Patrick Henry-Roanoke (2-1) at Albemarle (0-2), Monday 7 p.m.
The basics: Albemarle needed a chance to reset its entire season after two brutal weeks in losses to Mountain View and Colonial Forge. With help from a weather forecast, they’re getting that chance. The Patriots got a bye week and some extra days to revamp, improve and tighten things up. There’s a decent chance that the team we saw the first two weeks won’t be the same squad that shows up on Monday. That said, there’s work to do. Albemarle got punched in the mouth to start the season with a kick return for a touchdown against Mountain View and then ran into one of the state’s best against Colonial Forge. They’ll face an opponent who suffered its own lopsided loss against Brookville but has won a pair of solid matchups against William Fleming and Hidden Valley. Patrick Henry lost star lineman Charles Boxley to an injury a week ago and that should cut down on the lift for Albemarle, but they’ll have to have improved drastically to get the win here at home. Expect that they have done just that and take advantage of the opportunity to get on track.
Key matchup: Albemarle’s Marquan Jones versus Patrick Henry’s Leroy Thomas. Jones is a force as a defensive back who can step up against the run or cover when receivers attack down field. That’s exactly the kind of versatile threat that you need to lock up someone like Thomas who hauled in more than 100 yards as a receiver and rushed for more than 100 too last week against William Fleming. If Jones and the Albemarle defenses can hold Thomas in check, it’ll be a gamechanging development and could spark the Patriots to a win.
Who to watch: Albemarle’s Myles Ward. Ward hauled in a 36-yard pass a week ago to help set up the Patriots’ lone touchdown against Colonial Forge. The Patriots need more of that if they’re going to get the offense going after Albemarle averaged 3.5 points per game through the first two weeks. Look for Albemarle to try and get Ward in the mix early and often.
The line: Albemarle by 1. This is the Patriots’ chance to get back on track. They’ve had a bye and an extra weekend to prepare. This is an excellent spot for a turnaround.
Charlottesville (0-2) at Western Albemarle (1-1), Wednesday 6 p.m.
The basics: The Jefferson District slate for both Charlottesville and Albemarle gets a slightly earlier start than usual with this matchup as the Black Knights and Western renew their annual rivalry. A year ago, the Black Knights won 36-25, but there are so many new faces on both sides that we can’t glean much from that result. Instead, one has to look at what they’re facing now. Both teams are coming off physical battles on a short week, the Black Knights against Class 5 Harrisonburg in a 59-28 loss and the Warriors against a Lord Botetourt team that played deep into the Class 3 playoffs a year ago. Both teams are going to have to summon a different level of strength and resolve if they want to win this one with just five days of rest.
Key matchup: Charlottesville’s front seven takes on Austin Shifflett. The Warriors want to run the ball and control the clock this year and Shifflett is a big part of that game plan. The young running back is a tough, hard-nosed runner who is capable of breaking big runs too like his 60-yard sprint against Botetourt last week. Charlottesville’s run defense hasn’t put it together just yet and they’ll have to step up against the Warriors. Look for Tayveyon Brown and Sayveon Anderson at linebacker to step up.
Who to watch: Charlottesville’s Sabias Folley. It’s obvious that if you want to slow down Charlottesville’s offense you’ve got to start with trying to contain Folley. Harrisonburg couldn’t a week ago and he rushed for 290 yards and four touchdowns. The Blue Streaks just responded by pouring it on on offense. Western doesn’t have quite the instant offense and scoring punch that it has had in years past but they do have a pack of seniors on defense. Can they meet the challenge?
The line: Western Albemarle by 7. The Black Knights’ defense continues to struggle and the Warriors have proven capable of stopping or slowing teams down. That’s the difference here.
Fluvanna County (1-1) at Madison County (0-2), Wednesday 7 p.m.
The basics: Fluvanna County got a week off after missing a chance to go to 2-0 on the season, and they’ll now try and pickup a second win. Madison, by contrast, has played two solid opponents and took Luray down to the wire before getting picked apart by a quality East Rockingham squad. This one is a toss up and a victory both squads need — the Flucos for confidence before the Jefferson District slate starts and the Mountaineers for a potential run at a playoff spot. With Madison going on short rest — though they played a weather-shortened game a week ago against East Rockingham — this one has the potential to get a little bit funky and possibly produce an unlikely hero on either side.
Key matchup: Fluvanna’s front seven takes on Madison’s Matt Lewis. Lewis is a threat on the ground and through the air — he scored in both ways against East Rockingham — so the Flucos will have to know where he is at all times. That’s going to require a complete team effort, hemming him in and playing responsibility football against the speedy Mountaineers. That’s easier said than done.
Who to watch: Fluvanna County’s Colby Martin. Martin caught a touchdown against Spotsylvania and while the Flucos are employing an offense focused on the Wing-T, it helps to keep defenses honest when a receiver can be a credible threat on the boundary. If Martin provides that, it’ll help open up the offense.
The line: Fluvanna County by 1. The Flucos have to improve their blocking this week, but if they can they could be looking at a second road win.
Flint Hill (1-0) at Blue Ridge (1-1), Saturday 2:30 p.m.
The basics: This is quite the step up in competition for Blue Ridge. While Hargrave was much improved and used a scrappy, resilient effort to keep things close with the Barons, Flint Hill is a juggernaut. The Huskies won the VISAA Division I title a year ago and return quarterback Miles Thompson, formerly of Woodberry, as well as running back Jordan Houston and Maryland commit Trey Rucker, a defensive force. Blue Ridge will have its hands full, but they counter with Sammy Fort, who got a little banged up against Hargrave but is a relentless competitor and should relish the chance for the Barons to test themselves against one of the best private school teams in the state.
Key matchup: Blue Ridge’s front seven takes on Maryland pledge Jordan Houston. Houston needed just eight touches in Flint Hill’s first game to rush for 133 yards and two touchdowns. A week after the Barons were solid against the run but struggled to stop the pass against Hargrave, they’ll now run into one of the state’s best ground attacks, public or private. We’ll learn a little about the what defensive tackle Myles Ham and company are capable of in this one.
Who to watch: Blue Ridge’s Xavier Kane. After last week’s massive output, it’s clear that Kane is what is going to make the Barons’ offense go. If they’re going to shock the state, they’ll have to get a similar effort from Kane here. Maybe not the same yards or touchdowns, though both would help. But mostly they’ll need the same toughness and grit he showed a week ago, running hard for first downs and extending plays even after absorbing an initial hit.
The line: Flint Hill by 14. The defending champs are a big-time challenge but they’ll find that Blue Ridge won’t go quietly either. The Barons’ defense will have to step up to keep this one close.
Spotswood (1-1) at Monticello (1-1), Thursday 5 p.m.
The basics: Last week was a frustrating misstep for Monticello. A loss in overtime to a team that went 2-8 a year ago just wasn’t in the plans for the Mustangs, but with young players in key spots, those kind of missteps are going to happen. How they recover this week on short rest will be most telling about what kind of campaign this edition of the Mustangs is capable of putting together. Can they bounce back and beat the Trailblazers at home and get on track before the Jefferson District gauntlet? It won’t be an easy task, Spotswood has a productive quarterback in Ryan High and he can create problems for opposing defenses. He’s likely the most significant challenge at that spot that Monticello has faced and that’s going to require the Mustangs to get locked in in the secondary and close down windows for High.
Key matchup: Spotswood’s linebackers take on Monticello quarterback Malachi Fields. When Fields trusts his instincts, he can be extremely tough to handle, He did that at times against Turner Ashby, but on a soggy track, it wasn’t easy for him to just take off. Look for him to get back to even more of that against Spotswood, and with Trent Johnson and Ben Drake making life tough on defensive backs, Fields should have all the help he needs to pick up this win.
Who to watch: Monticello’s Devonta Hargrove. While the Mustangs sputtered against Turner Ashby last week, Hargrove was a force of nature in the game, disrupting the backfield, forcing fumbles and generally wreaking havoc on the Knights’ pro style attack. Hargrove looked borderline unblockable with a single lineman as his speed and first step proved overwhelming. If Hargrove keeps this up, he’ll be one of the area’s best defensive lineman this year, maybe one of the state’s best.
The line: Monticello by 7. Look for an impressive rebound in this one from the Mustangs.
Nelson County (1-2) at George Mason (1-0), Friday 7 p.m.
The basics: Nelson got in the win column against Craig a week ago, but they take a sizeable step up in competition this week with George Mason, a playoff squad a year ago. The Governors’ rebuild continues this year but with a signal-caller long on potential and athleticism in George Brown. His emergence also essentially created another playmaker as it allowed Brice Wilson to concentrate on playing defensive back and wideout where he can be an impact player. A close loss to Page and a win over Craig the last couple of weeks has the Governors trending up right now.
Key matchup: George Mason’s secondary takes on Nelson’s Jamel Rose and Devon Cousins. The receiving tandem piled up 149 yards together last week and along with Brice Wilson they’re proving to be a handful for opposing defenses with George Brown slinging the ball around. Can the Mustangs contain Nelson’s receiving corps?
Who to watch: Nelson’s Damien Jacques. The Governors have a credible threat on the edge as a rusher and run stopper in Jacques and while the offense getting going over the last two years is huge, having a defensive stopper is a huge step in the right direction. He had a pair of tackles for a loss in the win over Craig and he’s a good indication of the continued steps Nelson is taking.
The line: George Mason by 7. The Mustangs took care of business a year ago against Nelson and earned a playoff spot. They’re a little ahead of the Governors at this point.
Orange County (1-1) at Spotsylvania (1-1), Wednesday 6:30 p.m.
The basics: The Hornets held strong in the first quarter and half with a loaded Eastern View team but stuggled in the second, falling 49-14 on what was an emotional night following a pregame ceremony to honor former Orange County standout Darius Minor. The Knights are coming off of their bye week after a 21-7 win over Fluvanna County. The Hornets rolled in this game a year ago. While Spotsylvania is an improved team, is it enough to make this game close?
Key matchup: Spotsylvania’s defensive front takes on Hornets running back Jaylen Alexander. The senior back finished with 22 carries for 127 yards and a touchdown despite missing the majority of the second half. Eastern View was able to slow him down by stacking the box with an extra defender, and while Spotsylvania will likely deploy the same talent, they aren’t platooned the way the Cyclones are. Add to it, the Knights’ roster doesn’t have the same depth of talent, so should the Hornets see nine defenders in the box, Alexander could wear that unit single handedly and open things up in the passing game as a result.
Who to watch: Both quarterback situations. For Orange, starting junior Walker Johnson dealt with an arm injury last week and his status for this week was up in the air after Friday. That would open the door for senior Nathan Morris. He got some playing time last week and last year so he’ll be ready for the start if his name is called. The Hornets have pass catching options between Chris Washington and Kyrie Carter. They could have potentially major impacts on the game if Johnson or Morris can get in a rhythm. It’ll be man-to-man coverage for sure and between Washington’s speed and Carter’s strength, that’s going to be exploitable. On the other side of the ball though, Orange has to be mindful of Daquan Carter. Against Fluvanna but he wound up having a big game there when he was called on throwing for a pair of touchdown passes.. Playing in the wing-T, he’s an effective runner first and foremost, but the Hornets defense will have to respect his arm too after what he showed against the Flucos.
The line: Orange by 9. A big difference in opponent for the Hornets. With Alexander likely to get four quarters worth of work, the Knights are in trouble there.
Broadway (0-3) at William Monroe (0-3), Thursday 7 p.m.
The basics: History is repeating itself again and it’s not a good thing. For the second straight year both these teams are coming into this meeting sporting winless records. The Gobblers were smoked last Friday 55-6 by Sherando. The Dragons showed improvements on defense but fell 14-7 to Fort Defiance. This was a nailbiter last year with Broadway squeezing out a 14-12 win. Blood is in the water here — between last year’s game and the fact that neither team can afford an 0-4 start.
Key matchup: Monroe’s secondary takes on Broadway quarterback Nick Lohr. The Dragons have no shortage of talent in their secondary between Jaekwon Wayne, Alex Kinsey, Kaiden Pritchett and Sal Coyle. Lohr almost led Broadway past Skyline two weeks ago in a 21-20 loss. Breakdowns in coverage were costly against Monticello and Spotswood but the Dragons were obviously much better in all phases defensively against Fort Defiance. If the secondary can hold up against Lohr’s arm or even come up with a few turnovers, the task gets an awful lot easier here for Monroe. The Dragons have dealt with three solid dual threat quarterbacks thus far, so at the very least, they’re vetted for the process right now.
Who to watch: Monroe running back Zach Miller. His physical running style lends itself well to close games and bad weather. A true chain mover, Miller could be poised here to have a break out game. The Gobblers have given up 93 points in three games so the opportunity is certainly there. If Miller puts together a solid 100-yard showing, that will make life a lot easier on Kinsey at quarterback and open up Monroe’s passing attack which has accounted for the majority of its offense so far.
The line: Monroe by 1. The schedule gets softer here for the Dragons, and last week’s improvement defensively should give them the edge here at home.
Buckingham County (1-2) at Central Lunenburg (0-3), Wednesday 7 p.m.
The basics: The Knights dropped a tough one in their home opener with Amelia, falling 22-15. The Chargers are on the mend after a 58-0 thrashing from Goochland. You don’t want to get caught scoreboard watching, but there’s no question now that this is simply not the same Lunenburg team that used to compete for James River District titles as they’ve now been outscored 122-38. This is a great opportunity for Buckingham to get back to .500. With the way their schedule is absolutely front loaded, the Knights need as many wins as they can get before its bye week kicks in after week five.
Key matchup: The Chargers secondary versus Deshawn Bartee and Xavier Copeland. Goochland exposed this group last week with quarterback Devin McCray launching three touchdowns. That should allow quarterback Cameron Taylor, or Gerry Toney if he’s back from injury, to open things up in the passing game. Copeland and Barteee both had touchdowns last week against Amelia and are regular big play threats. While Buckingham is a run first team with Walter Edwards at running back, that won’t stop the Knights from going for the jugular every once in a while.
Who to watch: The Buckingham offensive and defensive line. With Thomas Test, Cole Edmondston and Garrett Halfey, this unit has some experience to it. This week, they’re going to get a chance to flex some muscle upfront and establish the run on offense against a team that gave up 248 yards on the ground and then shutdown the run against a unit that was held to just 93 yards last week, most of those coming against a second team defense with a running clock. If the big boys upfront have their way, the Knights could pick up a road win without having to work too hard for it.
The line: Buckingham by 7. The Knights are the more battle tested team here. A loss here would hurt.
Goochland (3-0) at Nottoway (1-1), Wednesday 6 p.m.
The basics: The momentum offensively from the win over Fork Union carried over and then some in the Bulldogs 58-0 win over Central Lunenburg. The defense? It’s allowed two touchdowns in three games, and is coming off its first shutout. The Cougars are coming off a 42-7 loss to Gretna. Just as a heads up, Gretna, like the Gretna that Goochland and Buckingham County used to run into in the playoffs, is back and in a big way. They are pummeling people. So both the Bulldogs and Cougars are looking over at the other and wondering what’s in store. For Nottoway, it’s the same old Goochland to fear. The Cougars have been a tough out for the Bulldogs, but haven’t solved the puzzle. For Goochland, this might be the toughest team they face until the playoffs in November. They also might not be. Nonetheless, the Bulldogs can’t take this team lightly.
Key matchup: Nottoway versus Goochland’s run up the middle. Thomas Jefferson took it away in game one and held the Bulldogs to 14 points. Fork Union did well against it for the first quarter, but then things got away. For the second straight week, Connor Popielarz came up big but then so too did Derrick Burgess, giving the Bulldogs yet another piece to this rushing puzzle. Burgess had six touches for 68 yards. So if you’re the Nottoway front nine, the game is simple, keep Popielarz and Burgess down first. Now the problem there is that quarterback Devin McCray and running back Quincey Snead are so dangerous when they the edge it adds up to big plays. But as we’ve seen in years past, you’re better off hoping those kind of playmakers beat you than the guys up the middle and then you get beat eventually by all four playmakers. Take away the chain movers and you’ve got a chance.
Who to watch: Goochland linebacker Justin Woodson. The Bulldogs are in great shape to be so loaded at linebacker. To graduate Ricky Mayfield and then still have Sam Brooks is something to build on. Woodson is giving the Bulldogs yet another sure tackling, athletic, nose-on-the-ball linebacker who’s had three straight great weeks with eight tackles, three of them for a loss and then another 10 more assisted tackles. When you have a defense that is tall, long and athletic like this one, it gives you amazing versatility. The start of Woodson’s 2018 campaign is just a team that’s already been rich on defense getting richer.
The line: Goochland by 7. With this offense getting better each week and apparently, the defense feeding off of that too, the Bulldogs are really starting to mesh right now.
Fork Union (0-2) at Benedictine (1-0), Wednesday 4 p.m.
The basics: For the third straight week, the Bulldogs have to wonder if they’re playing the best team on their schedule. It’s entirely possible. How would Goochland, Bullis and Benedictine do against each other? It’d be interesting. That’s a long way of saying that Fork Union is going to head into its first home game with St. Stephen’s St. Agnes truly tested. FUMA is coming off a 42-6 loss to Bullis on its road trip to Potomac, Maryland last week. The Cadets are coming off a bye week after throttling St. John Paul the Great 37-7. Yet another challenge for the Blue Devils.
Key matchup: Fork Union’s defensive line against Benedictine quarterback Nick Demchuk. As a third year starter, Demchuk has as a monster at receiver in Charles Rosser at 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds and speedsters Vea Atkins and Diego Bremer. The Blue Devils need to get after Demchuk and force him to make quick decisions under duress to give themselves a chance to win this game. William Henry, Miles Brickhouse, James Brooks, pretty much everyone on the front line that gets rotated through — the Blue Devils a heavy push up front and need as much of it as they can get for four quarters.
Who to watch: FUMA’s Daniel Reynolds and V’jon Hampton. The two running backs split carries with Reynolds getting 12 touches and Hampton getting 10. The Blue Devils need to establish the run to keep the Benedictine offense on the sidelines and, obviously, to get things rolling offensively. Quarterbacks Kenyon Carter and Drue Hackenberg have each thrown touchdown passes now, but those are the only touchdowns in two games. Those two will do a lot better when Reynolds and Hampton find a rhythm to make second and third downs more manageable. Obviously the offensive line needs to get a push up front to do that.
The line: Benedictine by 7. A very tough opponent again this week. Fork Union just needs to keep grinding and figuring itself out identity wise.
Woodberry Forest (0-1) at St. Christopher’s (1-0-1), Saturday 1 p.m.
The basics: The Tigers fought valiantly on the road against a very, very good Charlotte Latin team to force overtime. However, Woodberry fell in overtime, 26-20. The Saints are coming off of a 17-7 win on the road to St. Stephen’s St. Agnes. The week before St. Chris wound up in a 40-40 tie. This is tough game to gauge, but after Woodberry’s first four quarter game, you can’t help but think that the Tigers have something going because an overtime tie is a vast improvement after their first quarter with Georgetown Prep in a game that never got finished because of weather. That said, this doesn’t look like the same Saints squad that Woodberry’s basically manhandled for more than a decade.
Key matchup: Woodberry’s linebacking corps takes on St. Chris running back Jordan Hartley. The Saints have established a running game behind a defense that’s pretty solid and was the best part of last year’s campaign. The Tigers are built for the big plays on offense with what they have in the passing attack. Getting Hartley going early and often is the obvious move for St. Chris here. While the Saints have a lot of new pieces on the offensive line, they’re showing a lot in their first two games and Hartley looks like the engine that’s driving them after that. Logan Bowers leads a linebacking corps that showed well against Charlotte Latin and should be ready for this game after lining up against back-to-back really good teams. With a home crowd behind them, this defense should be excited about its opportunity to get the student base hyped. Stopping Hartley is the easy way to do that.
Who to watch: Woodberry’s George Pettegrew. With a pair of receiving touchdowns last week, Pettegrew showed that this receiving corps has some solid depth. Dequece Carter and Kyle Bilodeau are going to make plays in big ways and in big moments. They have had little trouble doing so in the previous two campaigns. That is huge for a talented but young quarterback with a solid skill set in Ben Locklear. If the Tigers have a 3-headed monster here in the passing game, they’ll be able to force the Saints to spread out and open the running game up for Logan Rhys.
The line: Woodberry by 6. The Tigers won this game last year by 21 and haven’t lost to the Saints since 2005. That’s right. 2005. That leaves most this team as toddlers and babies the last time St. Chris hung an L on Woodberry.