Class 3, Region C Quarterfinals: No. 6 Waynesboro (4-6) at No. 3 Monticello (8-2), 7:30 p.m.
The basics: Monticello stumbled against Charlottesville last week, but that had a lot to do with particularly tough matchups for the Mustangs. Matching the Black Knights’ combination of power and speed has proven tough for a lot of teams this year. It doesn’t take away from the turnaround season that the Mustangs have engineered that gives Monticello an opportunity to make a run here in the region playoffs, starting with a battle against the Little Giants. Waynesboro is coming off a bye, but they’ve got common opponents, including Spotswood, who Waynesboro lost to 9-7 while Monticello cruised 48-21. This one is a favorable matchup for the Mustangs in a lot of ways, but it has its pitfalls. What Monticello defense shows up is key — the one from the eight wins or the one from the two losses. Against power ground attacks, the Mustangs have struggled, but one of those games was against Louisa, and everyone struggled against the Lions this year. If last week was an anomaly, Monticello should take care of business at home this week.
Key matchup: Monticello’s defense takes on another option attack. Last week against Charlottesville’s option, the Mustangs got shredded, but not on the ground, through the air. DaJuan Moore, Waynesboro’s quarterback, is an option quarterback who can also throw, having hit Nasir Dyer for a 65-yard touchdown pass a week ago. The Mustangs will have to figure things out quickly and get some big time play from Garrett Porterfield who has an astounding 36 tackles for a loss and 134 total stops on the year.
Who to watch: Monticello’s Austin Haverstrom. Everyone including Waynesboro knows that quarterback Kevin Jarrell is the straw that stirs the drink for the Mustangs, but Haverstrom could be the difference-maker. The Valley isn’t as packed with spread offenses as the Jefferson District is, and Haverstrom, who has hauled in more than 500 yards through the air can stretch Waynesboro on the back end and in turn open things up for Jarrell and Jerrick Ayers on the ground. Big-time players step up in big-time games is a cliche for a reason, and Haverstrom is a big-time player.
The line: Monticello by 10. The Mustangs’ offense is just too dynamic for the Little Giants.
Class 4 Region B quarterfinals: No. 6 Courtland (6-4) at No. 3 Louisa (10-0), 7:30 p.m.
The basics: In a rematch of the first game of the season for both squads, a second “Battle of the Big Cats” seemed highly unlikely midway through the season. When the Lions beat the Cougars 41-7, it was the first of four straight losses for Courtland. But they’ve won six straight since. Louisa, oddly enough, was a little negative about things offensively after week one. Much has changed since and the question that the Lions have been asking themselves this past week is pretty straight forward. What will this team look like when it finally has to play four quarters. All 10 Louisa wins this year were accompanied at some point by a running clock. Sure the first meeting between these two was lopsided, but a lot has changed since the last week in August. Courtland is a lot better right now. But, there’s also a lot of evidence that the Lions are too.
Key matchup: The Courtland passing attack against the Louisa secondary. Lions coach Mark Fischer and Cougars coach J.C. Hall are very close friends. They play each other every year for a reason and after that, they work together on trying to fix each other’s squads. That they’re meeting in the playoffs is bit awkward, but also highly fascinating. So far, the only things that teams have been able to do against this vaunted Louisa defense is complete passes. Now those have been few and far between, and the best passing teams in the Jefferson District, namely Monticello, Orange County and Albemarle, haven’t been able to exploit much in a 48-minute window. But when an insanely atheltic linebacking corps sits behind a rough and tough defensive line in a 3-5-3 formation — you probably try and make things happen down field in the passing game. The good news for Louisa is that they don’t have to change who they are on defense to be effective. Courtland has to adapt on offense to find a way to beat this secondary. They aren’t beating this defensive front barring catastrophe. David Sharpe, Caleb Turner, Matt West and Malik Bell are going to be ready to be tested downfield. The good news for them is that coverage windows will be short with the front eight ahead of them applying the usual, regular and crippling pressure they always do.
Who to watch: Louisa’s offensive line. The Lions were most critical of themselves upfront after week one, but that’s clearly some chemistry that just needed working out. What does this unit, from Tony Thurston to Dustin Matney and Collin Carpenter to Robert Guinn, have in store for round two? If they are as sharp as they were against Albemarle, Monticello and Charlottesville, then Courtland is in trouble. This backfield is so loaded and so good, that when the offensive line plays at a high level, it doesn’t matter if it’s Bell, Job Whalen, Raquan Jones or anyone else carrying the ball. It’s just going to be a long night.
The line: Louisa by 7. That’s a lot closer than 41-7 from week one. But the Lions could easily breeze through this if they handle business in the first half.
Class 5 Region D quarterfinals: No. 8 Orange (5-5) at No. 1 Brooke Point (8-2), 7 p.m.
The basics: The Hornets had to win against Powhatan and needed some help from outside opponents to get in. They got both and so they’re playoff bound for a third straight year in as many seasons under coach Jesse Lohr. For a program that went without a playoff game from 2011 to 2014, obviously a lot has changed. But in a back-and-forth season the Hornets now lineup with the top-seeded Hawks who’ve run the gauntlet that is the Commonwealth District. While this class for Orange seniors never had run up against it, all they have to do know about hard that slate can be is ask the classes ahead of them. Brooke Pointe is a hard running team that’s won four in a row with two of those wins against playoff bound teams in Stafford, North Stafford and a third against the team that Orange edged for the last spot, Massaponax. When you win to get in your reward isn’t much of a reward. But it’s hard to say if Brooke Point is better than Eastern View or Louisa County, both of which the Hornets have already run up against. The only problem there is those are two of Orange’s five losses. The Hornets need to be perfect in this one.
Key matchup: The Hornets front seven against Hawks running back Xavier Smith. A week after giving up more than 300 yards to Powhatan’s Jacob Taylor, Orange knows what has to be better. Brooke Point doesn’t have to comb through a lot of stat sheets or watch a lot of game tape to know what it should do on offense. Until this Orange defensive front solves the runs up the middle and off tackle, it’s going to see those time and time again. Obviously that starts with penetration against a talented Brooke Point offensive line, but a lot of issues for the Hornets defensively have been wrapping up the 1-2 yard carries that wind up being 5-6 yard carries. If Orange wants to make this a good game, it has to start against the run.
Who to watch: Hornets quarterback Kenyon Carter. First of all, he’s got another year of high school football in front of him, so obviously his play and health matter a lot going forward. But, if you ask any JD coach, they’ll talk about how if Carter gets time, he’s got the tools and the skill players around him to make this offense deadly. In each of the last seven weeks, Orange’s offense has hit on big plays. The question is can it do it consistently. With Darius Minor, Chris Washington and Ty Warren, Carter has an unbelievable receiving corps to work with. And while it would be nice to have running back Jaylen Alexander churn up the yardage on the ground, for the Hornets to keep pace with the Hawks it’s probably going to come down to just how often Carter finds success in the air with his receivers.
The Line: Brooke Point by 9. The Hawks came by a very good record with a very good schedule very honestly. A young Orange team would do well to learn from this playoff experience.
Class 2 Region A quarterfinals: No. 8 Brunswick (3-7) at No. 1 Goochland (10-0), 7 p.m.
The basics: Just a few years ago, this would be two of the top programs in the state meeting up. When Brunswick was at its height just a few years ago, they didn’t run into Goochland as it was retooling from their big playoff runs in 2011 and 2012. But, now here we are. Goochland has put together a second straight perfect regular season after beating the second best team in the James River District last week in Amelia. Brunswick is coming off a tough loss to Greensville in what’s been an 8-week stretch of easy wins and lopsided losses sandwiched in together.
Key matchup: Brunswick’s Jayvonte Elder against the Goochland linebacking corps. Amelia put together a good test for this unit last week and while dealing with Brunswick actually seems like a step back in terms of competition, Goochland is going to see a heavy dose of Elder. That would be true any night, but given the cold weather and the way Goochland controls the clock, running the ball with Elder is really the only solid choice for Brunswick. So look for Sam Brooks and Ricky Mayfield to be the keys here. If they play to their usual high level, the Goochland defense should be in good shape. If you’re Elder, you’ve got to find a way to run away from those two which is to say, he has to avoid the middle of the field and find success on the edges.
Who to watch: Goochland’s Jasper Carter. On a cold night there’s nothing that hurts more than a running back that’s packing over 220 pounds and stands 6-foot tall and barreling down hill. And that’s physically, mentally and on the scoreboard if Carter gets a healthy work load and finds success. His 198 yards on 27 carries against Amelia tells you what kind of condition he’s in and mentality Goochland has when the game matters. Brunswick knows what’s coming early in this one. They have to find a way to slow the big guy down, because when they don’t, there’s always that dagger play coming from John King, Perry Snead-Johnson or Devin McCray to set up first and goal. And then it’s Carter up the gut at the goalline which is not where you want to be if you’re a defense.
The line: Goochland by 10. These Bulldogs cruise against a defense that’s struggled as of late. It doesn’t hurt that November weather is leaning their way this early in the playoffs.
Class 4 Region D quarterfinals: No. 6 Charlottesville (7-3) at No. 3 Salem (8-2), 7 p.m.
The basics: A lot of people who know high school football statewide are going to assume this one is a lock for the Spartans just based on seeding and program history. But everyone on their schedule will tell you that this edition of Charlottesville is a tough out. Sam Neale is a magician in the option, Sabias Folley is a load and Rakeem Davis and Tre Durrett have been cooking lately, scoring and impacting the game all over the field. The offensive line can grind it out with Larry Henderson and Trejon Bryant leading the way and while the defense has given up a lot of yards, they create turnovers and Jahsaan Bradford-Carter is a tackling machine who is extremely active in the backfield. This would be a huge statement win for the Black Knights, it’s a big opportunity. They’ll have to contend with a Salem squad that has won five straight since losing to Blacksburg, the defending state champion in Group 3, led by running back De’Angelo Ramsey who rushed for 173 yards a week ago against Pulaski. The Black Knights’ coaching staff, fortunately, knows a little bit about what to expect, having traveled to Salem for a playoff game back in 2014. So they should be able to impart some of that experience about what it’s like to play against one of the southwest Virginia’s blueblood programs in an environment as unique as Salem Stadium, longtime home of the NCAA Division III national championship game.
Key matchup: Charlottesville’s front seven takes on Ramsey and the Salem ground attack. Like most programs this time of year, the Spartans want to run the ball and that starts with Ramsey, a 6-foot, 211-pound back who can move. Bradford-Carter and Isaiah Washington have proven the most reliable Charlottesville tacklers in the front seven, but they’ll have their work cut out for them trying to shut down the Spartans. The best bet is for the Black Knights’ offense to control the clock and cut down on Salem’s opportunities and hope that Bradford-Carter, Washington or someone else on the Black Knights’ defense steps up and makes stops or forces a game-changing turnover or two.
Who to watch: Charlottesville’s Sam Neale. Neale has proven how capable he is of running the option efficiently all year and last week he proved that if the defense sells out completely against the run, Neale can make them pay through the air, throwing five touchdowns last week on his eight completions in an explosive effort. That performance is probably going to to give Salem some pause in how to defense against the offense, and that should play into the Black Knights’ hands.
The line: Salem by 1. The Spartans are favored here since it’s at home, but Charlottesville can pull off the shocker if they can stay in a groove.
Class 5, Region D quarterfinals: No. 6 Albemarle (5-5) at No. 3 Harrisonburg (7-3), 7 p.m.
The basics: This has actually been the matchup that seemed most likely for awhile, but with either Albemarle hosting or both squads in the the No. 5 versus No. 4 game in Region D. Either way, Albemarle gets a favorable matchup here based on the transitive property of Charlottesville beat Harrisonburg and Albemarle beat Charlottesville. This is a winnable game, especially with the Patriots getting back on track against Western last week in a barnburner after the loss to Powhatan on the road. The Albemarle offense gets its start with J’Quan Anderson who rushed for 220 yards and three touchdowns last week. He’s rushed for 1,388 on the season and thrown for another 608 yards. But to make a run, Albemarle needs to get some other players going in a significant way as teams load up against Anderson. That’s going to mean Kaysean Allen, Brock Shorten or Dequandre Taylor getting touches and being effective either running the ball or catching it. Anderson accounted for essentially all but 56 yards (Taylor’s tally on the ground) last week. The Patriots are probably going to need more from players not named Anderson, if not this week than next. First things first through: Survive a win-or-go-home game on the road.
Key matchup: Albemarle’s secondary takes on Harrisonburg quarterback A.C. White. With Na’il Arnold and Kris Anderson leading the Patriots’ defensive backs, the Albemare secondary is a formidable group. But White is a unique challenge, a dual threat who can run but more often extends plays in the backfield so he can attack downfield. He made life particularly tough on Charlottesville in their early season meeting with his ability to throw vertically. And get a fleet of speedy members of his supporting cast involved. That could be dangerous against Albemarle’s group of ball hawks in the secondary.
Who to watch: Albemarle’s offensive line. Jorvin Maupin and Ja’kel Johnson are the core members of a front five that have to get things moving up front to get the Albemarle offense going in a big way. If Maupin and Johnson can open holes for Anderson, Brock Shorten and Dequandre Taylor, it’ll give the offense all the rhythm it needs to attack Harrisonburg.
The line: Albemarle by 7. Big chance for the Patriots to offset this season’s occasional frustrations with a playoff win here.
VISAA Division II State Semifinals: No. 4 Christchurch (8-1) at No. 1 Blue Ridge (7-2), Saturday 1 p.m.
The basics: Last week was last week. That’s the mantra Blue Ridge has to live by heading into this one as the top seeded Barons absorbed a tough loss to a loaded Benedictine squad at home a week ago and now have to reset and get pointed at two potential weeks of state title defense. The defending champs host Christchurch, a team that has reeled off eight straight wins after a season-opening loss to Covenant but faces the unenviable task of traveling to St. George to face a Barons squad that got a wake-up call last week and seems likely to be sharp going into this one. The Barons know what they’ve got in Xavier Kane, a quarterback who can make things happen a variety of ways and get them out of tough situations. They’ve got a defense that despite last week has been stout against anyone who isn’t a Division I playoff team, and those two tough games (Flint Hill and Benedictine) seem likely to pay dividends here.
Key matchup: Christchurch’s offensive line contends with Blue Ridge’s array of tacklers. When you’re facing Blue Ridge, you’ve got to get a blocker on Aden Britton, Sammy Fort, Spencer Glenn and Juan Mareco if you want to effectively move the ball. Britton has eight tackles for a loss, Glenn has five and Mareco has another five. Fort has 27 solo stops. Blocking all those players to open things up for talented playmakers like Jamar Darboe, Steven Stillianos and Peyton Ryder is easier said than done. Christchurch faces an uphill climb.
Who to watch: Blue Ridge’s Sammy Fort. This is the time of year where any team likes to lean on a bell cow running back and Fort is that kind of runner. While he’s only rushed for 406 yards this year, some of that is the product of blowout wins. He’s averaging 7.1 yards per touch and he’s fresh, with just 57 carries this year. It seems like Fort might be destined for a monster postseason.
The line: Blue Ridge by 14. If they can shake off last week, Barons should cruise in this state semifinal.
VISAA Division II State Semifinals: No. 3 Norfolk Christian (8-1) at No. 2 Covenant (8-1), Saturday 1:30 p.m.
The basics: After a nearly 10-year wait, Covenant football is hosting its first state semifinal game since 2008. This year’s edition of the Eagles now gets a shot at an historic first Saturday, the program’s first state tournament win. They’ll host Norfolk Christian in this one, and they’ve got their work cut out for them as they have every week to close this season while dealing with a some key injuries that have forced the Eagles’ small roster to dig deep and find something else in the tank. They’ll lean as usual on quarterback John Huemme, one of the area’s best decision makers at the position, and if he can find ways to keep the offense clicking and executing, the Eagles could be looking at their first ever state title shot.
Key matchup: Covenant’s defense takes on Norfolk Christian quarterback Alonte Lawton. The Eagles have shown a knack for picking off passes the last two weeks. David Szatkowski had two pick sixes against North Cross and Chris Newton had another. Then Jonas Sanker had a huge pick last week. The Eagles are tracking down the ball well and they’ll need to with Lawton running the show for the Ambassadors, he threw two touchdowns and rushed for two more against Isle of Wight last week.
Who to watch: Covenant’s Jonas Sanker. Sanker was all over the place Friday in the regular season finale, scoring six touchdowns in a 57-20 victory over the Eagles. Sanker is an explosive freshman and with Rick Weaver and Donovan Jackson both out, even more of the touches, more of the action falls to Sanker. He proved up to the task a week ago. Look for more against Norfolk Christian with a berth in the state title game on the line.
The line: Covenant by 7. The Eagles just keep finding ways to get the job done. It continues this week.
The Game: Woodberry (6-2) at Episcopal (4-4), Saturday, 2 p.m.
The basics: The 2015 meeting between these two looms large. First of all, it marked the best height of this rivalry in the last decade with the Maroon having won on the Tigers field the year before. Both teams were absolutely loaded. Collegiate talent all over the field on both sides resulted in one hell of an edition of “The Game.” There was your usual rivalry play and then some dirty stuff on top of it that resulted in an ejection to one Episcopal athlete. That was the last visit to Alexandria for the Tigers, a senior class that were sophomores back then. The end result was a dreaded tie that both teams hated so much. And while it was just two years ago, it seems like a long time ago. The Tigers rolled last year at home to get vengeance for two years of discomfort for a massive senior class. Now this senior class wants to put their mark on Episcopal’s field and make 2015 right. While the Maroon are in the midst of an off season by recent standards, the Tigers have kept up to theirs after routing Fork Union last week. But while Episcopal is coming off a double overtime loss to Landon and a narrow loss to Georgetown Prep, the Maroon record can’t be taken for granted because they’ve played an impressive schedule. So, in keeping with the standards of “The Game” here, the records don’t matter. Just the rivalry.
Key matchup: Episcopal’s pass rush against Woodberry quarterback Will Wideman. We’ve given up on expecting or looking for a secondary to compete with this receiving corps that Wideman has. Dequece Carter is going to get open. Khalid Thomas is going to get open. Tight end Kyle Bilodeau doesn’t need to be open to be open at his size. So the Maroon have to bend and not break their in coverage and hope they can find a way to rush Wideman. The senior quarterback has proven reliable, durable and clutch. To beat Woodberry right now you’ve got to beat him.
Who to watch: Woodberry linebacker Dean Browning. He’s been a tackling machine and now the senior will have to keep an eye on a running quarterback in Episcopal’s Seth Agwunobi. He’s slippery and the Maroons still have some weapons around him. Warren Mathews and the Woodberry defensive line will put him on the move. It’s going to be up to Browning and his fellow linebacking corps to keep him check, contain on the edge and offer coverage when they can. Browning brings a lot of energy and leadership to a unit that will be key to shutting down this offense.
The line: Woodberry by 1. History is on their side. The Tigers have not lost in Alexandria since 2007. That’s wins in ‘09, ‘11, ‘13 and the tie in ‘15. They’re the favorite coming into ‘17’s matchup, but anything could go on here.