Albemarle (4-5) at Western Albemarle (7-2), Thursday 7 p.m.
The basics: It’s pretty easy to go inside the numbers to prove that in this rivalry you truly can throw out the records. The average margin of victory in the last eight years has been 4.4 points per game. The total score over that stretch? Western Albemarle 207, Albemarle 203. You can change up the coaches, change up the players, and this one still always seems to come down to the wire. This week, Albemarle is fighting for its playoff life too, while the Warriors are battling to hold on to a home game in Region 3C while they also have an inside track to the No. 2 seed, which if they could get to, would give them a chance at a second home game if they win in week one. Those are pretty high stakes, on top of the usual bragging rights in a cross-county rivalry. Stylistically, the Patriots have leaned on the run in their best moments, but an injury to Mahki Washington slowed that down a bit from the Fluvanna game and on into last week’s narrow overtime loss to Powhatan. Now they’ve got to rediscover that offensive flow and get rolling. The Patriots’ defense has been pretty solid in Jefferson District play, with a fleet of solid tacklers like John Barber, Eric Taylor and Marquan Jones who have managed to overcome being put in some tough situations. Western, meanwhile, has quietly put together a big time resume, losing only twice to teams that are the No. 1-ranked teams in their respective regions in Lord Botetourt and Louisa. Bottom line? When Austin Shifflett is getting the rock regularly, the Warriors’ defense can take care of the rest and he’s been getting fed lately, rushing for 190 yards against Fluvanna last week to bring him to 1,289 yards on the year. History dictates that this one will likely come down to the end — last year’s 39-37 clash ended with a 26-3 run by the Patriots to claw back in and win it. Can Western end a two-game slide in the rivalry with a ball control approach that has been driving them all season?
Key matchup: Western’s secondary takes on Albemarle’s array of wideouts. Albemarle has struggled most of the year to find a rhythm in the passing game, but with Myles Ward, Bruce McClain and Forrest Warner all providing huge plays at one point or another this year, the danger is always there. That puts the pressure on Wyatt Hull, Jack Weyher, Peyton Miller and the rest of the Warriors’ pass coverage apparatus to stay locked in and prevent Albemarle quarterback DaQuandre Taylor from suddenly getting in rhythm in a big way this week with the playoffs possibly on the line for the Patriots.
Who to watch: Western quarterback Carter Shifflett. Shifflett has been steadily improving week in and week out. Part of being a quarterback is getting your team through tough situations by minimizing mistakes, and Shifflett’s work last week in a critical win over the Flucos is evidence he’s got that ability. In cold, rainy conditions, he made sure Austin Shifflett got the ball, he managed short fields and he prevented disastrous plays. In a situation like that, that’s often enough to win.
The line: Western by 3. The Warriors’ identity is more firmly entrenched, they’re at home, both teams have a lot to play for.
Charlottesville (0-9) at Monticello (2-7), Thursday 7 p.m.
The basics: Monticello ended a seven-game slide since winning its opener by forcing a rash of turnovers against Orange last week and taking advantage of those short fields to beat the Hornets. Now the Mustangs will try and recreate that formula against a team that has had its own turnover problems all year in Charlottesville that continued last week against Louisa County. Despite the Black Knights being 0-9, some of the matchups here actually trend in their favor. Sabias Folley is the kind of productive back that can give Monticello problems like Jaylen Alexander and Austin Shifflett did. Containing him won’t be an easy task for a defense that has often given up points in bunches. Still, the Black Knights have struggled to put it all together, with injuries hamstringing them throughout the season. Monticello, meanwhile, is fighting through growing pains with young players in a ton of key spots including sophomore quarterback Malachi Fields. Can the Mustangs build on last week’s win over Orange and send the Black Knights to their first winless campaign since 2010 or will the Black Knights pull off the ultimate pride effort and finish the season and Folley’s top notch career on a high note?
Key matchup: Charlottesville’s secondary battles Trenton Johnson. With Isaiah Washington back in the mix, the Black Knights get back a solid cover man, and he joins Daimon Washington back on that end to provide a group that on paper should be able to clamp down on opposing passing games But last week, ground-bound Louisa found a lot of early success in the air, with Rob Allinder hitting Noah Robinson for a big gainer over the top on the opening play. The Black Knights’ defense will have to get to work against Johnson, who has amassed 599 yards on 30 catches despite drawing a lot of attention from opposing defenders.
Who to watch: Monticello’s Devonta Hargrove’s. Hargrove’s strong performance on the ground last week (117 yards and two touchdowns) against Orange showed that the Mustangs’ senior is refusing to go quietly into the night. He could also be a big factor in disrupting the rhythm of the Black Knights’ offense in his efforts on the edge defensively. Hargrove was near unblockable early in the year, if he finds that form against the Black Knights, it’ll be trouble for Charlottesville.
The line: Monticello by 1. This one is a toss-up but the Mustangs are at home and riding a little momentum after last week’s win.
Blue Ridge (3-5) at Benedictine (4-3), Saturday 1 p.m.
The basics: Eventually, one hopes, Blue Ridge is going to get another chance to prove itself against its own level of competition. But the Barons lost another game last week with Fishburne’s cancellation and now Blue Ridge is scheduled to finish out what began as a promising season with some key playmakers back against Benedictine. The Cadets haven’t been quite as powerful this year as in years past, but they’re still 4-3 and transitive property wise, Benedictine beat a Fork Union team 44-16 that beat Bishop O’Connell 12-7 weeks after O’Connell beat Blue Ridge 45-7. The Barons are overmatched here, but if they can keep it close, it should be an indication to the playoff committee that Blue Ridge just hasn’t had much of a chance to show what it can do against reasonable competition. If Blue Ridge gets in the mix, they still have the potential to be a problem for anyone in the VISAA D2 playoff field.
Key matchup: Blue Ridge’s secondary takes on Benedictine quarterback Andrew Puccenlli. Benedictine usually uses two quarterbacks but Puccenlli has proven to be a potent passer at times and the Barons will need to be wary. Luckily, they have some talent on the back end too, with Xavier Kane and Sammy Fort roaming the secondary itching to put together a better effort than the Barons have against some of the bigger school competition they’ve faced like Bishop O’Connell, King William and Flint Hill.
Who to watch: Blue Ridge’s Xavier Kane. We’re closing in on the final game or games of Kane’s solid career as a Baron. He’s been a little bit of everything over the years for them at quarterback, wideout, defensive back, runner. Whatever the Barons have needed in his three years, Kane has stepped into the role, and it hasn’t gone overlooked, he’s been one of their best over that span and one of the most versatile to ever strap it up for them.
The line: Benedictine by 14. Tough matchup for the Barons.
Woodberry Forest (4-3) at Fork Union (2-7), 12:30 p.m. Friday
The basics: This is always a fun one, and this year, with both teams taking some lumps against very challenging schedules, both are going to be hungry for a win here. The Tigers are back to airing it out relentlessly, with Ben Locklear and DeQuece Carter torching opposing defenses with a dash of big tight end Kyle Bilodeau thrown in. With a host of solid athletes patrolling the secondary for Fork Union though, that could become a little bit of a problem, the Blue Devils’ defense was stingy in wins over Trinity Episcopal and Bishop O’Connell. Fork Union also gets a chance here to play for ending Mike Hooper’s tenure as head coach on a high note. The Blue Devils last beat Woodberry in 2012, when Christian Hackenberg was a senior. This is the best shot Fork Union has had in awhile, though they’ll need a tremendous effort to move the ball offensively against a defense that has been creating turnovers and problems for the opposition in a number of big games. Last week Fork Union got a couple of huge plays from Will Stupalsky on a field goal and a long touchdown catch and run, they might need some similar heroics this week.
Key matchup: Fork Union’s defensive line tries to break through a stout Woodberry offensive line. We’ve talked about in on our podcast before, but this Woodberry line simply doesn’t let Locklear hit the deck, and if he isn’t pressured or disrupted, he’s capable of lighting up the opposing defense. Fork Union’s defense is going to have to find some way to speed up Locklear and the Woodberry passing game, but creating that pressure just hasn’t happened for most defenses this year against the Tigers.
Who to watch: Woodberry Forest’s Jax Hill. Hill made a triumphant return to the lineup against Benedictine and had a pick and a huge tackle. If Hill and the rest of the secondary can rise to the occasion against a Fork Union team with some talented wideouts, it would go a long way toward pushing the Tigers past the Blue Devils.
The line: Woodberry by 7. The Tigers can close out the Prep League campaign on their terms. They’ll likely have to fight hard for it, but they can get it done.
Rappahannock (2-7) at Nelson County (1-7), Thursday 7 p.m.
The basics: The Governors have been on a break since October 19 after losing a game to a cancellation, but they return from that long rest to wrap up their season with a winnable clash against Rapphannock. Strasburg hammered Nelson in their last game, but Nelson got some things cooking on offense in the game before that, a narrow loss to Madison County. Can the Governors get back to form against Rappahannock?
Key matchup: Rapphannock’s secondary takes on Devon Cousins. Cousins is tough to guard and Nelson targets him often. The defensive backs for Rapphannock will have their hands full with him.
Who to watch: Nelson’s quarterback George Brown. Brown rushed for 49 yards and threw for 113 despite the lopsided loss to Strasburg, and he’s the best bet to give the offense a jolt. Coming off two weeks of rest and prep, look for Brown to have a big night in the Governors’ home finale.
The line: Nelson by 7. The Governors should end the season on a high note here.
Orange County (2-7) at Powhatan (5-3), Thursday 7:30 p.m.
The basics: The Hornets fell last week to a Monticello team that was in search of its first Jefferson District win. The 35-14 loss was a stark change from the previous six games where the Hornets went 1-5 but were highly competitive in close losses. Yes even with a 36-12 loss to Louisa County has a bit of a misleading score. The Indians pulled off a big win on the road last week with a 2-point convert in overtime to seal the 21-20 win over Albemarle. Powhatan has really looked good since its 16-7 loss to Fluvanna. The Indians have skyrocket up the Region 4B into playoff contention and need the win here to try and move up further to avoid the unbeatens in Eastern View and Louisa at the top of the bracket.
Key matchup: This is a simple one. Orange County’s Jaylen Alexander versus Powhatan’s Jacob Taylor. The two running backs are the cornerstones on their respective offenses. In both wins and losses these teams are built around getting them the ball and grinding out yardage. Alexander still racked up 148 yards last week in the loss to Monticello as the Hornets struggled with turnovers in the passing game. Taylor had 129 yards last week and scored two of his team’s three TD’s against Albemarle. Unless there’s a crazy turnover differential like there was for Orange last week, this game will likely come down to who has the bigger game, Alexander or Taylor.
Who to watch: Hornet’s receiver Chris Washington. The senior caught five passes last week for 135 yards, giving him a nice 27 yard per catch average. He’s a big play threat, both on deep routes and on short ones that put him in open space. It will be interesting to see how often Orange goes to the air given the struggles with pass blocking and interceptions from last week. The Hornets need to find a way for Powhatan’s offense to do something than just stack nine in the box against Alexander. Washington gives them a guy to make the Indians keep watch of. How much success he has early could dictate the kind of numbers Alexander winds up putting together.
The line: Powhatan by 3. The Indians are hot right now and playing hard for their coach who is retiring at the end the season. Hard to imagine Jim Woodson not picking up the W in his last home game.
Fluvanna County (6-3) at Louisa County (9-0), 7:30 p.m.
The basics: The Flucos fell in their home finale to fellow Region 3C member Western Albemarle in a rainy 21-7 loss. The Lions rolled past Charlottesville 48-12. This is a big one for both teams. The Flucos are fighting to try and get a home playoff game in the Region 3C playoffs. The Lions are fighting to try and creep past Eastern View at the top in the Region 4B bracket. In years past, this was a trap game for the Lions. This year, this is a great lead in game to the playoffs. These are two physical teams that run the ball well and play defense. Something will have to give here.
Key matchup: The Fluvanna corps of running backs takes on Louisa’s linebackers. The Flucos have spread the ball around to so many different guys, from Prophet Harris to Dametrez Christmas to Kobe Edmunds to Daori Green and so on. That should pay dividends as they go up against Louisa’s 3-5-3 defense that features Brandon Smith, Alex Washington, Reginald Cosby, Ben Froschauer and Aaron Aponte all playing behind a really sound defensive line and in front of an ever-improving secondary. The Lions defense can grind single back teams into the ground. Fluvanna’s scheme is a little different than anything Louisa’s seen so far in the Jefferson. But Louisa’s defense has been so stingy week-in-week out for the better part of three years now. That doesn’t happen by accident. Offensively, the Lions are going to get their 300-plus yard. They always do. Fluvanna has to find the right mix of stuff to match or exceed that to win this game.
Who to watch: Louisa County’s Kalup Shelton and Alex Washington. The two running backs have 582 and 351 yards respectively. With Jarrett Hunter at 172 carries for 1,069 yards, it will be interesting to see just how heavily the Lions lean on him or decide to hand over more carries to Shelton (who has 92 touches) and Washington (who has 23 carries). The good news is that both of those guys are averaging over six yards per carry. The Lions have the ability to take this game very seriously while also trying to lighten the load for Hunter and get him into the playoffs good and healthy. That’s quite the luxury.
The line: Louisa by 7. The Lions remember the end of the 2016 season where a loss to Charlottesville sent them into the playoffs befuddled. Showing up in November was a non-issue for the 2017 team. It doesn’t look like it will be an issue in 2018.
William Monroe (3-6) at Culpeper (5-4), Thursday 7 p.m.
The basics: Three weeks ago, this didn’t appear to be all that big of a game. Now it is. The Dragons beat Warren County 19-14 last week to pick up their second straight win. They are 3-2 since that tough 44-6 loss to Broadway in week four and suddenly sit in eighth place in Region 3B. The Blue Devils are one of the top-ranked team in 3B and coming off a 23-14 loss that ended a three game winning streak. A win for Monroe here would give the Dragons a share of the Northwest District Class 3A title which would be their first district title since 1990. A win for Culpeper gives them the NWD 3A title outright.
Key matchup: The Monroe rushing defense takes on Culpeper’s Javae Colclough. At 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds, Colclough is a workhorse running back and while the Blue Devils have weapons around him like receivers Capone Hoffman, Armani Hoffman and quarterback Nazier McDonald, the running back is the straw that stirs the drink. The Dragons have been much, much better in these last weeks against the run. While they got burned by a big play last week, there wasn’t a whole lot that Monroe gave up on the ground. For the Dragons to win this game they have to embrace their new style which was to abandon a high flying spread offense for a power run game to play behind its defensive front. If the defense can play like it has the last two weeks, the other side of the ball should be able to handle the rest, but that won’t be easy.
Who to watch: Monroe’s Alex Kinsey. The Dragons senior quarterback isn’t whipping it around like he used to, as in, he’s doing a lot more handing off to Dupree Rucker while also getting the job done himself with his legs. Kinsey still drops back and dials it up to Jaekwon Wayne and Sal Coyle, but he’s primarily a reader of the defense. And that’s a good thing because he’s a bright kid and usually makes solid decisions on the fly. His elusivity as a quarterback allows him to be a real wildcard. He can turn a broken play, just like he did last week, into a big gain. The Dragons are as good as their offensive and defensive line. But beyond that, they are thrive behind Kinsey and his ability to commandeer this unit. He’s a natural leader by example and Monroe needs him at the top of his game in this one to try and pull the upset here.
The line: Culpeper by 1. The Dragons are playing really well, but their on the road against a team that’s got a grit and depth. If Monroe executes really well it can come up with a win, but the Blue Devils have the edge coming into this one.
George Mason (3-6) at Madison County (2-7), Thursday 7:30 p.m.
The basics: Since beating Nelson County 48-0 back in the second week of September, the Mustangs have dropped six straight including a 35-16 loss to Clarke County last week. The Mountaineers are coming off their murderer’s row of Central Woodstock, Clarke County and Strasburg all in a row and with two of those on the road. The last time Madison played at home, it made things really interesting for Central in a game that few thought would be so close in the first three quarters. The Mountaineers finally face a team of their enrollment, and a team with a sub .500 record after facing three highly ranked teams. Can they finish this season with a solid note to build on for 2019?
Key matchup: Mason’s pass rush takes on Madison quarterback Elijah Lewis. The Mustangs don’t have the physicality to simply overpower the Mountaineers offensive line with a bull rush of the front seven here. Lewis is big quarterback that can be a power rusher and Mason will have to focus on that first and hope that Lewis and coach Chandel Rhoads don’t decide to go to the air too often. Madison will air it out, but Mason will have to devote enough resources up front that they’ll be playing a lot of man coverage in the secondary and hope that’s enough to keep Matt Carpenter and Nick Messineo from streaking down field. This game will be come down to just how many big plays Lewis can make with his arm. But it’s how his legs set up it that really allows that to open things up.
Who to watch: Madison linebacker Dalton Dodson. The middle linebacker will be in charge of leading the defense against quarterback Thomas Cree who is 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds. Getting quality reads and directing the defense is going to be huge in this one. This might be a high scoring game, but if Dodson and the front seven can force enough second and longs, third and longs they’ll flip the game in their favor quickly.
The line: The Mountaineers by 3. Madison has shown its record is deceptive against the big dogs, and won the games against the teams that aren’t loaded. The Mountaineers come up with one to send out the seniors happy.
Buckingham (5-4) at Prince Edward (3-6), 7 p.m.
The basics: The Knights actually got to practice this week. After playing three games in seven days, Buckingham is above .500 for the first time since 2015 and also sitting in playoff position in Region 2C as the seventh seed. The Eagles are licking their wounds after a 38-8 loss to Goochland and have dropped four straight after getting off to a 3-2 start. All of those last four losses have been by double digits so the Knights are coming into Farmville playing a team that’s reeling a bit. But that’s always a set up if you’re a coach like Seth Wilkerson. Prince Edward might be due. And Buckingham playing a third of its season in a week had to have taken its to physically. So the Knights have to come out and not take the Eagles lightly. While Buckingham might make the playoffs with a loss, a win would lock it up. With that said, it’s hard to know if the Knights want to move up in the standings. Glenvar sits at No. 1 at 9-0, Radford at No. 2 at 8-1 and then a very known commodity in Appomattox at No. 3 (and realistically, the team most underrated in this region). If the Knights move up to six they’d face the Raiders again. So maybe the seventh or eighth seed is a better place to be? That’s all hypothetical. But you can’t help but wonder what the best scenario is here for the Knights. At the end of the day, you have to beat one of the big dogs eventually, so why not face that problem by taking down the Eagles.
Key matchup: Buckingham’s secondary takes on quarterback Nate Reed. Prince Edward has been throwing the ball around. The Knights have some gifted athletes in the secondary with Deshawn Bartee and Xavier Copleland. If they can get good bumps at the line of scrimmage and use their speed to make things hard for Reed, make it so he has to drop dimes, the Knights can make sure there’s nothing doing on the ground game and/or great pressure on Reed. Buckingham has not given up more than a touchdown in their last three games. This defense is dialed in and it will be up to Reed to find a way to beat it.
Who to watch: Knights running back Walter Edwards. This is a game built for him. The matchup is solid for the Buckingham defense. Edwards getting the ball and moving the chains ever so surely behind a his moshpit offensive line with three and four yard carries will wear down the Eagles defense. He has the ability here to put up a big game and fire up this offense that’s really come into its own in four of the last five games.
The line: Buckingham by 3. Unless the Knights are simply wore down or trying to avoid moving up into the sixth seed, they have the pieces to win their fourth straight.
Goochland (9-0) at Amelia (9-0), 5 p.m. Saturday
The basics: Well, the top seed in Region 2A is on the line. So is the James River District title. This set up perfectly, just like it did in 2011 when the same things were also up for grabs. The Bulldogs handled business with Prince Edward last week with a 38-8 win. The Raiders rolled by Randolph Henry 52-14. Both teams had front loaded schedules with their toughest games up front. Amelia’s last close game was with Buckingham on September 6th, a 22-25 win. Goochland? Same opponent, Buckingham on September 28th in a 28-8 victory. Goochland played a close game in week one against Thomas Jefferson, a 14-7 W. But since then it’s been all double-digit wins and with the exception of Nottoway and Buckingham, we’re talking straight up blowouts. Goochland’s given up eight points in the last month. Those eight came last week in the fourth quarter of a game that was already over. So that is to say, the Bulldogs’ second team defense has given up just eight points in the four straight second half showings.
Key matchup: The Raiders linebacking corps takes on Goochland quarterback Devin McCray’s reads. Two things here. First, Colt Oliver and Justin Pollock have been huge on defense for Amelia at linebacker. Second, Devin McCray is coming into this game as fresh as you could be, essentially just playing in the first half for the better part of a month, and now finally playing in a game where he gets to establish himself as a runner if he wants to. It’s been a while since McCray’s been given the opportunity to take over the game because Goochland simply didn’t need him to. Now with so much on the line how much does Goochland show him here because these two squads could very easily see eachother again in a few weeks, and how sharp will McCray be in this one after essentially getting a month off from having to be the guy.
Who to watch: Goochland’s Sam Brooks. Speaking of primetime players that have had a chance to rest up. Brooks is a monster and one that came into the season a little dinged up and trying to catch up since he missed a lot of camp. The Raiders want to ride behind running back Elijah Marshall but Brooks is a straight ball hawk assassin. Amelia has to find a way from letting Brooks simply wrecking shop. Because the real problem with Brooks isn’t just his tackle totals, it’s how many of them are for a loss and just how often he forces a turnover by sheer physicality.
The line: Goochland by 3. The Bulldogs have a crazy amount of confidence going with 29 straight regular season wins under their belt right now. Amelia is coming into this as the underdog despite the higher Region ranking. It’s been a long time since the Raiders have been in this spot. This game is a regular November game for Goochland, nothing new.
Virginia Episcopal (5-1) at St. Anne’s-Belfield (5-3), 3 p.m.
The basics: STAB squares off against Virginia Episcopal in a battle of the No. 2 and No. 3-ranked teams in the VISFL 8-man league as both squads sport 4-1 records with the single loss coming to league champion Covenant. The winner will likely get to host a potential semifinal rematch between the two. VES is coming off a 62-12 drubbing of Hampton Roads Academy while STAB easily dispatched Kenston Forest earlier this week.
Key matchup: VES’s linebackers take on STAB’s balanced ground attack. Try and lock in on Amani Woods, Thomas Harry can hurt you. Or Gabe Decker can bring the hammer. The Saints are committed to using all three of their top ball carriers, and they’ll likely need all three to derail the Bishops. Against Kenston Forest they combined for 308 yards on the ground in a shutout win. The trio allows STAB to control the clock and, in their last couple of games, the scoreboard as well.
Who to watch: STAB tight end Elijah Johnson. Johnson snagged two catches for 61 yards against Kenston Forest and while the Saints are going to get the job done on the ground, Johnson gives them a chance to keep defenses honest on seam routes off play action. He can be a major matchup problem for opposing defenses.
The line: STAB by 7. The Saints should solidfy their position as the VISFL’s second place squad in this one.