Charlottesville (4-3) at Orange County (4-3), 7:30 p.m.
The basics: The Black Knights fell to a tough Powhatan team 28-14 last week while the Hornets put together a second straight blowout victory together as they cruised 56-35 over Monticello. Both squads are in the same spot record-wise and as such, playoff resume-wise too. Charlottesville will look to stop the bleeding after dropping its second straight game to a very good team. That will mean having to stop an Orange squad that’s reclaimed some swagger, especially on offense. If both teams execute, this has the making of a shootout on the ground. Expect both teams to scratch and claw for this win, because they both really need it.
Key matchup: Orange’s defense against the triple option. The Hornets have given up 22 points or more in their last four games. They’ll need to hold Charlottesville to that number or lower and that’s only going to happen if Orange’s defensive line and linebackers are able to play stay-at-home defense, not over pursue. Trying to get a bead and guess right against the option is less important than simply being where you’re supposed to be and stopping a 3-yard run. That’s the frustrating nature of facing a misdirection run game, but that’s the situation. The Hornets have the offensive firepower to go toe-to-toe with the Black Knights, but the job gets easier if you’re playing with the lead.
Who to watch: Orange County receiver Dayvon Greene. Yes the prize fight on the card is going to be the running back battle between Sabias Folley for Charlottesville and Trevon Smith and DeAngelo Hunt for Orange. But it’s also clear that the Hornets are eager to develop Kenyon Carter at quarterback and have their passing game find a way to break things open. Greene is averaging 12.9 yards per reception and is the sophomore quarterback’s favorite target. Using Greene to reverse field position or capitalize in situations where the Black Knights defense is stacking too many bodies in the box is a great way for Orange to show some variety.
The line: Orange by 3. The Hornets have momentum right now but Charlottesville is backed into a corner here and could easily put it together to steal a road win.
St. Anne’s-Belfield (1-5) at Covenant (3-4), 4 p.m. Friday
The Basics: Make no mistake about it, St. Anne’s-Belfield and coach John Blake didn’t want any part of what happened to end last week’s game against Blue Ridge. As competitive as they come, Blake still felt like his hand was forced as the Saints’ already thin roster absorbed a rash of injuries to put concession near the end of the third quarter on the table. We’ve rarely seen that happen, so it’s going to be interesting to see how the Saints handle it this week, how they respond and how they play against Covenant. When both teams are healthy, this is a pretty even matchup, but injuries are definitely muddying the water. Whenever you’re replacing a player on roster’s like STAB and Covenant’s, you’re pulling from another slot and the Eagles are down to Jacob Smith at quarterback who hadn’t worked there since middle school while STAB is wounded at a number of spots. Covenant gets a clear advantage coming out of a bye week and should be fresh. We’ll see if they can take advantage.
Key matchup: The Saints’ front seven takes on Covenant’s midline option. Stopping the run has been a challenge for a lot of teams locally and STAB isn’t an exception. Stuffing the Eagles’ option that gets its rhythm from Rick Weaver on the dive will force the Saints to tackle soundly and play responsibility football. Someone will need to step up in an injury-riddled front seven that has forced some shuffling.
Who to watch: Covenant’s secondary. While STAB has some injuries there are still boundary athletes like Myles Ward in the mix that can really stretch the Eagles to the breaking point in the secondary. The Saints have struggled to protect so Covenant could get some help from the pass rush, but they’ll have to be sound in coverage against the Saints to prevent any big plays on the back end.
The line: Push. This one is likely to be close. It’s got the potential to be wild. It’s a big moment in both squads’ seasons and it’s an almost dead even matchup, with unpredictability injected into it because of injuries.
Appomattox (7-0) at Nelson County (0-7), 7:30 p.m.
The Basics: This is, essentially, the kind of game Nelson County is trying to avoid with the Governors’ announcement Thursday that the football program is going independent next season and leaving the Dogwood District at least for the time being. Appomattox, the defending state champ, is in the midst of a potential (probable) state championship run and the Governors are still trying to find some solid footing as a program. This isn’t abnormal in the Dogwood either, the District is home to a bunch of big-time programs with a long history of success. Still, the Governors will come out battling against the Raiders, though this is a tall mountain to climb.
Key matchup: Nelson’s defense takes on multi-talented Appomattox threat Trey Walker. Walker is a capable pass catcher and runner, picking up 87 yards and a touchdown in a hard-fought win over Dan River two weeks ago. The Governors are going to have to be locked in to get traction against him.
Who to watch: Nelson’s Devante Rose. Rose is the key playmaker for the Governors and week-in and week-out he’s got to perform for nelson to hang in the game.
The line: Appomattox by 28. The Raiders are playing big-time football and Nelson faces a tough task against Appomattox.
Louisa County (6-1) at Monticello (3-4), 7:30 p.m.
The Basics: Just when things look to be figured out and settling in, everything changes. Louisa County was riding high going into last Friday, facing a manageable back end of the Jefferson District schedule and then suddenly Western rose to the occasion and ended dreams of a potential unbeaten season for the Lions. Those two teams have a history of surprising wins in what has become a legitimate district rivalry, so it didn’t come completely out of left field, but it’s a certifiable stunner. Louisa is banged up on the offensive line in particular and coming up with a solution there is paramount going into this clash with Monticello. The Mustangs, meanwhile, are in need of a signature win, and Louisa at home would fit the bill. Has Monticello shored things up enough to hand the Lions another loss? They’ll be facing a wounded animal which is a recipe for trouble a lot of times, but Monticello should also be hungry coming off a blowout loss to Orange County.
Key matchup: Monticello’s wideouts take on a banged up secondary. Louisa is dealing with a spate of injuries all over the field and that’s leaving a group of defensive backs that thrives in man-to-man coverage a little vulnerable. Guarding Austin Haverstrom, Reid Huffman and Ben Riley isn’t an easy draw, especially if quarterback Kevin Jarrell gets time. That hasn’t been the case often this year, and Quinton Ragland up front may have a lot to say about that too. But if Monticello protects, there will be some potential openings.
Who to watch: Louisa’s Job Whalen. When you’re trying to rebound from a loss, you need your bell-cow running back to carry the load and help your squad settle in early. Whalen can fix a lot of ills as he’s capable of getting loose with just the slightest crease or alley. The area’s No. 2 rusher with 890 yards, Whalen is electric with the ball in his hands. Expect the Lions to give him an opportunity to show it right out of the gate Friday.
The line: Louisa by 7. It’s time for the Lions to decide, and quickly at that, if last week is going to be a blip on the radar screen or a turning point.
Western Albemarle (3-4) at Fluvanna County (1-6), 7:30 p.m.
The Basics: A roller coaster of a Western Albemarle season took its latest hairpin turn last week when the Warriors upset previously-unbeaten Louisa County a week after getting mowed down by Orange County. The Warriors are proving to be particularly tough to contend with at home, having knocked off Monticello and the Lions in the friendly confines of Crozet while losing to the Hornets and Powhatan during road trips. Now they’ve got to hit the road again, this time against the Flucos who are searching for their first district win in years still and won’t find it easy against a Western offense that is starting to assert itself and a defensive line that played big-time last week against the Lions’ power run game.
Key matchup: Fluvanna quarterback Jordan Melton takes on the Western secondary. If the offensive line can give Melton time to operate, there are gainst to be made against the Warriors’ secondary who can get caught out of position at times. But that’s a big if. Western’s pass rush led by Noah Crutchfield, Luke Tenuta and the explosive Jarrett Smith leaves little margin for error.
Who to watch: Western’s Noah Yourkavitch. The Warriors are at their best offensively when they’re spreading the ball among a bunch of receivers and Yourkavitch really got into the mix last week with some big catches. That included a play in the end zone that was a key second half touchdown as Western tried to hold on to beat the Lions. With Jack Weyher and Victor Becerra also in the mix, a group of receivers that started the year as a bunch of unknowns is becoming yet another strong edition at that position group for the Warriors.
The line: Western Albemarle by 21. Warriors get to .500 and start building momentum for a playoff run.
Central Woodstock (6-1) at William Monroe (4-3), 7:30 p.m.
The basics: With a potential share of the Bull Run District title on the line, these two are playing their best football of the year. The Falcons have won four straight and their last three by 21 or more points. The Dragons won back-to-back for the first time this year after picking up a 29-18 road win over a pesky and explosive Madison County team. Central is in the driver’s seat for the BRD title with its 1-point win over Clarke County. Monroe knows this is going to be an uphill battle since they fell to Clarke 62-0. The good news for the Dragons is that they are playing a different kind of team defense right now that they did not have against the Eagles three weeks ago.
Key matchup: The Monroe linebacking corps takes on Falcons running back Carston Shockey. The Dragons got an excellent training exercise last week in trying to slow down Madison’s Isiah Smith. In Shockey they get a bit of a different challenge. The 5-foot-10 running back packs more power than you’d expect for a 160-pound rusher and he’s deceptively fast. The Dragons need to keep him in check like they did with Smith in the first half of last week. Avoiding giving up the big play has been a focal point for Monroe as they have the physicality to get things done up front and especially in the red zone. So it’s up to the linebackers to to make sure that Shockey doesn’t break off too many 20-yard plus runs. If they do the job there, they’ll be off on the right foot.
Who to watch: Monroe’s Jalen McKinnie. The Dragons have a pair of chain movers in quarterback Malique Shackelford and running back Greg Sizemore. But one of the bright spots last week for this offense was how Monroe worked in touches to McKinnie who is a change-of-pace back. McKinnie also does a nice job in the passing game and can take a simple screen and make a big play out of it. Facing an offense on the other side that’s putting up big numbers, getting production out of McKinnie would be a huge help and lighten the load for Shackelford and Sizemore.
The line: Central by 6. The Falcons are rolling and have beat some really good teams.
Central Lunenburg (6-1) at Goochland (8-0), 7 p.m.
The basics: It’s good to see that the two top teams in the James River District are meeting up this late in the season — that should add to the excitement around this game. The Chargers have won six in a row since falling to start the year against Altavista. Last week they dispatched Bluestone 35-14. The Bulldogs remain perfect and took care of Nottoway 45-16. Both teams have won all of their games by margins of 14 or more points. So it might be fair to say that each team represents their respective biggest challenges yet. The winner here more than likely walks away with the JRD title.
Key matchup: Goochland’s secondary takes on Central wide out Keenan Anunay. The Chargers got a special gift when Anunay transferred in from Maryland. The 6-foot junior is about as good an athlete as the Bulldogs are going to see this year. The Bulldogs’ defense has met a number of challenges this year but not too many teams have been able to test their talented secondary. Look for a lot of different coverages from defensive backs Cordell Mattox, Cole Nuckols, Calvin Martin and Devin McCray among others from this unit to try and make things difficult for Anunay.
Who to watch: Bulldogs running backs Marcus Burton and Jasper Carter. These two get the job done inside. Look for Goochland to try and accomplish two things offensively — obviously to score as much as possible first and foremost, but also to try and control the tempo of the game and keep as many Charger playmakers on the defensive side of the ball as long as possible. In games like these time of possession and game management goes a long, long ways. Burton and Carter are chain movers and allow the Bulldogs to put together those kind of quarter long debilitating drives this program is famous for.
The line: Goochland by 3. This is exactly the kind of game and atmosphere that the Bulldogs need as they head into November. They have yet to trail this season so it’s hard to pick against them at home.
Albemarle (5-2) at Powhatan (6-1), 7:30 p.m.
The basics: The Patriots have been red hot since falling on the road to Louisa a month ago. With three straight wins and pair of big ones against Orange County and Charlottesville, Albemarle has found an extra gear as of late. The Indians rebounded from their narrow loss to Louisa to handle Charlottesville last week. These two have contrasting styles offensively but the matchup should be quite even. Albemarle has the advantage in the playmakers department while Powhatan has the edge up front with its offensive line. This game has all the makings of a classic if both teams show up like they have been lately.
Key matchup: The Albemarle defensive line takes on a powerful Powhatan offensive line. The Indians are going to hand the ball off to Justin DeLeon 30 times and expect him to make hay with the holes that this group has been creating week after week. The Indians have run well in back-to-back weeks against strong defenses in Louisa and Charlottesville so Albemarle will have its hands full here. If the defensive line can clog up the running lanes and make things easier, i.e. not let DeLeon hit the hole with a head of steam, the Patriots have a linebacking corps that can clean up the mess. Identifying how to stop Powhatan is pretty simple. Executing it is a completely different problem and that’s because of the physicality of this offensive line.
Who to watch: Patriots senior Tyquan Rose. How many times have we seen Albemarle lean on Rose to provide a spark in a big game? The Indians have to be careful on special teams and then also be quite mindful on defense. Quarterback J’Quan Anderson looks better and better each week and he was pretty good to start. Anderson’s ability to run allows him to buy time and give Rose a chance to run down field, complete some complicated routes if the Patriots so choose. When Rose gets the ball in space there’s a buzz on the Albemarle sideline. Getting the ball as often as possible would be a good thing against this Powhatan team.
The line: Powhatan by 1. If it were at Albemarle we’d call it a pick ‘em. Powhatan has come to their 6-1 record quite honestly and will be tough to take down in their own house.
Madison County (4-3) at Strasburg (5-2), 7:30 p.m.
The basics: The Mountaineers endured a slow start that doomed them against William Monroe last week in a 29-18 loss. The Rams bounced back from getting drubbed by Clarke County to beat Warren County 24-21. This is a really good matchup for both teams. In addition to the Bull Run schedule they share, both played East Rockingham early on in the year with Madison getting a win there and Strasburg falling. They’ve both beaten Warren and Riverside. The Rams need this one as their schedule gets really tough after this. The Mountaineers need this one to get back on that familiar side of winning.
Key matchup: Madison County’s interior defense against Strasburg running back Tyjone Carter. The Mountaineers struggled against the rush inside last week against Monroe and can’t have a repeat performance there. The Rams aren’t as gifted as the Dragons on the line or with a physical duo like Malique Shackelford and Greg Sizemore. But Carter is trouble at 190 pounds and he’s toted the ball well up the middle. Getting the defense off the field is Madison’s priority and if they can bottle up the middle against Strasburg, they’ll be just fine. Look for Jake Price and Isaiah Breckenridge to lead the charge there.
Who to watch: Madison’s receiving corps. The Mountaineers have been a little quiet in the passing game the last few weeks and a lot of that has to do with the pressure that both Central Woodstock and Monroe were able to apply. It’s hard to look downfield when you don’t have the time. It will be interesting to see how Dre Twyman, Dylan Breeden and Breckenridge do against this Strasburg defense. Madison got nearly 300 yards from Isiah Smith on the ground and through the air against Monroe and it wasn’t enough. When this offense is diverse and quarterback Chris Smith has the time to spread the ball around to his receivers, this is simply a different team.
The line: Madison by 1. The Mountaineers have just played two really good teams. Based on the matchup on paper, this is a totally winnable game, even on the road.
Benedictine (5-1) at Woodberry Forest (5-1), Saturday 2 p.m.
The basics: Annually, it’s one of the best private school football games in the state. The Tigers have won four straight games in convincing fashion, maybe none more so than last week’s pounding of Trinity Episcopal 63-12. The Cadets bounced back from their close loss to Georgetown Prep to beat Bishop Ireton last week easily 31-7. This is a great matchup of the VISAA’s best offense against probably the best defense. Benedictine has given up more than one touchdown in a game just once this season. Every year these two seem to put together a classic. We don’t expect this year to be any different.
Key matchup: Benedictine’s secondary tries to contain Terrell Jana, Dequece Carter and Khalid Thomas. The Tigers trio has 1,644 of their team’s 2,196 passing yards. Jana is averaging 127 yards a game and has 13 TDs right now, which is just absurd. But you can’t lose sight of Carter and his 578 yards and seven touchdowns nor Thomas’ 17 catches for 304 and two scores. That’s the thing, all three are averaging more than 17 yards per reception which is to say that they can all stretch the field and make plays on short passes. Benedictine is going to have devote a lot of effort defensively in trying to blanket or at least muffle quarterback Lindell Stone’s favorite targets. Stone just has to make sure the ball is in his receivers’ hands before standout Benedictine linebacker Ellis Brooks gets to him, or in some cases, them.
Who to watch: Tigers linebackers Korey Smith and Joseph Stephenson. They have a different task than in years prior — Benedictine quarterback Scott Bracey is finally at Duke. However, running back Alex Williams is still in the backfield and he’s churned up the yardage this year. Woodberry has played well against some physical rushing attacks already, so they should be able to meet the challenge. In Smith the Tigers have an absolute hammer, the kind of hard-hitter that changes the tone of the game and in Stephenson they have a tackling machine who finds ways to make plays when he shouldn’t be able to. Big games from those two against Williams will give Woodberry a serious edge.
The line: The Tigers by 3. Yes this should be a tight one but Woodberry has lost to Benedictine just once in the last eight years (2012).
Virginia Episcopal (0-7) at Blue Ridge (4-2), 2 p.m. Saturday
The Basics: Here. Come. The Barons. Blue Ridge is hitting its stride right now, winning its third straight last week against St. Anne’s-Belfield another in a growing list of blowouts. That string shouldn’t stop here as Virginia Episcopal comes to town as long as Blue Ridge stays locked in and healthy. The Barons’ ground game is chugging along while the defense is making stands when it needs to. This is the Blue Ridge team we expected at the start of the season, a squad that is capable of some really big things if they can keep this up.
Key matchup: Blue Ridge’s secondary takes on VES quarterback Jackson Mutch. The Barons have a bunch of ballhawks on the back end, with Aaron Aldridge and Cameron Carr picking off passes against STAB last week. Mutch is going to have to be really careful with the ball or the Blue Ridge defense is likely to make him pay.
Who to watch: Blue Ridge’s Jack McLiney. McLiney had a big game defensively for the Barons in that shortened win over STAB last week, making six tackles and picking up a fumble. On a defense filled with potential playmakers, McLiney has emerged as another potential stopper, capable of shutting down an opposing offense.
The line: Blue Ridge by 21. The Barons should take care of business here.