Weekly Briefing Week 3

Nelson County (1-1) at Fluvanna County (1-1), 7 p.m.

The basics: Both these squads were riding high after week one victories before coming back down to earth a little with losses to Page County by the Governors and Spotsylvania by the Flucos. Now it comes down to who can bounce back from last week’s setback. Fluvanna got some things going offensively and controlled things early with a halftime lead before Spotsylvania just got going in a huge way after the break while Nelson couldn’t hold onto the ball early on, opening the door for Page to build an early lead and stack up big plays and points on the ground and in the return game. The Governors are likely to have their hands full here especially after struggling against Page’s wishbone and now taking on Fluvanna’s Wing-T. If Nelson can’t shore up their rushing defense, it could be a big night for the Flucos.  

Key matchup: Fluvanna’s linebackers try to hem in the one-two punch on the ground of Nelson quarterback George Brown and running back Felix Rodriguez. The Governors can put the ball in the air, but ideally out of the spread, Nelson wants to pound away with Brown and Rodriguez, attacking on zone reads and stretch runs. Pulling that off against the Flucos, who can turn to Justin Sullivan and Malachi Hill as defensive stoppers, won’t be an easy task. 

Who to watch: Fluvanna County’s Malachi Hill. Hill hauled in a 55-yard touchdown catch from Fluvanna quarterback Kobe Edmonds a week ago against Spotsylvania. If Hill can stretch the defense, it’ll be a huge help in opening up running lanes for the Flucos’ Wing-T. Hill has the kind of game-breaking ability that Fluvanna needs to tap into in the passing game.

The line: Fluvanna County by 14. The Flucos should get back on track here.


Goochland (0-1) at Buckingham County (1-0), 7 p.m.

The basics: What has become a classic James River District rivalry is renewed in Dillwyn this year with a Buckingham squad that shocked much of the state with a victory over Appomattox in week one hosting. The Knights now face the second of a tough two-game leg to start the season. Coming out of this short stretch 1-1 would give Buckingham no reason to worry, but this year’s senior class has never beaten the Bulldogs, so expect the Knights to be pretty fired up and ready to protect their home field. Goochland is coming off a season opening loss to Lafayette, a powerhouse program from Williamsburg, so you can expect too that Goochland is going to be ready to roll for this one. Both programs are built on the ground game, though the Bulldogs have some more options to air it out. If both teams are able to neutralize each other’s rushing attacks, the balance tilts in Goochland and quarterback C.J. Towles’ favor. Goochland managed a 21-8 win a year ago, can they keep their win streak against one of their rivals in tact?

Key matchup: Goochland’s defensive line takes on Buckingham’s three-headed rushing monster. Against Appomattox, Walter Edwards had 165 yards, Tay Toney notched 118 yards and two touchdowns and Delante Woodson had 108 yards. That’s a ton of production on the ground that will test the Bulldogs’ entire defense, but in particular a defensive line that came into the year short on depth. Look for Goochland’s guys in the trenches to take a step forward this week.

Who to watch: Goochland’s Conner Popierlarz. Getting the ground attack going will likely be a big priority for the Bulldogs and Popierlarz is a tough, hard-nosed back with some speed and quickness in his arsenal. If he gets fed the ball early, that’ll be a huge help for the Bulldogs who will be looking to generate some offense after getting shut out for the first time in a long while last week.

The line: Goochland by 6. The Bulldogs haven’t lost to Buckingham since 2015 and they could be pretty fired up after a week of stewing over the Lafayette loss. 


Massaponax (2-0) at Louisa County (2-0), 7:30 p.m.

The basics: This isn’t just one of the area’s top games this week, this is one of the state’s top games this week. Two programs that rarely have down seasons over the last 20 years, both with a clear program identity rooted in relic offenses, Louisa the Single Wing, Massaponax the triple option. Both teams have produced wins and stars at a pretty steady clip over the last few years and now they’ll lock up in The Jungle. The clash will feature two standout ball carriers in Massaponax’s Luke Morley who went for 305 yards a week ago and Louisa’s Jarett Hunter, who needs no introduction at this point but rushed for 219 yards in week one. It’ll feature a pair of defenses that take a lot of pride in what they do. These two schools are only 45 minutes apart, but this will be the first meeting since 2002, and this could be a wild one.

Key matchup: Louisa’s front seven takes on the Massaponax rushing attack. Getting off the field will be critical for the Lions’ defense. The Panthers pulled off a nearly eight-minute drive last week in the win over Dinwiddie. Louisa is used to doing that to the opposition but they rarely allow that kind of action themselves. If Louisa can tighten up on key downs, it could be the difference maker in this one, and that’s going to take the front seven stepping up against the ground attack.

Who to watch: Louisa County’s Austin Sims. Sims remains one of the area’s best linebackers, but a 50-yard touchdown catch late in last week’s win over Chancellor served as a reminder that he’s a threat in the passing game too. Sims can impact a game in so many different ways that he’s become an absolute force, a ruthless defender and the kind of explosive pass catcher that prevents teams from loading up against the run. 

The line: Louisa County by 7. This is a challenging test, but Louisa is awfully good at home. 


Spotswood (2-0) at Western Albemarle (0-1), Friday 7 p.m.

The basics: Western Albemarle stumbled out of the blocks last week and now they’re going to face a tough squad in the Blazers in an effort to get back on track. Western will have to improve drastically to put the clamps on the Blazers and against an explosive offense, the best defense might be controlling the clock. If Western can find ways to burn the clock and control possession with Austin Shifflett and John Buetow with a dash of Carter Shifflett running the ball, that could change the tenor of this game immediately. 

Key matchup: Western Albemarle’s secondary takes on Spotswood’s dynamic passing attack. Ryan High threw for 370 yards and six touchdowns last week against William Monroe. While the Warriors struggled against the run last week, they’ll have to contend with a more balanced attack this week as Spotswood has exploded on the ground and through the air in the last two weeks. But odds are good Spotswood will try and test the backend of the Warriors’ defense where Carter Shifflett and Breaker Mendenhall are among the athletes the Warriors are employing in the secondary.

Who to watch: Western Albemarle’s linebackers. The Warriors’ offense produced last week but the defense struggled to control Turner Ashby on the ground. Now can John Buetow, Josh Haws and company get the defense on track?

The line: Spotswood by 7. Western has proven adept over the years at shoring up their weaknesses quickly. If they’ve done that again, they’ll give the Blazers all they can handle here.


Benedictine (2-1) at Fork Union (1-0), Friday 4:30 p.m.

The basics: A pair of proud programs go toe-to-toe as the Blue Devils and Cadets lock up. Fork Union exploded out of the gate last week with a big win over Bishop O’Connell while Benedictine lost to Avalon a strong squad out of Maryland. The Cadets’ loss came after wins over Trinity Episcopal and Bishop Sullivan Catholic. The Catholic win is particularly impressive. This is a big measuring stick for the Blue Devils who now get to see just how far they’ve come in a single season after getting beat 44-16 in this matchup a year ago.

Key matchup: Fork Union’s defense contends with Benedictine quarterback Jay Woolfolk. The 6-foot-1 dual threat signal caller accounted for five total touchdowns against Trinity Episcopal in week one. The Blue Devils, by contrast, shut down Bishop O’Connell, allowing just 149 total yards. Can Carter Crawford and Miles Brickhouse create similar pressure after piling up four sacks between them a week ago.

Who to watch: Fork Union’s Grant Chevrier. Chevrier came up with eight tackles last week to tie Xavier White for the team high. Chevrier is a free safety, and with Woolfolk capable of making things happen on the ground or through the air, he’ll be instrumental in helping Fork Union adjust on the fly and prevent broken plays from being big gainers. 

The line: Benedictine by 1. A strong showing here and certainly a win would continue the early theme — Fork Union is back. But Benedictine has more game experience as a squad under its belt and that’s the difference.


Patrick Henry-Roanoke (1-1) at Albemarle (0-2), Friday 7 p.m.

The basics: Albemarle football is undergoing a youth movement and they’re doing it against an extremely challenging schedule. That continues this week with Patrick Henry-Roanoke who beat an awfully good Brookville program a week ago. This Patriots on Patriots battle has become a staple of the early season non-district slate, and Albemarle will have its work cut out for it at home against PH. Albemarle absorbed a blowout on the road against Eastern View last week and they’ve got some work to do in order to compete with Patrick Henry.

Key matchup: Albemarle’s secondary takes on Patrick Henry sophomore quarterback Roy Gunn Jr. Gunn was impressive as a freshman a year ago, throwing for more than 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns. With a year of experience under his belt, he’ll likely be even tougher, and Albemarle will have to counter with perhaps its most seasoned and talented unit in the secondary. Nolan Pitsenberger and Kyshon Howard will have to be locked in, though that’s rarely an issue with that tandem. 

Who to watch: Albemarle’s Ebenezer McCarthy. The Patriots are looking for some life offensively and McCarthy has shown flashes of being a dynamic, slippery running back. Can he get things moving as Albemarle tries to find its footing against this challenging schedule.

The line: Patrick Henry-Roanoke by 7. Young Patriots’ tough schedule continues with visitors from the south.


Clarke County (1-0) at William Monroe (0-2), Friday 7 p.m.

The basics: William Monroe’s season hasn’t gone to plan so far and they’ll be asked to try and improve against a challenging opponent at home as Clarke comes to town with a seasoned roster that went 7-4 a year ago. The Dragons are likely to keep trying to establish the ground attack and get the physical run game they’d planned on going in the right direction. Right now it’s about improvement for William Monroe and that starts with getting the ball moving on offense.

Key matchup: Monroe’s front seven takes on Clarke’s Peyton Rutherford. Rutherford picked up more than 1,600 yards a year ago. The Dragons have struggled defensively out of the gate, and taking away what teams do well hasn’t proven easy for Monroe out of the gate. 

Who to watch: William Monroe’s Logan Barbour. Barbour is an elite athlete at wideout and he gives the Dragons a chance to take the top off of defenses that are definitely loading up on Dupree Rucker. If Barbour could get loose, it could help the offense find a rhythm. 

The line: Clarke County by 17. Dragons get another chance to try and get things right ahead of Northwestern District play, but Clarke is a stout opponent. 


Harrisonburg (0-2) at Charlottesville (0-2), 7 p.m.

The basics: Charlottesville football needs this one. After two challenging weeks against E.C. Glass and James Monroe, the Black Knights take on a more manageable opponent as Harrisonburg comes to town. Charlottesville is already enduring some injuries, but if their confidence has weathered the early storm, the Black Knights can get on track this week. That’ll start with sticking to their triple option identity and shoring things up on defense, where they’ve been beat a variety of ways by two excellent programs. Can the secondary tighten up and put it all together this week?

Key matchup: Charlottesville’s defense takes on the one-two rushing punch of Kwentin Smiley and Dunstan Williams. Smiley and Williams combined for 179 yards two weeks ago and the Black Knights haven’t been as bad as scores would indicate against the run. In fact, against James Monroe it was giving up long passes that created the majority of their problems getting off the field. If the Black Knights can hem in Smiley and Williams they’ll have a shot to pick up their first win. 

Who to watch: Charlottesville’s Jaleom Adams-Mallory. Adams-Mallory was already a top flight defender for the Black Knights, now he has moved to fullback too, giving the Black Knights the kind of power back they’re used to having in the triple option. If he can keep teams honest while pounding away inside, the edges could open up for the Black Knights’ speedsters.

The line: Harrisonburg by 1. The Black Knights certainly have a chance to make this one interesting, can they get over the hump here?


George Mason (0-2) at Madison County (0-1), 7 p.m.

The basics: While Madison County lost last week to James River 20-8, there were some positive signs, including a defense that held James River largely in check, with Isaiah Dowell picking off a pass that helped keep Madison within striking distance. Now the Mountaineers just have to keep plugging away, keeping making progress week in and week out in a new system. Madison is laying the foundation each week and results matter less than quality of play and execution.

Key matchup: Madison’s offensive line tries to move the ball against George Mason’s improving defense. The Mustangs held Falls Church to just 14 points two weeks ago and while they gave up 35 to Strasburg, the defense is solid and Jacob Sacra and company will have their work cut out for them.

Who to watch: Madison’s Khalid West. West is a dynamic, athletic threat who can create matchup problems on the boundary. He scored the Mountaineers’ lone touchdown last week and he’s currently Madison’s best bet as a playmaker. Delivering against Mason won’t be easy, but West is poised to have an impact all year.

The line: George Mason by 7. Madison faces a tough task this week.


Turner Ashby (2-0) at Monticello (0-2), 7 p.m.

The basics: Two teams headed in opposite directions here. Turner Ashby continues its tour of Central Virginia area squads after beating William Monroe and Western Albemarle in the last two weeks. Monticello stumbled against Spotsylvania and then lost to Culpeper, and now they’ll take on a squad that’s got the ground attack rolling and gave Western all kinds of trouble a week ago. Can Monticello pull off s stunner and get the job done?

Key matchup: Monticello’s rushing defense takes on Turner Ashby’s Grant Swinehart. Swinehart had 17 carries for 143 yards and two touchdowns against Western. A hard-nosed, fierce runner, he’s not going to go down easily. That means the Mustangs need to swarm the ball and get a lot of bodies on him. That’s easier said than done.

Who to watch: Monticello’s Will Trent. Seven catches last week including the Mustangs’ lone touchdown is indicative of how much Monticello wants to get Trent involved in the offense. The speedster likely needs to emerge as a key weapon if the Mustangs are going to get on track.

The line: Turner Ashby by 14. The Knights have clearly turned the corner and Monticello will likely find out like Monroe and Western did that stopping TA’s rushing attack is a major challenge. 


Greenbrier Christian (1-1) at St. Anne’s-Belfield (1-0), 7 p.m.

The basics: After losing a game a week ago to weather, STAB’s eight-man squad will take on Greenbrier Christian at home Friday night in an effort to move to 2-0. The Saints’ fast start to the year included a monster 233-yard effort from Amani Woods on the ground, getting help from a slightly re-tooled but big, physical line. This matchup could prove to be another favorable one for the Saints’ rushing attack as they may have a size advantage up front on most teams they face. It’s a little counter-intuitive that the ground game would be what gives STAB a leg-up in 8-man, but the extra space and STAB’s ability to cut the field in half and gain a numbers advantage is working beautifully so far.

Key matchup: Greenbrier’s defensive front contends with STAB’s off tackle approach. The Saints’ signature play, a staple for more than a decade now, is really tough to defend because it can be tweaked and adjusted on the fly with the right chemistry between the line and ball carrier. Expect a heavy dose of it against the Gators.

Who to watch: STAB’s Elijah Johnson. When the ground game gets just a little too much attention from opposing defenses, Johnson is going to be the Saints’ counterweight. He had a 26-yard touchdown catch in the opener against Faith Christian and is a dangerous receiver who creates all kinds of matchup issues. 

The line: STAB by 14. The Saints’ run game is no joke and Greenbrier will have its hands full. 


Orange County (0-2) at Eastern View (2-0), 7 p.m.

The basics: Orange County’s confidence may be shaken but this is potentially a team that’s much better than its 0-2 record says they are. Like Charlottesville, they’re facing a brutal schedule and it continues this week with Eastern View. If the Hornets can continue to stay confident and hang together, better things could be in store for this group in the second half of 2019. Eastern View is a blitzkrieg of a squad though, as Albemarle discovered last week. Orange will have its hands full Friday.

Key matchup: Orange’s secondary looks to contain Blake Leake. Leake caught a key early touchdown in the rout of Albemarle and he’s also a threat on the other side of the ball where he had an 80-yard pick six late in the first half. Can Orange find a way to neutralize the Cyclones’ standout?

Who to watch: Orange’s Jaylen Alexander. Alexander continues to churn out admirable performances despite facing stacked tackle boxes hell-bent on trying to limit his productivity. Last week it was North Stafford and he rushed for 103 yards including a 55-yard touchdown sprint in the first half. 

The line: Eastern View by 21. The Cyclones are a tall task for most anyone. 


Covenant (0-0) at Kenston Forest (3-0), 7 p.m.

The basics: The defending VISFL champions finally get their title defense started as Covenant hits the road to take on an undefeated Kenston Forest squad. This is a solid early season matchup with one of the state’s eight-man football originators in Kenston Forest. Covenant has had a long fall camp to fine tune and get players in new roles up to speed. Now they’ll get to test themselves on the road in their season opener.

Key matchup: Covenant’s run defense takes on Kenston Forest fullback Quinton Hawkins. Last year, Covenant’s run defense was where productive ground games went to die. Not much should change this year, though Hawkins rushed for 110 yards and two touchdowns against Brunswick, and he’ll test Nic Sanker and company on defense.

Who to watch: Covenant’s Jonas Sanker. If you haven’t had a chance to see Sanker go to work, you’re missing out. He’s been a force since he stepped on the field and now we all get the opportunity to see what he can do as a quarterback. Tremendous athlete, should be fun to see what he does from his new spot.

The line: Covenant by 28. The Eagles cruise here.


Fishburne (0-1) at Blue Ridge (2-0), 2:30 p.m.

The basics: Blue Ridge hosts Fishburne and the Barons are already building a lot of momentum this year with a locked in group of players that brings a dynamic, athletic presence to the table. The Barons shouldn’t have much trouble keeping things rolling at home against the Caissons. 

Key matchup: Fishburne quarterback Chase Altis faces Blue Ridge’s ball-hawking secondary. Iceysis Lewis, Maliq Brown and Devin Walker all three already have interceptions on the year. If Altis tries to test the Barons he’s likely to get burned by a deep, talented group of defensive backs. 

Who to watch: Blue Ridge’s Lance Gaskins. Gaskins is emerging as one of the go-to wideouts for the Barons, showing immediate chemistry with quarterback Kenyon Carter. He had two TDs in week one and followed it with a 56-yard touchdown catch against Hargrave. The Barons have a ton of weapons, and Gaskins is yet another gamebreaker.  

The line: Blue Ridge by 28. The Barons shouldn’t be challenged here. Too many weapons at their disposal.


St. Christopher’s (1-1) at Woodberry Forest (0-2), Saturday 2 p.m.

The basics: After a challenging schedule, Woodberry sits at 0-2 for the first time in more than a decade. Now they start Prep League play, never an easy task itself with St. Christopher’s, one of the key challengers to the Tigers’ throne. This one comes down to who can get on track the quickest, and while the Tigers have been tested, they haven’t locked into a rhythm just yet. This is likely the week they do it and pick up their first win, though they’ll almost surely have to fight for it, this was a 31-28 game a year ago, now the Tigers have to create their momentum from scratch this week. 

Key matchup: Woodberry’s secondary takes on St. Christopher’s Griff O’Ferrell to Will Tazewell combination. Ferrell, the Saints’ quarterback, and Tazewell connected seven times for 128 yards a week ago against St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes. The Tigers’ secondary has long been a point of pride in the program with greats like Ed Reynolds and Nathaniel Tyrell among a long line of recent all-state and standout defensive backs. After giving up a couple of touchdowns in the second half a week ago, expect this year’s unit to play Saturday with a chip on their collective shoulder. 

Who to watch: Woodberry’s Ben Locklear. The Tigers’ quarterback threw for a touchdown and ran for another against Catholic, providing the bulk of the offensive scoring. Expect a big-time game against St. Christopher’s from a signal-caller who piled up four total touchdowns a year ago against the Saints in a 31-28 thriller. 

The line: Woodberry by 1. Don’t let that 0-2 record fool you. Woodberry had perhaps the area’s toughest opening two opponents. Now that they’re back in Prep League play, everything is about to change.