking for something to build upon for next season and an upset over Prince Edward would certainly suffice. But it’s going to be tough as the Eagles have something going since their last loss, a 41-0 showing against Goochland on September 30.
Key matchup: The Knights’ front seven against the Eagles offensive line. While the reverse battle is maybe just as important, a good showing from Buckingham on defense in this season finale would be huge. The Eagles have put up 40 points in three straight weeks. Quarterback Joel Thomas and wide receivers Tray Scott and Bryan Moses are clicking so the Knights have to get penetration up front and avoid letting the Eagles create big plays through the passing attack.
Who to watch: Buckingham running back and linebacker Walter Edwards. The number 20 jersey always lands on an Edwards’ back, a Knights tradition. Walter Edwards is just a freshman but he’s put in a lot of hard work on both sides of the ball and will be an important part of this program’s future going forward.
The line: Prince Edward by 10. The Knights’ tough, tough season comes to an end. This is team dealt with so much in one calendar year. No team deserves a good off season more than this group.
Madison County (5-4) at Clarke County (7-2), 7:30 p.m.
The basics: The Mountaineers ended their 3-game slide with a strong 42-24 win over Mason. The Eagles have won five straight games in dominant fashion and their 56-7 win over Warren County last week has this team primed for a playoff run. A win for Madison all but guarantees a home game for the Mountaineers, something this team hasn’t had in a long, long time. A win for Clarke keeps them near the top of the Region 2A East standings.
Key matchup: The Madison defensive line against Clarke running back Hunter Rogers and the misdirection. Rogers is the key to this offense that’s just been on fire since week four. But trying to find when he has the ball is problematic. He’s a hard runner and so the Mountaineers have to bring him down and not let him break loose and take command of the game. If Madison can channel the performance it delivered against East Rockingham back in early September, it’s got a chance in this one on the road. But if Rogers has his way, it’s going to be a long night.
Who to watch: Madison quarterback Chris Smith. The senior had a huge week in the win over Mason. He and Dre Twyman got going early in the air. Then he did his thing on the ground. With 153 yards in the air and 117 on the ground, it was a strong week for Smith and one of the first times all year that running back Isiah Smith hasn’t had to carry the bulk of the work load. A strong game from Chris Smith, and a smart balanced one at that, would go a long ways for the Mountaineers. That means protecting him in the pocket and for Smith to protect the football too, both in the air and when he tucks and runs.
The line: Clarke by 10. The Eagles have dominated this rivalry and they’re peaking right now. Tough matchup for Madison here.
William Monroe (5-4) at Strasburg (7-2), 7:30 p.m.
The basics: The Dragons picked up a crucial 35-24 win over Culpeper and sit in great playoff position in Region 3A East with the possibility of a home game, win or lose. A win all but guarantees one. The Rams have won six of the last seven and picked up a win over a tough Central Woodstock team last week. That’s a big difference from their 35-8 loss to East Rockingham back in week two. Clarke is their only other loss. That’s a strong regular season resume for Strasburg. Monroe has to be locked in and can’t afford to come out flat against a team that’s been able to win games in just about any kind of fashion you can imagine, offensively or defensively.
Key matchups: The Dragons front four against Rams quarterback Ethan Duckworth. The Strasburg senior throws well and at 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, doesn’t look all that different than Monroe quarterback Malique Shackelford when he’s carrying the ball and running down field. Should the Dragons win the battle upfront and keep Duckworth under stress, and maybe create some turnovers, this game becomes a lot different.
Who to watch: Monroe’s Greg Sizemore. This game requires a chain-moving type of running back. Sizemore is just that. When paired with Shackelford, he presents a problem with the physicality they can both move the ball. Getting Sizemore rolling early will open things up for Shackelford and potentially the passing game and receiver Kam’ron McCain. But at the end of the day, keep the ball out of Duckworth’s hands should be the focus and long, methodical drives do just that. Look for Sizemore to be a big factor in short yardage situations.
The line: Strasburg by 1. It’s hard to win evenly matched battles on the road. Monroe can swipe this one, but the Rams get the edge here with their winning streak and home crowd behind them.
Gretna (2-7) at Nelson County (0-9), 7:30 p.m.
The basics: The Governors continue to struggle through a tough campaign in Matt Hicks’ first year, though this is another opening for a potential win. Gretna has also struggled this year and have lost four straight games coming into this matchup. Nelson would need to find a different groove than they have all year to knock off the Hawks at home, but stranger things have happened.
Key matchup: Nelson’s defense looks to contain Hawks quarterback Tabron Mabins. The dual threat signal-caller has thrown for over 1,000 yards this season for Gretna but he’s also been picked off 10 times. Can the Governors’ secondary come up with a potentially game-changing play or two?
Who to watch: Nelson’s youngest players. The Governors have played a lot of young players in key spots and that should pay off next season. But in the meantime, that group could use a little momentum going into the offseason. A solid performance against Gretna would definitely help.
The line: Gretna by 21. This is a long process for the Governors, and perhaps next year’s independent schedule will help Nelson get on track.
Fluvanna County (1-8) at Orange County (5-4), 7:30 p.m.
The basics: Orange County likely makes the playoffs no matter what, but after a heartbreaking narrow loss to Louisa County last week, the Hornets need this one. They need to get the bad taste of last week’s loss out of their mouths. With a win, they’re surely going to be hitting the road to battle another Group 5A squad looking for an upset. That’s going to require some serious mental toughness, and that starts with coming out against Fluvanna and playing big-time football. The Hornets played good enough to win last week, but circumstances broke against them, from a fumble on an effort play to a Herculean performance by Malik Bell as Louisa ground out the clock. Orange has to bounce back here. Meanwhile, the Flucos get a chance to play spoiler, though they’ve struggled to get much going on either side of the ball of late.
Key matchup: Fluvanna tries to stop the Hornets’ rushing attack. It’s going to take 11 guys at maximum effort for the Flucos to slow down the Hornets’ ground game powered by Tre Smith and DeAngelo Hunt. There just haven’t been too many duos like this over the years and the Flucos have struggled against the run in a big way this year. Can they make a step in a positive direction to close out the year.
Who to watch: Orange’s wideouts. The Hornets’ fast, powerful tandem at running back gets the most attention, and rightfully so. But there’s speed at nearly every skill position for Orange and it showed last week when the Hornets connected for a pair of touchdowns in the second half against the Lions. Whether it’s Dayvon Green, Chris Washington or Ty Warren, sophomore quarterback Kenyon Carter has a lot of options.
The line: Orange by 28. The Hornets can clinch and get in an offensive rhythm for next week in this one as long as they take care of business.
Blue Ridge (6-2) at Trinity Episcopal (3-5), Saturday 1 p.m.
The basics: Blue Ridge’s postseason really began a week ago. The Barons had a must-win versus Randolph Macon Academy and now they face essentially another must win this week. The quickest way to the VISAA Division II playoffs for Blue Ridge runs directly through the Titans. In past years that would have been a huge problem. Trinity won two straight VISAA Division II titles before moving up to Division I and they’ve only managed to scratch out three wins this year after graduating a strong core of talent while facing a difficult schedule. That doesn’t mean this will be easy for Blue Ridge, it’ll likely be a close battle and the Barons haven’t been in one of those since late September against North Cross. Can Blue Ridge pick up a tough road win and punch its ticket to the postseason?
Key matchup: Blue Ridge takes on dual threat Trinity quarterback Tink Boyd. Boyd is a dynamic athlete who started the year at wideout during preseason camp but has become the Titans’ signal-caller. The Barons certainly have the athletes to contain Boyd, but it’ll take discipline against a Trinity team that’ll likely play wide open with the chance to play spoiler. Jahlil Puryear and the linebacking corps have to play heads-up football and tackle soundly when they get a chance at Boyd.
Who to watch: Blue Ridge’s array of pass catches. The Barons haven’t had to lean on their passing game just yet, but last week four different players — Cameron Carr, Juan Mareco, Josh Colon and Jamison Harrison — caught passes of 29 or more yards against Randolph Macon Academy. While the run game of Harrison and Armwood is obviously the Barons’ preferred method of execution, if they’re forced to pass they’ve got the weapons to get the job done.
The line: Blue Ridge by 7. The Barons have been on a roll lately and they are capable of getting this one done.