Western Albemarle (3-1) at Louisa County (4-0), 7:30 p.m.
The basics: Everything worked out nicely to set up this one. The Warriors picked up a hard fought win on the road against Powhatan 28-21. The Lions came out of their perfectly timed bye week and handled Albemarle after shaking off the rust to win 40-7. This marks the 19th meeting between these two schools and the two schools that have won the most Jefferson District titles (or shares of them) going back to 2009. The Lions own an 11-8 lead in this series that has always had a good bit of tension to them. The Lions have not lost a JD contest since their regular season finale against Charlottesville in 2016. The Warriors had a tough season back in 2016, but fittingly enough, they managed to pick up a win against a Lions squad that finished the year at 8-3. Identity wise, this should be an interesting one. Louisa, as usual, is built to pound the ball on the run and play defense. Western, is embracing that same style this year after years of spreading the ball around in the passing game.
Key matchup: The Western secondary takes on wide receivers Mark Carter and Noah Robinson. Yes, the Lions will lean a lot harder on its runners, but there’s no ignoring that quarterback Rob Allinder has been delivering a lot of death blows by finding his two receivers. Carter’s height makes him a jump ball threat anywhere in the field and Robinson — who’s as athletic as they come — has been a revelation for the Lions just four weeks into the season. Western will lean on Jack Weyher and Wyatt Hull to make sure that Allinder has to make tough throws to get the ball to Carter and Robinson.
Who to watch: Louisa’ Jarrett Hunter. The Lions’ junior had a pair of rushing touchdowns last week against Albemarle and made a beautiful read to allow Alex Washington to reel off a 97-yard touchdown run, basically untouched. Hunter also had an interception in Louisa’s endzone to end a potential scoring drive for the Patriots. Suffice it to say, he’s a big piece of the puzzle for the Lions on both sides of the ball and his impact on the team only seems to be growing.
The line: Louisa by 6. While these teams love to give each other fits, especially as underdogs, the Lions have yet to play in a close contest with a 45-20 win over Chancellor being their closest call so far.
Albemarle (0-4) at Monticello (1-3), 7 p.m.
The Basics: After Albemarle lost to Mountain View it became pretty obvious that 0-4 might be a possibility for the Patriots with opponents only increasing in difficult from the Wildcats over this last three game stretch. The real question this week is whether Albemarle can rediscover its confidence and get ready for a rivalry game that gives them an excellent chance to reverse course. The Mustangs are also in the midst of a three-game slide after an encouraging opener against William Monroe. Monticello’s struggles are less related to the schedule and more related to a major youth movement they’re undergoing after last year’s playoff squad graduated a rash of key players. The loss to Fluvanna surely stings after 16 years of owning that matchup, but the Mustangs don’t have time to wallow with a rivalry matchup in the offing. Albemarle’s physical run game will test the Mustangs and their defense is better than the 0-4 start would have you think. Look for Albemarle to try and find an offensive rhythm early behind DaQuandre Taylor at quarterback to make sure they put that 0-4 start in the rearview mirror.
Key matchup: Albemarle’s secondary takes on Monticello’s Trenton Johnson. Johnson is the Mustangs’ most electric playmaker, whether it’s on end arounds, in the passing game or on returns. When he has the ball in his hands and is locked in, good things happen. The Patriots will likely lean on some combination of Marquan Jones and Shemar Powell to keep Johnson in check. Getting to Fields with pressure from guys like Jake Romback will also be critical to not allowing Johnson extra time to get open.
Who to watch: Albemarle’s Mahki Washington. Monticello has dropped three straight games to teams that want to run the ball physically first and this week they lock up with a team that has one the area’s most complete young backs in Washington. Can he and Taylor get the ground going like they did against Patrick Henry and get the Patriots on track?
The line: Albemarle by 10. The Patriots should end their slide here.
Fluvanna County (3-1) at Orange County (2-2), 7:30 p.m.
The Basics: This one should be a lot of fun as both squads roll in with some confidence after picking up much-needed wins last week. The Flucos pulled off an historic victory at home against Monticello while the Hornets went on the road and got on track with an efficient win over Charlottesville. While this series took a break for a couple of years when Orange was in the Commonwealth District, It has been 15 years since the Flucos beat the Hornets, back in 2002. That leaves history on the side of the Hornets, though as Monticello will tell anyone, this isn’t your significantly older brother’s Fluvanna squad. The Flucos have weapons, they’ve got an offensive line that’s moving the ball and they’ve got the potential to be a tough out for most teams in the Jefferson District this season. Prophet Harris is a two-way force as a wing back and defensive back, grabbing two picks including the difference-making pick six a week ago. Freshman quarterback Kobe Edmonds is taking advantage of his opportunities. Tackle Walt Stribling is a road-grading presence. But Orange counters with its own pack of playmakers including one of the area’s best running backs in Jaylen Alexander, Chris Washington, Kyrie Carter and Ricardo Flores. If Orange can hold on to the ball and not get mixed up in turnovers, they should have the edge here.
Key matchup: Fluvanna’s front seven takes on Orange’s Jaylen Alexander. It’s really about this simple when it comes to scheming against Orange County’s offense — you can either stop Alexander or you can’t. Most teams so far haven’t been able to, though other offensive issues have allowed Eastern View and Spotsylvania to pick up wins any way. The Flucos will try and counter Alexander with the same physical defensive approach that impacted Monticello last week or opportunistic plays on miscues like Malachi Hill’s fumble recovery a week ago after an exchange mistake. Alexander’s 231 yards last week in just one half of action though? That means the Flucos have their work cut out for them.
Who to watch: Fluvanna’s Colby Martin. Martin was an unheralded hero in last week’s win over the Mustangs as he laid a critical hit that forced a fumble in the closing minutes of the first half. That led to Kobe Edmonds’ touchdown pass that gave Fluvanna a huge lift going into the locker room. He also caught a long pass in the first half that ended up being wasted after a Monticello goalline stand. If Martin can provide that kind of impact play in the secondary or as a wideout in some form or another, that’s going to be huge.
The line: Orange County by 7. Alexander and his offensive line can be the difference-maker here.
Powhatan (2-1) at Charlottesville (0-5), 7 p.m.
The Basics: Charlottesville’s defensive struggles continued against Orange last week and put the Black Knights further into the hole as they now sit at 0-5. Turnovers and miscues haven’t helped, but not being able to stop the run has so far been the Achilles’ heel for CHS. If they can figure that piece of the puzzle out it’ll go a long way toward getting them back on track. Powhatan nearly beat Western at home last week but fell 28-21. Now they’ll look to bounce back on the road.
Key matchup: Charlottesville’s front seven takes on Powhatan running back Jacob Taylor. A week ago, Jaylen Alexander gashed the Black Knights for 231 yards in the first half as Charlottesville’s struggles against the run continued. Now they’ll face another speedy back in Taylor and they’ll have their work cut out for them to try and slow him down.
Who to watch: Charlottesville’s Daimon Washington. Last week, Washington got back in the mix at quarterback after getting banged up in week one. He rushed for 118 yards on 20 carries and gave the Black Knights a secondary threat beyond Sabias Folley who teams have been stacking the box against. If Washington can do some of the same against Powhatan, they’ll have a solid shot against the Indians.
The line: Powhatan by 7. Black Knights have the potential to hang in this one but expect Powhatan to be hungry for a win after last week’s loss.
Hampton Roads Academy (0-4) at Covenant (3-0), 4 p.m.
The Basics: Covenant rolled last week against Brunswick Academy 60-0 and the Eagles are sitting atop the state’s VISFA 8-man football standings. HRA fell 42-0 to STAB a week ago, a team Covenant has already beaten. The Eagles get a chance to keep things rolling in this one.
Key matchup: Covenant’s front seven takes on the HRA ground game. The Navigators sputtered against STAB and rushed for just 41 yards. Now they face a Covenant team that hasn’t surrendered a single point the last two weeks. Solving the Covenant defense is a tall task for HRA, especially when the Eagles have a guy like Rick Weaver who is a linebacker in a defensive tackle’s body leading the charge up front.
Who to watch: Covenant’s Jonas Sanker. When Sanker gets the ball in his hands, he’s a threat to score from anywhere on the field. Whether it’s through the air or on end arounds or when he creates turnovers on defense. Look for the Eagles to try to get him the ball to him early on.
The line: Covenant by 28. The Eagles just have too many weapons for HRA to handle.
Nelson County (1-4) at Covington (2-2), 7 p.m.
The basics: The Governors had a tough Friday with Parry McCluer handing them a 52-6 loss, the second straight after the first win of the season three weeks ago on the road with Craig County. The Cougars are coming off a loss to James River (Buchanan), 38-28. Covington is a bit of a tough one here for Nelson. Even at 2-2, the Cougars have moved the ball effectively in their losses and with wins over Alleghany and Greenbrier (WV) so the task will be a tall one. Nelson fell to Covington last year 70-22. Of course that was a Cougars squad that wound up 8-5 and playing in the second round of the VHSL Division 1 playoffs. The bad news? Covington was 2-2 last year coming into this game too.
Key matchup: Nelson’s defensive line against Covington’s offensive line. The Cougars have Nicholas Humphreys, a 6-1 senior along with 6-6 freshman Gunner Givens. They allow Covington to be a balanced team offensively as maulers on the run and solid pass protectors. Nelson needs James Johnson and Alcindor Barnett to match their physicality on the line to try and keep Covington from having the time to develop big plays.
Who to watch: Nelson’s Damien Jacques. His 70-yard TD reception from George Brown was the bright spot in a lop-sided loss a week ago. With big play ability on an offense that’s leaning to more of that right now, the Governors need Jacques to come up with as many big plays as he can. If Brown can hit the talented wide out, Nelson has a chance to try and go blow-for-blow with a Covington team that knows how to score, and score often.
The line: Covington by 13. The Cougars have beaten Nelson a combined 133-22 the previous two season. Unfortunately for the Governors this is just a mismatch. That said, it’s one that should prepare them greatly for Madison County next.
Madison County (0-4) at Rappahannock (0-5), 7:30 p.m.
The basics: The Mountaineers fell in a tough battle with William Monroe 20-14 in a game that came down to the last seconds. The Panthers also narrowly fell in a 32-29 game with with King and Queen Central. Madison has won all four of its previous meetings with Rappahannock but the Panthers can be dangerous. After suffering a 49-27 loss to Madison last year, Rappannock went on to beat Massanutten and Nelson County to finish the year at 3-4. Last week was the first week the Panthers scored more than than six points though, so it’s been tough sledding for them in 2018.
Key matchup: The Rappahannock secondary takes on Madison County’s receiving corps. Between Matt Carpenter, Sam Estes and Nick Messenio, the Mountaineers have some solid talent and depth to work with here. All three have caught touchdowns in the last two weeks. Quarterback Elijah Lewis is not shy throwing the ball down field, so for this trio, there will be plenty of opportunities to stretch the field and get big yardage plays. The Panthers can’t really zero in on any particular one and also defend the run against Lewis and running back Matt Lewis. So for any member of this receiving trio it should be as simple as beating your man off the line to get open.
Who to watch: Mountaineers running back Matt Lewis. If anyone is poised to have a breakout game in this one it’s the RB Lewis. With the way Madison has been throwing the ball and seen a good deal of success in that department, Lewis should be getting carries against a defense with safeties playing it safe and a linebacking corps that’s also trying to be mindful of Elijah Lewis’ ability to break countain. So for Matt Lewis, life should be pretty good in this one. He ran for 100 yards and a touchdown against East Rockingham. If he can do that against that kind of defense, then he should be able to shred the Panthers for a healthy amount.
The line: Madison County by 9. The Mountaineers got their first win here last year, they’ll likely do so again this year.
Buckingham (2-3) at Goochland (4-0), 7 p.m.
The basics: The Knights’ defense was on fire against Nottoway in a 19-3 win last week at home. The Bulldogs got the week off and are also coming off a 30-13 win over those same Cougars. This was a bit of a funky game last year with the Bulldogs pulling away late and winning 24-7 in a game that was closer than the scoreboard suggested. The Knights rebounded to win their next four games to finish the season at .500. That was the last time the Bulldogs were so much as challenged until the playoffs, and with the same schedule, this might be it again for them until November. Goochland has not lost a James River District game since 2015. The last team to beat them? Buckingham County. The Bulldogs hold a 12-6 lead in the 18 previous meetings.
Key matchup: The Knights offensive line against Bulldogs linebacker Sam Brooks. The senior LB was a menace last year, and for most part, just kind of has been every week the last two seasons. With Buckingham running an school tight split offense, Brooks gets be a ballhawk and go hunting. It will up to senior Cole Edmondston — along with a group of underclassmen next him to that have shown leaps and bounds of improvements since week one against Appomattox — to try and keep Brooks from having one of those 15-tackle, with two forced fumble kind of games. If running back Walter Edwards and quarterback Cameron Taylor can be efficient on the ground, the Knights have an opportunity to try and out-Goochland Goochland with lengthy drives.
Who to watch: The Goochland passing attack. The only thing keeping this game from essentially having a running clock is how often the Bulldogs decide to get quarterback Devin McCray to drop back and pass. But with the field conditions expected tomorrow, it’s going to be swampy at best. This game has all the makings of a lot of running from Perry Snead Johnson, Dahkari Burgess and Connor Popielarz. But should McCray decide to go downfield and find Quincey Snead down field, the Knights have to be ready. Snead is slippery fast and a real problem in open space. He and McCray have been solid collaborators going back to last season. It will be interesting to see just how much of the playbook the Bulldogs open up in this one.
The line: Goochland by 4. The Knights should be a good test but Bulldogs are rested, healthy, and riding a winning streak of 28 straight regular season games that go back to fateful night in Dillwyn on October 9 of 2015.
North Cross (3-2) at Blue Ridge (1-3), 4 p.m.
The basics: The Raiders come in St. George riding a three game winning streak after a 67-14 walloping of Hargrave. The Barons have lost two straight, facing another tough VISAA Division 1 opponent last week in a 45-6 defeat to Bishop O’Connell. The rash of Division 2 schools playing 8-man football has really taken its toll on Blue Ridge’s traditional schedule, but with North Cross, the Barons get an opponent they’ve been playing against since the 2010 campaign. The Raiders hold a 4-5 edge in this series but Blue Ridge has won three of the last four, the most important of which was when the two met in the VISAA Division 2 championship game and Blue Ridge came out on top 41-14 to avenge an early season loss to North Cross just two months prior. These two have always had interesting, high-scoring games, so expect no different here and with Blue Ridge sporting field turf, the athletes on both squads should be able to showcase themselves in regular playing conditions. Not too many schools in Central Virginia will be able to say that this weekend.
Key matchup: Blue Ridge’s secondary against North Cross quarterback Gabe Zappia The Raiders have thrown the ball 124 times this season while they’ve run the ball 107 times. The sophomore quarterback has thrown for 1,087 yards, 13 touchdowns and just five interceptions. As a team, North Cross has churned out 395 yards rushing with eight touchdowns on the ground. Back to the passing though, nearly half of Zappia’s passing yardage has been to junior Zae Baines who has 23catches for 461 yards. But the Raiders also have three other different receivers with at least catches for at least 164 yards. That’s spreading the ball around. Blue Ridge needs its secondary, between Prophecy Kisamore, Xaiver Kane, Icesys Lewis and Michael Asher to be able to hang tough with this receiver corps. If the Barons can keep Zappia to under 200 yards passing, they’ll be in the driver’s seat. Having Cameron Kewly in the front seven putting on the pressure — something he’s been able to do even in the losses for Blue Ridge — that would be huge.
Who to watch: The Blue Ridge offensive line. The Barons have struggled to run the ball in three of their four games this year. Yes they’re obviously playing a lot of Division 1 teams that are really good, and as such have size roster depth that the Barons don’t as a Division 2 school, but building cohesion is a must for this group up front led by 6-foot-3 senior Myles Ham. Sammy Fort had a strong 2017 campaign at running back, and with Kisamore also a solid runner and Kane an elusive dual threat at quarterback, the Barons need to get this ground game going. And that’s not say that they need the big plays, the long rushes. It’s more the small stuff like getting five yard gains on second and seven to set up some opportunities on third down. The big plays are great, but they don’t happen all that often on third and long.
The line: Blue Ridge by 1. Recent history paired with the early scheduling means the Barons should be more than ready for the Raiders but they have to get some rhythm going.
Norfolk Academy (1-2) at Fork Union (0-4), 6:30 p.m. at Fluvanna County High
The basics: Both teams lost heart breakers last week at home. The Bulldogs fell to St. Christopher’s 27-24 while the Blue Devils’ last second comeback efforts fell just short in the St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes endzone in a 20-13 loss. These are two similarly matched teams and if you’re FUMA, you look at that 27-24 game with St. Christopher’s and get a pretty good idea of the Blue Devils stack in the Prep League. It beats the heck out of lining up against Appomattox, who thought they had the FUMA scheduled in July, but were apparently mistaken as the Blue Devils never officially added them to their schedule. Fork Union getting the Bulldogs instead should be good in the long run. Norfolk has only played in games that have been decided by six points or less so that will be something to keep a watch on because they are battle tested in crunch time, even if they’ve been on the wrong end of it twice. Footing was a real issue last week at FUMA so thankfully for all involved the game has been moved to Fluvanna County’s facility that has field turf. This a rare night under the light for the Blue Devils. The last time they played at Fluvanna, it was a 28-14 win over Paul VI in 2016. Fork Union also beat Benedictine in 2012 at Fluvanna in the semifinals of the VISAA Division 1 playoffs.
Key matchup: The Blue Devils’ pass rush against Bulldogs quarterback Drew Duffy. Fork Union is making strides on defense. Of the 20 points this team gave up last week, 14 of them were a result of a turnover on offense with a short field giving SSSA a solid advantage. Myles Brickhouse had a really nice game against the Saints last week in both the running game and rushing the passer. The junior defensive end will lead a charge against Duffy who threw for a trio of touchdowns last week the Bulldogs’ close loss to St. Christopher’s. The Fork Union secondary is experienced and pretty talented so Brickhouse and his crew up front should have the time they need to be effective. But a really effective pass rush would all the secondary to get opportunistic. This defense forced turnovers last week. If they do it again they might pick up that first win of the year.
Who to watch: FUMA wide receiver Elijah Hawks. While Will Stupalsky is the reliable leading pass catcher for this receiving corps, Hawks is the deep ball threat. The junior had a big time 27-yard touchdown last week, had six catches for 51 yards against Benedictine, and another six for 118 and touchdown against Goochland including a 41-yard bomb. Hawks gives Fork Union quarterbacks Drue Hackenberg and Kenyon Carter a big play threat to go with the security blanket that is Stupalskiy While the Blue Devils need to limit their turnovers in the passing game, going deep too and finding Hawks isn’t the worst idea as establishing a reliable regular running game has proven somewhat difficult. That said, running back Daniel Reynolds has flashed big play ability. It will be interesting to see what Hawks looks like on field turf.
The line: Fork Union by 1. The Blue Devils will get to open things up on the turf with the passing game. That paired with Reynolds’ big play threat could well be the difference in this one. But it’s going to be a tough back-and-forth here.