Western Albemarle (1-4) at Monticello (5-0), 7:30 p.m.
The basics: That aren’t many games that line up so perfectly as a trap game as what Monticello is staring down on Friday. It’s a bitter county rival in desperate need of a win to get back on track and a showdown with Louisa is looming. But it has been four years since the Mustangs beat the Warriors, odds are good they’re going to want this one bad and that leaves little chance that Monticello will look past this one. It was clear in the aftermath of the Mustangs’ win over Albemarle how much the 17-15 loss to the Patriots a year ago stuck in Monticello’s mind, specifically for Trenton Johnson and Kevin Jarrell. Odds are good Western’s 27-14 win last year had an impact too. This is quickly becoming a revenge tour for the Mustangs and the reeling Warriors are up next. Western has a lot of the tools in place, but they’ve struggled to put it together since the loss to Lord Botetourt. Now they face a rival that’s been on a roll and they’ve got to get themselves in sync after turnovers have plagued them during their longest losing streak since 2010. Western has to make a move now, or soon at least, or risk frustration continuing to pile up. A solid defensive effort against Louisa last week despite the loss might be something to build on.
Key matchup: Monticello’s secondary takes on Western’s fleet of wideout options. While Western’s offense hasn’t been totally in sync lately, quarterback Derek Domecq has options in Jack Weyher, Jack Lesemann, Wyatt Hull and Robert Sims. They’re a tough unit to mark and cover, and Monticello showed some lapses in the second half last week when Albemarle attacked down the seams, including a touchdown pass to DaQuandre Taylor. Still, there are a lot of playmakers on the back end of that Monticello defense and if the Warriors try to test them it could get dangerous.
Who to watch: Monticello’s Garrett Porterfield. The guy had a huge game on both sides of the ball, spying Albemarle quarterback J’Quan Anderson while picking off a pass on defense and catching a touchdown pass when he came wide open in the endzone in the second half. Porterfield is a football player in the truest sense of the word, drawing rave reviews from key players and coaches for the Mustangs in the aftermath of the win over Albemarle. Head coach Jeff Lloyd called him the unsung hero of the squad. Hard not to sing his praises now in the midst of this turnaround, he’s exactly the kind of player Monticello needed to step up to reverse last year’s frustration.
The line: Monticello by 7. No reason to think the Mustangs’ offense will slow down here, and the Mustangs’ defense is creating enough turnovers and making enough plays to get the job done.
Albemarle (1-4) at Orange County (3-2), 7:30 p.m.
The basics: The Patriots fell last week to Monticello after a rough start to the game. The Hornets bounced back from their loss to Charlottesville to throttle Fluvanna County. This was an odd game last year that was played in awful weather. This could also be a preview for the playoffs as to the two are in a Region 5A that is accepting all 12 of its teams into the postseason. Look for this one to feature plenty of offense.
Key matchup: This one is pretty straight forward — strength on strength. The Albemarle secondary takes on Orange County’s wide receiving corps. The Hornets like quarterback Kenyon Carter to spread the ball around to Ty Warren, Chris Washington and Darius Minor and they’ve all been great. Trying to keep them in check will come down to scheme and defensive backs Kris Anderson, Marquan Jones and Na’il Arnold coming up and making some plays. The Patriots’ secondary had breakout seasons last year and showed they were capable of making big plays the last time these two teams met. But this Orange offense is a different beast than last year. Carter has improved and so have the weapons around him. The Hornets need big plays from their guys and the Patriots need their unit to limit them as much as possible.
Who to watch: Albemarle’s DeQuandre Taylor. There’s been a lot of shuffling around for the Patriots this year but it looks like Taylor might have found his fit in at running back with J’Quan Anderson sliding over to his old role at quarterback from last year. If Taylor can establish himself on the ground that will go a long ways to keeping the Orange offense on the sideline. Controlling the ball could matter a lot for Albemarle.
The line: Orange by 1. We’ll side with the home team here but Albemarle is a wounded animal that you don’t want to be near right now.
Powhatan (1-4) at Louisa County (5-0), 7:30 p.m.
The basics: The Indians followed up their win over Western with a loss to Charlottesville in a pretty solid game. The Lions had a little bit of trouble with Western in defensive struggle on the road, but still, Louisa never trailed. Both defenses here are physical. Both offenses are the same. Something will have to give here.
Key matchup: The Indians offensive line against the Louisa defensive front. The bottom line is that until someone finds a way to stop this defensive line and the linebacking corps filling the gaps, Louisa is going to keep winning games. It’s going to take either talent, creativity or more than likely, both to find a way to stop this group. But the Indians don’t have a choice. They have to get production out of running back Jacob Taylor and protect either quarterbacks Jacob Moss and or Noah Dowdy.
Who to watch: Louisa’s Raquan Jones. Whether at linebacker or running back, Jones finds a way to bring production to both sides of the field. He’s been a reliable linebacker this year and one who’s involved heavily in the run defense and pass rush. On offense, he has the highest average yards per carry for anyone on his team with 20 or more carries at 7.8 yards per clip. He has 33 touches for 253 yards and four touchdowns. His overall production is invaluable to the Lions. If he keeps playing at a high level he makes it really, really hard for other teams to gameplan. You can only try and limit but so many of Louisa’s weapons and so far, Jones — just like fellow running backs Jarrett Hunter and David Sharpe — has taken full advantage of his reps.
The line: Louisa by 14. Powhatan’s run defense struggled last week with Charlottesville. Louisa brings that same kind of physicality.
Nelson County (2-4) at Madison County (1-4), 7:30 p.m.
The basics: This is a solid matchup, and we’re always a fan of Group 2A teams from Central Virginia (these two, Buckingham and Goochland) playing each other. This is a particularly interesting clash as both teams are in the midst of a top-to-bottom rebuild. Madison is in year one, Nelson is in year two, but the independent schedule approach has changed the timeline and outlook a bit for the Governors. It’s working well so far, with two wins and a couple of other competitive games. This is another chance for Nelson to keep building momentum, and Madison is coming off its first win of the season and a gritty performance against William Monroe. This one should be a solid game.
Key matchup: Madison County’s secondary contends with the prolific Nelson County passing attack. Nelson quarterback Brice Wilson leads the Scrimmage Play area in passing yards and he and favorite targets Devante Rose and Fletcher Bowles can whip it around like few Group 2A squads can. Madison is going to have its hands full with the passing game and containing that attack is crucial.
Who to watch: Madison running back Jamar Turner. While Elijah Lewis was the clear catalyst last week in the win over Rapphannock, but Turner is a potential big play threat whenever he has the ball in his hands. If he can get loose against a Nelson defense that has struggled against the run on several occasions, it’ll be a big spark for the Mountaineers.
The line: Push. The Mountaineers have some newfound confidence and they’re at home, but the Governors have something clicking in the passing attack. Total toss-up here.
Fluvanna County (2-3) at Charlottesville (4-1), 7 p.m.
The basics: Charlottesville continues picking up steam, heading down to Powhatan last week and winning in a tough environment against another run-heavy football team that doesn’t give an inch, particularly when they’re at home. So the Black Knights have won a number of different ways already this year and they’re not looking to slow down any time soon. Fluvanna’s getting an improved effort offensively, but against Orange last week they struggled to stop the Hornets, who employed a balanced attack. This is a unique challenge, with just one option heavy squad living in the district, so the Flucos have their work cut out for them. Can the offense make enough plays to keep pace or can defenders like Prophett Harris make a key play or two to turn the tide?
Key matchup: Fluvanna’s front seven takes on the Charlottesville option. Slowing down the Black Knights with Sam Neale and Sabias Folley running behind a hard-hitting, scrappy offensive line is one of the Jefferson District’s toughest challenges this season. It requires four quarters of hard-nosed, responsibility football and that’s a challenge for any defense, much less a Fluvanna team that’s been struggling to stop opposing offenses. The Flucos have to make a dent and find ways to get off the field to have a shot in this one.
Who to watch: Charlottesville’s Rakeem Davis. Davis had a touchdown run and 61 yards last week and he’s a crucial part of the Black Knights’ plans as he adds yet another dimension to an already versatile ground game. If Davis is clicking, you know things are going awfully well for Charlottesville.
The line: Charlottesville by 21. Hard to see the Flucos slowing down the Black Knights’ ground attack.
William Monroe (1-4) at Manassas Park (1-4), 7 p.m.
The basics: William Monroe didn’t get off to the start they wanted in 2017, but getting that first win, especially over an archrival, has a way of turning things around. Now the Dragons have also had a bye week, a chance to retool and put in concrete some role changes that were happening organically like wideout Jordan Gray focusing more on offense as the defense improved or Jaekwon Wayne growing into his role as an offensive playmaker. If Monroe has made the most of the bye week, they’ll be able to build off the momentum of beating Madison County and perhaps spark a strong close to the year. This is the Dragons first tour through a Northwestern District slate, but it starts with a familiar face in the Cougars, who also moved over from the Bull Run alongside the Dragons. A win here would go a long way toward putting Monroe back on a potential path to the playoffs.
Key matchup: Manassas Park defense faces Dragons’ quarterback Alex Kinsey and the Monroe passing attack. Manassas Park has surrendered 250 points through five games, an average of 50 points per game, including the Cougars’ first three games where they got beat a cumulative 167-0 and they lost 62-32 two weeks ago to a George Mason team that the Dragons beat 23-15 a year ago. If Kinsey, who’s thrown for 845 yards on the year already, with the bulk of that going to Gray, can get get going against a defense that has appeared porous, that should give Monroe a big leg up.
Who to watch: William Monroe’s Jaekwon Wayne. Wayne, a versatile junior, emerged against Madison County as a running threat, rushing for 165 yards on 18 carries. If he and Zach Miller emerge as a reliable one-two punch in the ground game, that could power a serious surge by the Dragons in the second half of 2017.
The line: William Monroe by 7. The Dragons’ offense should be able to make things happen against the Cougars.
Cumberland (0-5) at Goochland (5-0), 7 p.m.
The basics: The Dukes are coming off a 49-14 loss to Nottoway, a squad the Bulldogs beat three weeks ago 31-7. Goochland wasn’t at its best offensively in their 24-7 win over Buckingham last week. These next three weeks will be interesting for the Bulldogs as they gear up for a season finale with Amelia, the only team in the James River District that can chase Goochland right now for a JRD title. The Bulldogs will want to spread the wealth in this one, stay healthy and move on but it wouldn’t be the worst thing if this team came out and brought it in the first quarter to keep things sharp these next few weeks.
Key matchup: The Goochland secondary takes on quarterback Darius Kyle. The senior quarterback is almost running this offense single handedly. He’s second on the team in rushing with 101 yards. Running back Darron Ridley leads the way with 161 yards. But both those totals are over five games. Kyle’s been the offense because of his passing with 675 yards. Keyshawn Diming and Ziahir Berry are his favorite targets with 205 and 173 yards respectively. With a strong front seven including Ricky Mayfield, John King and Sam Brooks, those three should be able to handle Ridley and Kyle on the ground. Can the secondary led by Cole Nuckols blanket this receiving corps and turn Kyle’s arm into points for Goochland?
Who to watch: Perry Snead-Johnson. The junior has been really productive on both sides of the ball all year in a breakout season that this offense certainly appreciates. Losing Cordell Mattox was a big loss for this program but Snead-Johnson seems to be reprising Mattox’s role as a runner, pass catcher and safety. It doesn’t hurt that he’s got a similar skill set, but what’s made Snead-Johnson stand out so far is his hustle. He makes plays on special teams too, like last week’s punt block return for a TD. Expect him to be a factor in all three facets of the game against Cumberland.
The line: Goochland by 20. The Bulldogs have too much talent and depth for their visitors.
Woodberry Forest (3-1) at Collegiate (3-1), 4 p.m.
The basics: The Tigers rolled last week against Paul VI while the Cougars sent a strong message with a 16-7 win over Woodberry’s primary nemesis, Episcopal. You have to go back to 2007 for the last time the Cougars beat the Tigers. Oddly enough, Collegiate won a VISAA Division 1 championship in 2008. Of course Woodberry does not participate in the playoffs. So Collegiate’s lone loss that year? To the Tigers. The big cats are about to do battle once again, and this might be the closest they’ve been in talent since 2013 when then freshman quarterback Lindell Stone earned his first start and the Tigers won 24-14. Woodberry finished 8-1 that year. Collegiate went 9-2. So, is this 2007, 2008, 2013 or something different? In the other meetings during this winning streak, the Tigers have cruised. But this has the makings of a really, really good Prep League matchup and one that could well likely determine who win the PL title.
Key matchup: Woodberry’s secondary against Collegiate’s spread offense. Every year it’s the same story. How will the Tigers find a way to cover the four and five wideout looks that Collegiate runs. Sometimes that’s meant breaking Woodberry’s platoon approach and brining in first team offense skill position players and putting them in the secondary. With Jaxon Hill dinged up, it’ll be up to Cameron Hill and guys like Dequece Carter and Khalid Thomas to step up and show what they can do in coverage. Don’t be surprised if they’re really good at it. The skill positions are Woodberry’s strength and so covering Ayinde Budd and Trel Boll and company shouldn’t be un-doable. But nonetheless, it’s going to be the crux of this battle, keeping the Cougars from airing the ball out.
Who to watch: Woodberry linebacker Dean Browning. The senior was a tackling machine last week against Paul VI with seven tackles and two sacks. This unit is getting pretty sharp and with talents like junior Bennett Hudson stepping up their game, this Woodberry defense has improved dramatically since week one. Keep an eye on Browning in the pass rush though. His ability to apply pressure to quarterback T Brewer is crucial.
The line: Woodberry by 3. Tough game on the road but we’re not going to side against history on this one. The Tigers make it 10 straight.
St. Christopher’s (3-2) at Fork Union (1-4), 3:30 p.m.
The basics: So it’s finally over. The Blue Devils’ front loaded schedule ended with a close loss to Appomattox, the defending VHSL Group 2A champions last week. As a result, Fork Union enters the Prep League portion of its schedule as team that looks to be struggling wins and loss wise, but has been playing outstanding opponents and keeping things very close. Any team that doesn’t come out take the Blue Devils seriously in the PL is going to be in for a surprise. St. Christopher’s is coming off a bye after a 41-0 loss to Landon. The Saints are really hard to figure out because they’ve been hit by the injury bug and their two losses have been really lopsided. Which St. Chris team is showing up to Fork Union? And can the Blue Devils string some wins together now that they’re playing their equals and can that result in a playoff push?
Key matchup: Fork Union’s secondary against receiver Will Hayes. With standout wide out Justin Jasper out the last few weeks because of a hand injury, Hayes has stepped in and been the producer for this unit with over 500 yards receiving in his first four games. That’s been huge with Jasper out until November. Can Will Stupalsky, Logan Justice and Nick Farrar find a way to take away the Saints biggest and best toy? If they can, they get the upper hand in the this one. In two of the last three weeks the Saints have given up 40 or more points, so they’re going to have to put up a pretty good number against a pretty solid defense.
Who to watch: Quarterback Luke Wilson. His showing against Appomattox was impressive. Going 21-for-28 passing with 319 yards and two touchdowns, Wilson seems to get better each week and has grown increasingly comfortable on not relying on just one receiver. Sometimes it’s Logan Justice with the big week receiving. Sometimes it’s Stupalsky like last week as he had 137 yards. Sometimes it’s Larry Elder. Even distribution like that is going to open up the run game for R.C. Walbrook and Iosefa Pua’auli. Wilson has an opportunity to carve up a defense that’s struggled against the pass. If he does it, Fork Union likely picks up its second win in three weeks.
The line: Fork Union by 1. Both teams have beaten St. Stephen’s-St. Agnes, but the Blue Devils did it in regulation, not overtime.
Covenant (4-1) at Fishburne (0-4), 4 p.m.
The basics: With five other one-loss teams sitting above Covenant in the VISAA D2 playoff ratings, games like this one with the Caissons are becoming must-win affairs if the Eagles want to have a shot at getting into the playoffs. Covenant is just two spots out of the fourth and final postseason berth, but they’ve got their work cut out for them to move up because of that log-jam at the top, and that means taking everything one week at a time. Beat Fishburne on the road and that’s a strong step in the right direction, and it’ll take some big performances from playmakers like Jonas Sanker and Donovan Jackson to pull that off.
Key matchup: Fishburne contends with Covenant’s option master John Huemme. It became clear what a difference Huemme makes against Blue Ridge. When he was in the lineup in the first half, the Eagles hung with the Barons. When he was out in the second half, the offense stalled and Blue Ridge romped. Huemme scored four times last week on the ground and is adept at making all the right reads. Fishburne is going to have their hands full against the veer.
Who to watch: Covenant’s Cole Harvey. The rugged lineman continues to be the Eagles’ anchor up front defensively, either eating space by occupying linemen or knifing into the backfield to upset the opposition’s rhythm. If Harvey can keep rolling, the Eagles should finish the year strong.
The line: Covenant by 7. The Eagles should be able to take care of business on the road in this one.