Some of Us Are In This, Can’t Help That Now: Weekly Briefing Week 11

Louisa County (7-2) at Goochland (5-4), 7 p.m. Friday

The Basics: This was the one game everyone was excited about going into the season, a chance for two of the area’s traditional powers to meet in a game that counts — they’ve scrimmaged each other in past years. Some of the luster is off with both teams absorbing a couple of more losses than they surely would’ve hoped for, but this one still has a lot of juice to it and a lot on the line. The Lions are potentially fighting for a home playoff game in Region 4D (they would get a big boost from an Orange County win over Western Albemarle) and the chance to get back on track after dropping their clash with Albemarle last week. Goochland, meanwhile, is still in strong position in Region 3B, and a run in the playoffs would erase anythe frustration that Goochland has experienced from this first year in the Jefferson District, so they’ll lean on quarterback C.J. Towles to make some things happen. Look for the Lions to come roaring back after last week’s loss behind Landon Wilson and Jordan Smith, ready to springboard off this game into a playoff run that would erase their own frustrations from last week and King George before that. Essentially for both squads, if they want to make a postseason run, the playoffs start right now. Not to mention, Louisa can earn a share of the Jefferson District title with a win.

Key Matchup: Louisa County’s front seven takes on Goochland’s ground attack. The Bulldogs haven’t been as sharp as past years on the ground, with a rash of injuries definitely impacting their effectiveness but Gabe Liptak ran well against Orange County last week. Now they run up against a Lions defense that gave up a couple of explosion plays but performed pretty well against an explosive group of Albemarle playmakers when you go inside the numbers. Look for the Lions to impose their will with one of the most talented defensive fronts in recent memory led by Qwenton Spellman and Eli Brooks and force Goochland to attack through the air. 

Who to Watch: Louisa County’s Jordan Smith and Landon Wilson. While the Lions didn’t get the result they wanted last week, the offense isn’t showing signs of true dysfunction beyond the four turnovers. Smith rushed for 163 yards and Wilson rushed for another 102. In fact, Wilson only threw one of the three picks, the other two came on gadget plays by Chase Miller and one was a truly unfortunate bounce that popped up and fell into the hands of the Albemarle defender. The Lions could prove this week that there’s no reason to panic at all with a performance that’s similar, minus the costly turnovers and penalties. 

The Line: Louisa by 7. The Lions don’t lose very often and they don’t lose two-in-a-row almost ever.


Western Albemarle (8-1) at Orange County (6-3), 7 p.m. Friday

The Basics: This one has become the surprise critical matchup of the season with a late boost from Orange County’s huge win over Goochland. With both teams in Region 4D and fighting for playoff positioning, a lot is riding on this one. Meanwhile, Western Albemarle’s banged up roster got on track against Monticello last week after a less-than-ideal 8-0 overtime win over Fluvanna County the week before. The Hornets, meanwhile, are getting healthier each week it seems, adding senior receiver Will Lewis back to the lineup a couple of weeks ago. They’re also seeing some player development pay off like the emergence of Christian Simpson on the ground, a change that takes some pressure off Paul Poirier to be everything to every part of the Hornets, though he’s done a pretty good job of that all season. The question here is really how well Western Albemarle can continue to adjust to the injuries they’ve experienced and whether or not the defense can carry the Warriors, who would win a share of the Jefferson District title with a victory, the rest of the way. Outside of the Louisa radar blip, the Warriors’ defense has been stout. Can they maintain that level of play on the road in a critical matchup with the Hornets?

Key Matchup: Western’s disciplined front seven takes on Poirier. A few weeks back, Western played textbook football against a quarterback similar to Poirier when the Warriors hemmed in Goochland’s C.J. Towles. With some wrinkles, that gameplan could work similarly against Poirier, who has been making a ton of off schedule, out-of-system plays this season and can keep things alive with his feet or just make you pay like a running back on designed runs. Poirier definitely presents a lot of challenges on how own and now the Hornets have some other things cooking offensively. This matchup should be interesting.  

Who to Watch: Western Albemarle’s Kaden Morrow. Morrow has kind of quietly put together a 1,000-yard season, averaging 6.6 yards per carry and giving the Western offense a rhythm and pulse. He’s got to continue to bring that approach this week as the passing game continues to try and find its own rhythm with Joey Burch now behind center. 

The Line: Western by 1. The Warriors get the advantage because of their record, but with their injuries, this one is essentially a toss up. 


Albemarle (7-2) at Fluvanna County (2-7), 7:30 p.m. Friday

The Basics: The key question here for Albemarle is how do you prevent a letdown? The Patriots got a huge victory last week not just for this season but for the program with a win over Louisa County. Now Albemarle has to avoid a let down and the dreaded hangover game potential of this trip to Palmyra. With Mountain View, Stone Bridge and Massaponax at the No. 1 through No. 3 spots in Region 5D above the Patriots and a challenging first round opponent looming, business is about to pick up for Albemarle, especially with the jumble of squads in the middle of the region. Look for the Patriots, who can win a share of a Jefferson District title with a win, to bring a heavy dose of Eb McCarthy and potentially Noah Grevious on the ground to set the pace. Fluvanna, meanwhile, gets the chance to play spoiler here, but they’ll have to navigate against an Albemarle defense that has looked pretty good all year and just clamped down against Louisa County’s rushing attack that had rolled up nearly 400 yards against Western a short couple of weeks ago. The Patriots are swarming on that side of the ball and Fluvanna will have to dip into its bag of tricks to take advantage of that aggressiveness. This will likely be the last high school game for Fluvanna’s Kobe Edmonds and the rest of the Flucos’ seniors, so expect them to open up the playbook and let it rip more than usual against the Patriots.  

Key Matchup: Albemarle’s front seven takes on Fluvanna’s multifaceted run game. The Patriots need to keep playing at the high level they’ve brought defensively all season in this one and against Fluvanna that means playing responsibility football. Stay at home. Read your keys. Don’t get sucked in. Fight back against some blocks. The Patriots are physical enough to handle the task, but they’ll need to be focused against a team that nearly tripped up Western Albemarle in overtime. 

Who to Watch: Albemarle’s receiving corps. The Patriots’ run game has been awfully good, but it’s worth noting come playoff time that Albemarle’s receivers are a deep, talented unit. Getting the ball to Noah Grevious, Tay’veon Wilson, Jake King and Christian Humes could prove to be critical as the competition level jumps up a notch next week, but against Fluvanna it might be more about their ability to block rather than catch that makes a difference. That unit is up to the task. 

The Line: Albemarle by 27. The Patriots have too many weapons in this one.


Charlottesville (2-7) at Monticello (0-9), 7 p.m. Friday

The Basics: This one isn’t about the playoffs, it’s about pride. The Black Knights ended a district drought that stretched back to 2018 last week and now they’ll square off with a crosstown rival desperately looking for a win to close out the year while undergoing a serious rebuild after enduring a talent exodus in the wake of the spring season. Charlottesville’s offense showed a balanced approach last week but they’ll now face a Monticello defense that’s giving up a lot of yards on the ground. Expect a heavy dose of Polo Hill and the newly healthy Eddison Duolo from the Black Knights while Monticello looks to Logan Clark (4.5 yards per carry) or Eli Fields (14.5 yards per catch) for an offensive spark that has been lacking for the most part during this campaign. Both teams could use a major momentum boost going into the offseason and this is where it’ll come from in the season finale. 

Key Matchup: Monticello’s front seven takes on Hill and Duolo. Anytime Hill and Duolo have the ball in their hands, good things tend to happen for the Black Knights. Whether it’s in the passing game or on the ground, they’ve got the ability to do some serious damage. The Mustangs have surrendered nearly 2,500 rushing yards this season, so they’ve got their work cut out for them. 

Who to Watch: Charlottesville quarterback Caldwell Boyles. Boyles threw three touchdowns as Charlottesville opened up the passing game against Fluvanna County and put up some of the most impressive aerial numbers in years. Can Boyles repeat that performance against a Monticello defense that has been vulnerable against the run and the pass all year?

The Line: Charlottesville by 10. The Black Knights have found some momentum of late.


Fork Union (2-6) at Woodberry Forest (2-5), 3 p.m. Friday

The Basics: This has been a strange season for both squads, who have both been hampered by some near misses and challenging schedules. They’re both coming in off losses, with Woodberry having taken a strong Trinity Episcopal program to the brink before the Titans got their first ever win over the Tigers. Both programs have shown flashes of serious potential and dynamic play, but consistency has been an issue. When these two teams met last fall in Woodberry’s lone football game a year ago, the Tigers hammered Fork Union. Now Woodberry needs to figure some things out and start tuning up for The Game next week where they’ll face archrival Episcopal. Look for Woodberry to try and keep an offense that put up a solid performance against Trinity Episcopal rolling with Donovan Baker on the ground and the Harley Shuford to Landon Ellis connection going in the air.  

Key Matchup: Fork Union’s linebackers takes on Woodberry’s ground attack. Whether it’s Baker or Tank Yaghoubi running the rock, the Tigers have the potential to move the ball efficiently on the ground. Fork Union has struggled at times to stop the run, so this is a big test for the front seven and the linebackers in particular. They’ve got to step up and fill gaps against the ground game but if they get caught off guard the entire middle opens up for the Tigers’ passing game. This one won’t be easy for the Blue Devils.

Who to Watch: Woodberry’s defense. The Tigers are getting healthier on this side of the ball, but they can’t be happy with giving up 42 to Trinity Episcopal. Look for a much more cohesive performance against Fork Union, though it’ll be far from a cakewalk — the Blue Devils have some weapons on offense like Dominic Julius, they just haven’t always been in sync this season. 

The Line: Woodberry by 10. The Tigers get a chance to end their recent Prep League slide here. 


Buckingham (5-2) at Cumberland (1-5), 7 p.m. Friday

The Basics: Buckingham County is rounding into form at the right time and that’s bad news for rival Cumberland and the teams in Region 2B who are about to have to deal with the Knights next week. Last week in the second half against previously 6-1 Central Lunenburg, Buckingham ended the fumbles that plagued them in the first half and flipped the switch to November football mode with two quarters full of assertive, determined Knight Set football, with K.J. Williams and Dalante Woodson powering the offense. Now the Knights are in solid position for the playoffs. Getting a home game is in range with the two teams right above them in the VHSL rankings squaring off as Central Woodstock faces one-loss Strasburg on the road. If Buckingham can take care of business against Cumberland, the Knights could find themselves hosting a playoff game in their first year after essentially hitting pause on the program during the pandemic — the Knights never played a down in the spring. That’s an impressive feat. 

Key Matchup: Cumberland’s front seven takes on Buckingham’s seasoned offensive line. With four seniors leading the way, the Knights know they’ve got some strength in the big guys up front and they’ve really gelled lately. If that group keeps playing at a high level, the Knights could get on a run.

Who to Watch: Buckingham linebacker Tucker Motley. Motley had a big night against Central Lunenburg where the Knights’ entire front seven played so well against the wing-based run game approach. If the Knights can play that kind of hard-nosed, responsibility football every night, it’ll go a long way toward powering them in the postseason. 

The Line: Buckingham by 21. The Knights should drop Cumberland in this one and build some momentum ahead of the playoffs.


Nelson County (1-8) at Gretna (4-5), 7 p.m. Friday

The Basics: Nelson County is slowly clawing its way back after losing a lot of momentum due to the pandemic. Last week the Governors got on the board, now they get a chance to end the season on the road and potentially on a high note while building some momentum going into next year. Can the Governors put a scare into Gretna and create a boost going into the offseason?

Key Matchup: Gretna’s front seven takes on Nelson’s ground game that has found some footing. Johnny Oneida ran for 133 yards on 23 touches last week to give Nelson’s offense some life. Can they repeat that against the Hawks, a playoff-bound squad? That would help build some serious momentum going into the offseason for the Governors. 

Who to Watch: Nelson quarterback Kristian Norris. Norris scored on the ground last week to snap a scoring drought that stretched back to September 21. The Governors will need more of that going forward. 

The Line: Gretna by 21. The Hawks roll here.


Meridian (7-2) at William Monroe (2-6), 7 p.m. Friday

The Basics: William Monroe has so many young players playing key roles, a first-year head coach in Mitchell Morris and what has appeared to be a snakebitten campaign packed with injuries and COVID protocols that helped cost them the Madison County game and seemed to derail the Dragons. It’s possible the Dragons are a much better team than their record indicates, and that may translate in a big way to next fall, much as Orange County has reached its potential this fall after a spring where the Hornets fell short of their talent. If that’s accurate, Monroe could jumpstart that process tonight with an upset on senior night to build some momentum going into the offseason and potentially vault themselves into the Region 3B playoffs. To do that they’ll have to derail a Meridian squad that broke a 14-year drought against Clarke and hammered Manassas Park 71-0 in the last two weeks. 

Key Matchup: William Monroe’s front seven takes on Meridian’s double wing. The Mustangs run a Wing-T offense with a pair of wing backs and that requires that the Dragons’ defense play responsibility football. They’ve got to stay home on the edges and stalemate blocks or Meridian wil gash them on counters and sweeps all day with runners like Patrick Whitaker. Focusing on one player isn’t an option, the Mustangs spread the ball out on the ground similar to Fluvanna who Monroe scrimmaged at the start of the season.

Who to Watch: Monroe’s passing game. The Dragons have made a series of spectacular plays in the passing attack all year, and whether it’s Shea Jeffers or Deacon Jackson on the receiving in or Davien Griffith or Waylon Coyle on the passing end, Monroe has had some magic going on that front. Can the Dragons get that going against a tough Meridian squad?

The Line: Meridian by 10. Dragons have a shot here, but they’re pretty banged up.


Luray (4-3) at Madison (2-7), 7 p.m. Friday

The Basics: This one is a huge opportunity for the Mountaineers. Essentially, Madison’s playoffs begin right here, and if the Mountaineers could find a way to pull the upset at home, they’d find themselves in the playoffs for the first time since 2016. That’s a tall task though against a Luray team with some quality wins from earlier in the season. But the Bulldogs are on a three-game losing streak, and it’s possible Madison could add to that slide and vault itself into the Region 2B playoff field. 

Key Matchup: Luray front seven takes on the resurgent Madison run game. Madison County has found some room to run of late, whether it’s Wade Fox or Jordan Morris toting the rock. Can they find similar room to work against Luray?

Who to Watch: Madison County’s Corey Helmick. Helmick had a huge night in the win over Park View with nine total tackles and a sack. If the Mountaineers are going to snag a win here, Helmick is likely going to need to have another big night. 

The Line: Luray by 7. The Bulldogs get the edge here, but don’t be surprised if Madison pulls off a shocker.


St. Anne’s-Belfield (2-6) at Nansemond Suffolk Academy (6-3), 7 p.m. Friday

The Basics: STAB heads to the 757 to take on a Nansemond Suffolk Academy squad with a chance to play spoiler. If STAB can upend NSA, it could knock NSA out of the playoff picture in VISAA’s Division II, but that’s going to take a Herculean effort that starts with slowing down NSA running back and UNC commitment George Pettaway. Pettaway can fly, and the Saints have had trouble stopping the run this year. They’ll need to lock in in the front seven to hang with NSA and have a shot at an upset.

Key Matchup: NSA’s special teams take on retiring STAB coach John Blake’s bag of tricks. John Blake gets one more night in fall to empty out his bag of gadgets and tricks. Expect some wild stuff, particularly on special teams, where Blake has been doing some wild stuff for years. 

Who to Watch: STAB’s Nolan Bruton quarterbacks the Saints for the last time. Bruton has been a rock in a few tumultuous years, a consistent presence at quarterback who has made some big-time plays. Can he make a few more and help STAB pull off a shocker on the road? 

The Line: NSA by 7. STAB’s challenging schedule continues in the finale.