Liberty Christian (3-4) at Fork Union (1-5), 3 p.m.
The basics: The Bulldogs are coming off a 45-13 loss to Martinsburg while the Blue Devils’ comeback efforts in their shootout with St. Christopher’s fell just short in a 50-42 road loss. LCA’s foray into the public ranks this year has been an interesting one and the Bulldogs have had a see-saw season as their defense has been picked on a little bit. That could bode well for FUMA as their offense seems to have found that extra gear behind it’s running game.
Key matchup: The LCA linebacking corps takes on Iosefa Pua’auli. The seventh ranked running back in the area, Pua’auli was on fire last week against St. Christopher’s. The Bulldogs have a tough task of trying to bottle up the sophomore running back as he’s got break away speed but is also a downhill runner that does well through contact. LCA needs to keep him from putting up another 300-yard performance or it will be in trouble.
Who to watch: Fork Union linebacker Jonathan Hegler. The Blue Devils have a force up front in Donovan Benoit. But anchoring things in the middle for this defense is Hegler. With Pua’auli to help out on the edge, watch out for Hegler to clean up the mess in the middle of the field against a rushing attack that heavily features senior running back Dominico Moncion.
The line: Liberty by 3. The Bulldogs have yet to drop back-to-back games and have a lot of depth and talent on the offensive line. That will make things tough for FUMA as the game moves along.
Blue Ridge (3-2) at St. Anne’s-Belfield (1-4), 7 p.m.
The basics: It’s time for these two old rivals to lock up again and both teams have something to prove in this one. The Barons are trending up right now with two-straight wins over Covenant and Nansemond-Suffolk, but now is a chance to prove they can handle a big stage and a potentially hostile environment. STAB’s student section often packs a punch and Blue Ridge cant get rattled by the environment and the opportunity to beat their rivals. The Barons showed signs of that kind of poise last week when they shook off early adversity against NSA and pulled away for an easy win. Nazir Hopson played a role in the Barons keeping their cool and if he and the rest of Blue Ridge’s leaders can rise to the occasion and stay locked in, that’ll be critical. STAB, on the flip side, can’t get rattled by big plays. The Barons are so dynamic athletically that they’re bound to break off a couple of big plays. Early long touchdown runs by Justin Armwood seemed to deflate NSA last week, and STAB can’t let that happen. They’ve got to lock back in and respond, likely by handing the ball off to Jaylen Alexander (607 yards, 7.1 YPC, 7 TDs). It’s a rivalry game and emotions are bound to run high, whoever handles that better will get an edge.
Key matchup: The STAB front seven battles the Blue Ridge ground attack. STAB’s run defense has its work cut out for it as the two-headed rushing attack of Justin Armwood and Jamison Harrison arrives Friday night. Armwood is averaging nine yards per carry at quarterback behind an offensive line that’s washing down well while he gets outside on the zone read. Meanwhile, Harrison is such a dangerous presence (9.5 yards per carry) that it helps the offensive take care of business as opposing defenses have to stay at home in an effort to hem Harrison in. The Barons have cut down on turnovers and the run game is picking up steam. That’s a tough combination to contend with and puts pressure on defensive playmakers like Juwan Woodson and Gabe Sanok (eight tackles last week against North Cross) to step up.
Who to watch: STAB’s special teams. That Saints always have an ever-expanding bag of gadget plays that can burn opposing defenses, with much of the trickeration coming in special teams scenarios. Blue Ridge will be ready for the unexpected because they’ve seen this sort of scenario before, but just forcing the Barons to prepare and account for those trick plays can give STAB an edge.
The line: Blue Ridge by 10. Barons have the right pieces in place to get the job done against STAB for the first time since 2012.
Fluvanna County (1-5) at Albemarle (4-2), 7 p.m.
The basics: Albemarle is riding extremely high right now, having bounced back from a road loss to Louisa with wins over Orange County and Charlottesville, the second in dramatic fashion with 26 unanswered points. Now the Patriots host Fluvanna on Homecoming with a chance to pick up a fifth win and start building toward a strong finish to the year. Fluvanna, meanwhile, lost to Monticello last week and is still searching for some offensive rhythm and a way to lock up opposing offenses. Slowing down the dynamic Patriots won’t be an easy task.
Key matchup: Fluvanna quarterback Jordan Melton squares off against the Albemarle secondary. The Patriots’ defensive backs are a ball-hawking unit, having picked off nine passes, including Jamal Thompson’s pick late last week against Charlottesville. Melton threw for 104 yards and a touchdown last week and found Joey Van Dyke three times for 62 yards, but was picked off two times. Quarterbacks who are careless have found that Albemarle will make you pay, so Melton has to take care of the football.
Who to watch: Albemarle’s Lorenz Brown. Brown is emerging as a clutch, reliable target for Albemarle quarterback J’Quan Anderson, who has played particularly well the last two weeks. Brown is a security blanket and a safety valve who’s caught 22 passes (good for sixth in the area) for 268 yards and three touchdowns. Brown is another weapon in an already multi-pronged Patriot attack.
The line: Albemarle by 21. Patriots should keep things rolling at home in this one.
Monticello (3-3) at Orange County (3-3), 7:30 p.m.
The basics: Based on the records this would appear to be an even matchup, but based on a common opponent in Western Albemarle that Monticello lost to and Orange just blew out last week, the Mustangs have their work cut out for them. Orange’s downhill run game powered largely by the two-headed monster of Tre Smith and DeAngelo Hunt who’ve combined for more than 1,000 yards already is the kind of attack that’s given Monticello trouble, as it did against Charlottesville two weeks ago. Monticello will have to find an answer for that physical run game. The Hornets, meanwhile, have struggled at times with athletic quarterbacks as they did against J’Quan Anderson of Albemarle, and Kevin Jarrell can make opposing defenses pay.
Key matchup: Monticello’s front seven takes on the Orange ground game. With an inexperienced group of linebackers, Monticello has had some growing pains in the run defense, and the path doesn’t get any easier this week as the Hornets boast power backs and an offensive line that’s making strides as evidenced by their work against Western last week. Can the Mustangs’ front seven take a leap forward and the coaches adjust the scheme enough to contain Orange this week?
Who to watch: Orange County’s pass-catching options. While the Hornets’ rushing attack is the focal point of the offense, the emergence of Kenyon Carter at quarterback is allowing Orange to take to the air more than usual. Whether it’s Smith out of the backfield or Ty Warren or Dayvon Green or Shavonn Ellis, Carter has options in the passing attack to help soften up opposing attacks.
The line: Orange by 14. The Hornets kicked into a different gear last week, and if they’re going to hang in the Region 5A North playoff picture this is a must-win.
Nelson County (0-6) at Chatham (1-5), 7:30 p.m.
The basics: Nelson County gets a rare opportunity in a harrowing Dogwood schedule to potentially snag a win. Chatham is also guided by a first year head coach in Matt Allen, a former Buckingham assistant, and the Cavaliers are just 1-5 with their lone win coming in the season opener against Buckingham. Nelson has also had an extra week to get healthy and prepare with a bye, and despite a blowout loss to Altavista, Devante Rose and Drai Taylor combined for 174 yards in that loss and the ground game appears to be getting traction.
Key matchup: Nelson’s defense takes on Chatham’s ground game. This is more about the Governors’ struggles than Chatham’s prowess. Stopping the run is the foundation of any strong high school defense and that’s a process than can take years sometimes. Nelson is undergoing a major revamp at a program that has already had some upheaval over the years, and tackling soundly and filling gaps against Chatham could give that run defense a major boost.
Who to watch: Nelson’s Rose. The guy does it all for the Governors, and if he can excel within the system and make some big plays, he could push Nelson to a win here.
The line: Nelson by 1. Great chance for Nelson to seize an opportunity, expect coach Matt Hicks to have them ready.
Louisa County (6-0) at Western Albemarle (2-4), 7:30 p.m.
The basics: The Lions are coming off a huge 28-20 win over Powhatan in a battle of unbeatens last week. The Warriors got a heavy dose of Orange County last week in a 63-22 loss. This rivalry has some legs to it. There’s always been a little bit of bad blood between these two over the last decade and hopefully things don’t carry over from last year and this game is about football and nothing else. Of course, it’s also worth noting that these two teams are used to spoiling the other’s season or handing it an unexpected blemish, so Louisa won’t be taking Western lightly. They’ve delivered some upsets in their time and won’t want to squander the opportunity ahead of them to try and build a favorable Region 4A playoff road.
Key matchup: Warriors defensive line takes on quarterback Malik Bell and running back Job Whalen. The number two and three ranked rushers in Central Virginia have 780 and 778 yards respectively. After being unable to slow down Orange’s DeAngelo Hunt and Trevon Smith last week, Western’s defense will need a successful push upfront from Luke Tenuta and Noah Crutchfield so the linebacking corps can get good opportunities to wrap up Bell and Whalen who are both loads to try and bring down.
Who to watch: Lions cornerback Malik Minor. Louisa knows what Western can and likes to do through the air. How they use Minor against a developing receiving corps and first year starting quarterback Derek Domecq will be of interest. We saw Minor excel against a loaded Albemarle team that wanted to sling the ball around. What does he have in store for the Warriors?
The line: Louisa by 10. The Lions are on a roll right now and while you might worry about a hangover after the Powhatan game, getting a rival like Western to follow should keep this team focused.
Powhatan (5-1) at Charlottesville (4-2), 7:30 p.m.
The basics: The Indians will look to bounce back from their 28-20 loss to Louisa by taking on a similarly physical rushing attack in the Black Knights. Charlottesville will look to have a short memory and forget about their 26-18 loss to Albemarle after initially staking an 18-0 lead. These are two power rushing teams, so look for some other element to wind up playing spoiler.
Key matchup: Powhatan’s linebacking corps against Charlottesville’s Sabias Folley. While the scheme is obviously different from Louisa’s, the Black Knights personnel on offense has a lot of similarities. The Patriots held Folley to 121 yards last week which is about where you have to keep him if you want to win. The Indians fared decently against the Lions last week. They have to be better this week and make sure that Folley doesn’t dominate the game.
Who to watch: Charlottesville’s Rakeem Davis. It will be interesting to see where the Black Knights use him, specifically if he lines up at quarterback. But regardless, Charlottesville could use an explosive play from him to even things out with Folley and fellow running back Lorenzo Louderback and keep the Indians defense from getting into a grove.
The line: Powhatan by 3. The Indians might not be fancy on offense, but running back Justin DeLeon is having a monster season and can score on any given carry.
William Monroe (3-3) at Madison County (4-2), 7:30 p.m.
The basics: The Dragons handled Warren County to bounce back from a tough Clarke County loss the week before and that’s something that Monroe has been great about this year — answering a loss with a win. Madison fell on the road to a very good Central Woodstock team to snap their 3-game winning streak and four game streak of playing in one possesion games. Don’t be surprised if this meeting, one we’d argue is one of the best rivalries in Central Virginia, winds up coming down to the last possession. While these two offenses have contrasting styles with Monroe leaning on physicality while Madison excels behind it’s overall athleticism, the results are strikingly similar. Both teams can score a lot of points This might be a barnburner.
Key matchup: Monroe’s defensive front tries to solve Madison running back Isiah Smith. This one kind of speaks for itself as Smith leads Central Virginia in rushing yards with 942 and has a healthy 8.2 yards per carry. While it’s seemingly impossible to take Smith out of the equation, you can’t allow him to have one the 200-plus yard performances we’ve seen from him on multiple occasions. Smith nearly single-handedly lead Madison to a come-from-behind win last year and he’ll be eager to try and lead this Mountaineers senior class to its first ever win over Monroe. The Dragons defense did a great job against the run with Warren. Can they piece together a second strong week up front?
Who to watch: William Monroe’s Kam’ron McCain. With 210 yards receiving, he leads the Dragons in the passing game. While it wouldn’t be surprising for Monroe to just try and grind away on the ground with quarterback Malique Shackelford and running back Greg Sizemore, Shackelford is quietly fifth in the area in passing with 690 yards. The Dragons might try and go for the jugular with McCain much in the way that Madison likes to with Dre Twyman and Isaiah Breckenridge. McCain might be the wild card in this game.
The line: Madison by 1. The Mountaineers get the nod for playing at home. This is a pick ‘em between two nemeses and it would be surprising if this isn’t an amazing game.
Amelia County (3-3) at Buckingham County (1-6), 7 p.m.
The basics: The Raiders are enigmatic to say the least as they’ve been in six blowouts so far. Last week Amelia fell to Prince Edward 40-6. Buckingham County is reeling and not just because of their record. Last week’s 49-8 loss to Goochland ended in unfortunate fashion. This team was bitten hard last week by the injury bug and the Knights are having to tap into their junior varsity team trying to fill the voids. So for a team that started the season with a lot of question marks things have only become more difficult, but these next three opponents present an opportunity to try and figure things out for 2018.
Key matchup: The Knights’ secondary takes on the Raiders quarterback Elijah Marshall. Amelia’s been successful in the air in wins over Randolph-Henry and Cumberland. Buckingham is a bit thin on the defensive line now and so getting some kind of pass rush will be the challenge. That said, this secondary has athleticism for the Knights should be able to put up a reasonable fight against this receiving corps. But that doesn’t matter if quarterback Elijah Marshall has all day to pass and can churn up some yardage on the ground.
Who to watch: Buckingham’s Tyrese Ayres. The sophomore is the future of this offense and he fought hard in the fourth quarter to breakup Goochland’s shutout efforts. He’s a versatile runner and if he develops the same passing acumen that his older brother Tarian Ayres (Class of 2011) did then the Knights will have something to build around.
The line: Amelia by 10. The Knights’ depleted roster depth makes this already challenging matchup that much more difficult.
Goochland (7-0) at Nottoway (1-6), 7 p.m.
The basics: The Bulldogs are in the home stretch after scoring in the 40s for the fourth straight week. The 49-8 win over Buckingham gives Goochland an opportunity to tune up against a struggling Nottoway squad which has dropped three straight and was shutout by Bluestone last week. With a big games looming against Central Lunenburg next week, the Bulldogs won’t want to try and get caught looking ahead but might also work on some new wrinkles on either side of the ball.
Key matchup: The Cougars front nine against Goochland running back Marcus Burton. While the Bulldogs are loaded at running back, Burton leads the team with 516 yards. He’s a hammering back that’s averaging 8.3 yards per attempt. And when he gets churning up the middle, Calvin Martin, Jasper Carter and Cordell Mattox deliver the death blows on the edge. Trying to keep Burton from moving the chains is the priority defensively for Nottoway. Dealing with the fallout after that is secondary, but also quite problematic.
Who to watch: Goochland’s Cole Nuckols. Whether it’s in the return game or on the ground, don’t be surprised if Nuckols winds up breaking a few big plays. He had a pair of carries last week for 27 yards and a touchdown. He gives this offense yet another toy to work with.
The line: Goochland by 27. The Bulldogs depth is simply killing teams right now, and Nottoway faces a truly uphill battle here.
Woodberry Forest (4-1) at Trinity Episcopal (3-3), 2 p.m. Saturday
The basics: Woodberry Forest kept things rolling for another week, beating Prep League rival Collegiate 35-16. With quarterback Lindell Stone now near the 2,000-yard mark already while leading the area in nearly every passing category, the offense is just too explosive for any opponent so far to handle. There are simply too many options and Stone is just too adept at finding them at just the right time. Meanwhile, the defense is busy clamping down on the other side of the ball. Woodberry is in solid position to close out this season on a run, and taking care of business against a Trinity squad that won a state title last season is the next step. Trinity fell last week to Northumberland, but solid wins over Fork Union and Norfolk Academy show they’ve got the potential to pick up wins. Woodberry, however, is a different animal.
Key matchup: Trinity’s offensive line takes on the Tigers’ sack happy front seven. 14 sacks in five games is a really impressive total for Woodberry, and it’s not just one player getting the job done either as eight different Woodberry players have registered sacks with Robbie Grass’ four leading the way while John Kirven has picked up three. Trinity has solid linemen back from its 2015 state title campaign in Luke Freudenthal and Foster Singleton, but they’ll face a tall task trying to contain Woodberry’s pack of pass rushers.
Who to watch: Woodberry junior Will Wideman. The Tigers’ defensive back is, a little surprisingly, third on the team in total tackles including 10 solo stops. Starting at free safety, Wideman joins a long lineage of good free safeties in the Clint Alexander era and makes it particularly difficult for opposing teams to take the top off the Tigers’ defense or break big plays with sound tackling and heady positioning.
The line: Woodberry by 21. The Tigers aren’t likely to be tripped up here.