Turner Ashby (0-0) at William Monroe (0-0), Friday 7 p.m.
The basics: Getting off to a good start is critical for William Monroe, and they’ve got a great chance to set things on the right track with an opener at home against Turner Ashby. The Knights went 2-8 a year ago and with Dupree Rucker back to anchor the offense, Monroe should be ready to roll in the power run game. Look for the Dragons to try and establish their identity early and get going with an early win.
Key matchup: The Dragons’ linebackers take on Turner Ashby running back Grant Swineheart. Xzabia Kolpack leads the Dragons’ linebacking corps and he’ll have to fill gaps all night and make plays as the Knights are sure to put a heavy load on Swineheart, who ran a leg on a state title-winning indoor 4×400 team.
Who to watch: William Monroe’s Jared Knights. Knights has been tabbed as the new signal-caller for the Dragons. He’s a different type of quarterback than Monroe has leaned on, more pure passer than runner. How he handles his first game as the starter will go a long way towards determining what foot the Dragons get off on in 2019.
The line: William Monroe by 3. This is a favorable opener for the Dragons. If they can run the ball effectively, they could find themselves at 1-0 come Friday night for the first time since 2014.
Appomattox (0-0) at Buckingham (0-0), Friday 7 p.m.
The basics: Buckingham has a lot of key pieces back, but their one-two punch of Appomattox and Goochland to start the year is a tall order. Appomattox won the Class 2 state championship two years ago and went 10-2 last season, bowing out in the second round of the playoffs. Buckingham has a lot of players in the mix who have been productive, but this is an elite opponent and potentially a measuring stick game, a chance for the Knights to figure out where they stand now and check back at the end of the season.
Key matchup: Buckingham’s secondary takes on Appomattox playmakers Tre Lawing and Tevin Hurt. Lawing is a dynamic quarterback and Hurt is a 6-foot-2, 215-pound pass catcher. The Knights’ secondary is one of its strongest position groups with Tae Toney, Nathan Brickhill and Xavier Copeland leading the way. They’ll likely get tested early.
Who to watch: Buckingham’s Edwards. Edwards has quietly amassed a lot of yards as the Knights’ feature back. Now he’ll look to give the Knights a spark to start what is a promising 2019. A strong performance here would certainly set the tone.
The line: Appomattox by 21. The Raiders are the defending state champions and they’re a heavy lift for the Knights out of the gate.
Spotsylvania (0-0) at Monticello (0-0), Friday 7 p.m.
The basics: Monticello gets a chance to start anew against a Spotsylvania team that went 8-5 last season. The Mustangs aren’t used to 2-8 campaigns, and they’re eager to get back on track starting this week. They’ll do battle with Spotsylvania’s single wing offensive attack that’s going to test the Mustangs’ physical mettle right away.
Key matchup: Monticello’s defensive line takes on a big Spotsy offensive front. The Knights average 290 pounds per player on the offensive line. That’s going to challenge Tayshaun Minor and company on the defensive front. If Minor and company can hold their ground against the single wing, the Mustangs could eke out a victory.
Who to watch: Monticello quarterback Malachi Fields. Fields is the straw that stirs the drink for the Mustangs. If he’s locked in and making efficient decisions, Monticello will be on the way to a major improvement this season.
The line: Monticello by 1. A win this week would be a critical boost for the Mustangs who are going to be looking for an early rhythm before entering the Jefferson District gauntlet.
Faith Christian (1-0) at St. Anne’s-Belfield (0-0), Friday 7 p.m.
The basics: STAB does battle with one of the two teams that beat the Saints a year ago, Rocky Mount, N.C.’s Faith Christian. Expect the Saints to come out ready to roll and to try and get running backs Amani Woods and Gabe Decker loose in the early going to help their new starter at quarterback settle in.
Key matchup: STAB linebackers Decker and Joe Ambrosi take on Faith Christian running back Shaikey Hardy. This should be the most fun part of this matchup as two hard-hitting, gap-filling lineman go toe-to-toe with Faith Christian’s most dangerous offensive weapon. Look for Ambrosi and Decker to try and set the tone for the STAB defense early on.
Who to watch: STAB’s Luke Antesberger. Antesberger is one of several lineman who’ll look to step into the massive void left with Will Edelson’s graduation. If Antesberger can make similar blocks on offense and spring runners for big gains, the Saints should pick up where they left off last year.
The line: STAB by 7. The Saints have a lot of the right pieces back and the early leg up in experience over Faith Christian.
Mountain View (0-0) at Albemarle (0-0), Friday 7 p.m.
The basics: This is a baptism by fire for Albemarle’s huge influx of young starters. Their success this season in part hinges on surviving battles with tough opponents, learning and improving and Mountain View is bound to give them some issues. The Patriots will have to contend with Edward Ware, a fast defensive back who takes over at quarterback for the Wildcats this year as well as Mark Shelton, a seasoned running back who’s had some injury issues. Albemarle will have to buckle up and be ready from the opening kick.
Key matchup: Mountain View’s James Snead takes on Albemarle’s Mahki Washington. Snead is a three-year starter at outside linebacker and he’ll likely be a big part of trying to contain the Patriots’ top offensive threat, power running back Washington.
Who to watch: Albemarle’s Jake King. The sophomore signal-caller steps into the quarterback slot for the Patriots where he’ll need to be a game manager first, which is no easy task against a seasoned Mountain View defense. King’s development this year should be a story worth keeping an eye on. If he can make strides similar to the ones then-sophomore Carter Shifflett made out at Western a year ago, it could jumpstart the Patriots.
The line: Mountain View by 10. Tough matchup for the young Patriots, but hanging with Mountain View or pulling off the upset would mean a huge jolt of confidence for AHS.
Goochland (0-0) at Lafayette (0-0), Friday 7 p.m.
The basics: This is one of the tougher regular season matchups in recent memory for Goochland as they begin their 2019 back in Class 3 with a tilt against a Class 3/4 power (they’ve bounced between the two), Lafayette. The Rams have lost just seven games since 2013 have picked up double digit wins in six straight seasons. The Bulldogs have put together similar marks at the Class 2 level, but this is an excellent test as Goochland looks to compete at the Class 3 level. Both squads feature Wing-T offenses, but can expand the playbook with the right athletes in place. Devin McCray, Connor Popielarz and C.J. Towles are poised to be in the playmaker roles for the Bulldogs while Tyler Neville and Michael Green are both 6-foot-5 tight ends for the Rams that can create major matchup problems.
Key matchup: Lafayette’s new inside linebackers take on Goochland’s misdirection. The Bulldogs run some unique stuff with multiple packages from Wing-T to spread and Lafayette is breaking in two new inside linebackers after graduating Trey Canady. Can that group diagnose what the Bulldogs do play-in and play-out and make stops?
Who to watch: Goochland’s Kindrick Braxton. He’s going to be an emotional leader for the Bulldogs’ defense this year, an impact hitter who can swing the game’s momentum. Can he put together a solid game to get the year started on the right foot?
The line: Lafayette by 1. The Bulldogs could make a huge statement on the road here and usually when Goochland needs to rise to the occasion they’ve come through. A strong showing here would give the Bulldogs a lot of confidence.
Louisa County (0-0) at Courtland (0-0), Friday 7 p.m.
The basics: The Big Cat Classic is back as Louisa and Courtland lock up for their annual out-of-district clash. Courtland’s strength offensively is up front, but they’ll be contending with a deep group of Louisa defensive linemen. With backs who are still figuring it out, that offensive line will have to deliver and open big holes. Against this defense, that’s a tall order. Expect the Lions to do enough to shut down Courtland and handle business on offense with Jarett Hunter, Kalup Shelton and Alex Washington handling the ground game while Landon Wilson settles in at quarterback.
Key matchup: Louisa’s Jarett Hunter takes on Courtland linebacker Austin Monroe. Monroe was an all-district performer and he’ll likely have to find ways to track and keep up with Hunter, the Lions’ star rusher, all night.
Who to watch: Louisa’s Aaron Aponte and Austin Sims. If we’re looking for the area’s best outside linebacking tandems, we probably don’t have to look any further than these two. Aponte and Sims are fundamentally sound, explosive and sure tacklers. There’s not much more one can ask for and with Courtland’s power run game, they’ll be a critical part of stopping the Cougars.
The line: Louisa by 14. The Lions have the edge in experienced offensive playmakers here.
Fluvanna County (0-0) at Broadway (0-0), Friday 7:30 p.m.
The basics: Fluvanna County got the year started right a season ago, beating Bluestone in the Flucos’ opener. Now they get another shot at starting this campaign off on the right foot against a Broadway squad that’s breaking in a new head coach in Danny Grogg. Can the Flucos get the season kickstarted with a key victory over the Gobblers?
Key matchup: Fluvanna’s offensive line led by Walt Stribling and Caleb Stoltz takes on Broadway defensive tackle Brent Hulse. Moving Hulse will be a clear part of getting the Wing-T going in the season opener. If Stribling and Stoltz are locked in and clearing the way, it’ll help the Flucos’ new ball-carriers settle in.
Who to watch: Fluvanna quarterback Kobe Edmonds. Edmonds is a capable sophomore dual threat who has the key attribute that is missing from a lot of young quarterbacks — he’s cool, calm and collected under pressure. Edmonds will steady the ship for the Flucos in key moments.
The line: Fluvanna County by 7. The Flucos get the job done on the road.
Nelson County (0-0) at Randolph-Henry (0-0), Friday 7 p.m.
The basics: Nelson County football has a lot of key pieces back, and while depth will be an issue like with most teams at the Class 2 level, if Nelson stays healthy, they’ve got experienced playmakers and defensive standouts. The Governors can turn to Brice Wilson or George Brown offensively to make something happen, and Randolph-Henry is likely to struggle to contain that tandem.
Key matchup: Randolph-Henry’s ball carriers face Nelson linebacker James Johnson. Johnson, the middle linebacker who recovered from a farming accident, is the heart and soul of the Nelson defense. Expect Randolph-Henry running backs to run into the business end of a number of James Johnson hits.
Who to watch: Nelson’s George Brown. Brown, the tall left-handed quarterback, has the potential to shred Randolph-Henry’s defense. If he gets going on the ground and takes the top of the defense by connecting on some key passes, Nelson’s offense will have the rhythm it needs.
The line: Nelson County by 7. The Governors get a great chance to get off on the right foot here.
Nansemond Suffolk Academy (0-0) at Blue Ridge (0-0), Saturday 2:30 p.m.
The basics: These two programs are very familiar with one another, and last year’s shootout ended with a 42-34 Blue Ridge loss. The Barons graduate Sammy Fort and Xavier Kane, but they’ll turn things over to a talented crop of playmakers. Nansemond Suffolk brings back quarterback Ian McAninley who threw for 30 touchdowns and 6-foot-4 junior wideout Jaden Freeman. That’s a lot of offensive weaponry, but the Barons have the potential to be stout defensively. If it becomes a shootout quickly, that might be an advantage for the Saints.
Key matchup: Blue Ridge’s front seven takes on NSA running back George Pettaway. Pettaway has offers from Virginia and Virginia Tech, and he’ll force Tramell Thompson and Cameron Kewley to step up at linebacker and make some plays.
Who to watch: Blue Ridge’s Andy Nwaoko. The Barons’ physically gifted edge rusher hs the potential to wreak havoc, and if the Barons are going to disrupt this seasoned offense, Nwaoko seems like a good pick to get the job done.
The line: Blue Ridge by 1. The Barons get a shot at a huge win in their home opener.
Georgetown Prep (0-0) at Woodberry Forest (0-0), Saturday 2 p.m.
The basics: Woodberry Forest jumps directly into the deep end to start the 2019 football with a battle against IAC defending champion Georgetown Prep. The Little Hoyas are ranked No. 7 in the Washington Post-area poll. The Tigers have the advantage of returning quarterback Ben Locklear and a seasoned offensive line. But DeQuece Carter’s graduation changes the equation for the offense and new playmakers will have to step up and step in quickly if the Tigers are going to outmuscle Georgetown Prep.
Key matchup: Woodberry’s front seven takes on Virginia Tech commit Jalen Hampton. Georgetown Prep’s three-star running back is a speedster who clocked a 4.46 in the 40 already and he’ll likely give the Tigers some serious problems. Can the Tigers scheme things out to neutralize the star running back?
Who to watch: Woodberry Forest’s Mathieu Masse-Pelletier. Masse-Pelletier is a complete defender, and if the Tigers are going to stop the Little Hoyas, odds are good it’s going to be because Masse-Pelletier steps up in a huge way.
The line: Woodberry Forest by 3. Too much Ben Locklear for Georgetown Prep in this one.