James River (0-1) at Madison County (0-0), Friday 7 p.m.
The basics: Madison County’s Jon Rasnick era gets going with the Mountaineers opening the season with James River, a squad that posted an 8-3 record a year ago with a playoff loss to Gretna ending the Knights’ campaign. James River comes into Madison reeling a bit after a blowout loss to Stuarts Draft and is breaking in a new coach of their own in promoted assistant Tim Jennings. Can Madison get things going in the right direction with an early season victory at home?
Key matchup: Madison County’s defense takes on James River running back Luke Peay. The Mountaineers’ defense is a work in progress as the program looks to rebuild. It’ll start with trying to contain Peay and the ground game.
Who to watch: Madison offensive lineman Jacob Sacra. The Mountaineers are building around the guys in the trenches and Sacra is a big part of the plan. Can he help get the offense moving against the Knights?
The line: James River by 3. The Knights went 8-3 a season ago and will likely be locked in after absorbing that loss against Stuarts Draft.
Chancellor (0-1) at Louisa County (1-0), Friday 7:30 p.m.
The basics: Louisa County did a lot of Louisa County things last week while rolling past Courtland in the season opener.The Lions employed a hard-nosed, take no prisoners ground attack meshed with just enough passing to keep opponents honest and a stingy defense that gave up just 157 total yards of offense. That kind of approach on both sides of the ball is going to power a lot of success if the Lions stay healthy and keep spreading the wealth. There are players all over the field for Louisa, Jarett Hunter is just the tip of the spear with his 219 yards on 22 touches. Robbie Morgan, Landon Wilson, Xavien Hunter and Kalup Shelton all saw some success in some form or another on offense and the defense is just a swarm of excellent players playing their role and hemming in opponents. This is a deep, well-coached, talented Louisa squad that should be able to handle Chancellor.
Key matchup: Louisa’s highly-regarded secondary goes head-to-head with Chancellor quarterback Trevin Edwards. Edwards threw for 236 yards and four touchdowns a week ago against Massaponax and did it on an efficient 15-for-19 night. The Lions’ secondary that includes Xavien Hunter, Jarett Hunter and Alex Washington will look specifically to clamp down on Kim Carruthers, who had 108 yards and three TDs last week. This is a big early test for the defensive backs.
Who to watch: Louisa’s Robbie Morgan. Morgan showed flashes of excellence a season ago and his talent continues to get him on the field in a crowded offensive skill position group for the Lions. Morgan had seven touches for 65 yards and two touchdowns a week ago, bolstering Hunter’s own monster effort.
The line: Louisa County by 10. The Lions should keep things rolling against Chancellor.
Page County (0-0) at Nelson County (1-0), Friday 7 p.m.
The basics: It’s Page County’s opener while Nelson comes in after scoring the most points they’ve tallied against a VHSL opponent since 2012 when they scored 64 against William Monroe. The Governors beat Randolph Henry 50-23, employing a balanced offensive attack while doing enough defensively to stay in control after giving up an early touchdown. Now Nelson will look to win start 2-0 for the first time since 2007 and win two games in a row within a season for the first time since 2011. This is an important opportunity to build momentum ahead of Dogwood District play especially after the Governors missed a chance at a win in this clash a year ago, falling 16-6 after having a shot to win late.
Key matchup: Page County’s front seven takes on Nelson running back Felix Rodriguez. Rodriguez rushed for 177 yards and a touchdown on 15 touches a week ago, and Page County will have their hands full trying to stop the Governors’ power run game especially since you’ve got to keep tabs on quarterback George Brown every play.
Who to watch: Nelson County’s Brandon Jamerson gave the Governors another serious threat in the passing game against Randolph Henry with 100 yards receiving. If he can keep that rolling and Nelson can get Brice Wilson involved even more as a pass catcher, then the Governors will be a potent offense this season.
The line: Nelson by 1. The Governors weren’t far out of this one a year ago. A year wiser at the skill positions should make the difference.
William Monroe (0-1) at Spotswood (1-0), Friday 7 p.m.
The basics: William Monroe’s season didn’t get started like they’d hoped as they fell to Turner Ashby last week at home, a frustrating opener for a team with a lot of key pieces back and strong leadership during camp. The Dragons can get to work on proving that was an anomaly against the Blazers this week, who got a statement win in week one over East Rockingham. A strong showing against Spotswood where the offense finds a little bit of rhythm would be a huge lift for the Dragons. That’ll start with a heavy dose of Dupree Rucker at tailback and a better effort blocking up front by the group in the trenches.
Key matchup: Monroe’s front seven takes on Spotswood’s ground game including Ethan Barnhart. Barnhart rushed for 291 yards on more than 30 touches against East Rock, a necessity with quarterback Ryan High out of the lineup. Can the Dragons’ run defense put together another strong effort like they did early on a week ago against Turner Ashby against a more potent opponent?
Who to watch: William Monroe’s Shea Jeffers. Jeffers 17-yard red zone grab last week was one of the few positives from the Dragons’ offense last week. Getting Jeffers in the mix will help keep defenses honest against the ground game.
The line: Spotswood by 21. Blazers’ ground game is too much for the Dragons here.
Monticello (0-1) at Culpeper (0-1), Friday 7 p.m.
The basics: Monticello stumbled against Spotsylvania last week, falling 35-13. The Mustangs have a lot of work to do before the Jefferson District slate gets going and they can start getting on track against Culpeper, who’s coming off a loss to Eastern View. The Blue Devils are undergoing a lot of adversity with first year coach James Ford undergoing cancer treatment, leaving Brandon Utz in the interim role. But with a week under their belt and some early success against a really good Eastern View program, Culpeper could find better results against the Mustangs.
Key matchup: Monticello takes on Culpeper’s Riley Harrison. It’s tough to run against Eastern View but Harrison had 59 yards on 15 touches a week ago. The Mustangs, meanwhile, surrendered 201 yards on the ground to Spotsylvania’s Ty-shaun Colbert. Can they stuff the run better this week after working out some kinks during practice this week.
Who to watch: Monticello’s Buddy Wilson went for 44 yards on eight touches a week ago. Can the lacrosse standout provide Monticello’s offense with another threat on the ground? It’d be a huge lift for the offense.
The line: Culpeper by 3. Mustangs still searching for answers beyond Malachi Fields and Culpeper will be hungry for a win.
Fluvanna County (1-0) at Spotsylvania (1-0), Friday 7 p.m.
The basics: Fluvanna County got things going in the right direction with a 29-13 victory over Broadway a week ago and now the Flucos face one of their toughest tests in the first six games. Spotsylvania runs the ball well and hemmed in Monticello last week. The clock should keep moving in this one as both teams lean on the Wing-T, so both teams’ front sevens will be tested. Staying at home and making sound tackles is key against the offense. Whoever can disrupt the opposition more is likely to come out the victor.
Key matchup: Fluvanna’s front seven takes on Spotsylvania’s Ty-shaun Colbert, who exploded for 201 yards against Monticello a week ago. While Colbert is clearly a productive, explosive rusher, Fluvanna was stout on defense in the opener against Broadway, forcing three turnovers while giving up more yards than points with a bend-but-don’t-break approach.
Who to watch: Fluvanna’s Kobe Edmonds. Edmonds was the player to watch a week ago, but he did more than manage the game last week, he emerged as an even more potent weapon with 147 yards and two touchdowns on the ground in a strong effort. If Edmonds is that kind of threat all season, the Flucos’ offense is going to be dangerous.
The line: Fluvanna by 1. Flucos keep things rolling against a tough but manageable challenge.
Western Albemarle (0-0) at Turner Ashby (1-0), Friday 7 p.m.
The basics: Western Albemarle’s turnaround season a year ago got a jolt from a senior-laden defense and a group of sophomore playmakers. Now those playmakers are a year older and the defense is young and hungry. That may be a different recipie than last year but the new mix seems poised for similar results for the Warriors. That test will start against a Turner Ashby squad that played well against William Monroe and picked up the season opening win. That’s good news for a program that has struggled of late but the competition level takes a major leap up with Western coming to town.
Key matchup: Turner Ashby’s run defense takes on a two-headed rushing attack of Austin Shifflett and John Buetow. Turner Ashby clamped down on William Monroe’s power run game last week. Now they’ll have to contain the spread-based rushing attack from the Warriors. That’s a tall order, even with Western starting four new regular lineman in addition to returner Ben Life.
Who to watch: Western’s Carter Shifflett. No player in the area improved more than Carter Shifflett a year ago, and now we’ll get to see what the junior quarterback has added to his game. The Warriors gain dimensions and dynamism every time his game takes a leap forward. We’ll see soon what the quick play fake artist with an accurate arm has added to the mix.
The line: Western by 21. Warriors should be able to move the ball in this road opener.
Orange County (0-1) at North Stafford (1-0), Friday 7 p.m.
The basics: Orange knew they were facing a series of extremely challenging out-of-district opponents and North Stafford fits the bill, a year removed from a 10-3 record and a couple of playoff victories. This will be a major test for the Hornets after a heartbreaking loss to King George after a series of mistakes in the closing seconds. Now the Hornets will have to find a way to shut down a prolific passing offense that threw for 333 yards a week ago in a scrap with Potomac. Orange will need to take a serious step forward to challenge the Wolverines.
Key matchup: Orange County’s secondary takes on North Stafford’s Holt Egan. Egan had nine catches for 144 yards and four touchdowns against Potomac last week and Orange surrendered 326 yards through the air to King George last week. That’s not a great sign with a trip to take on Egan Friday. Can the Hornets’ fast, talented secondary get going in a serious test against North Stafford?
Who to watch: Orange’s Hylton Hale. Hale is a well established versatile playmaker for the Hornets and with teams locked in on Jaylen Alexander, Hale could see openings and touches while potentially taking pressure off Alexander down the road. His 51-yard touchdown run against King George showed he has the potential to do some serious damage.
The line: North Stafford by 17. Hornets have a tough schedule to get going, and this one is no exception.
Albemarle (0-1) at Eastern View (1-0), Friday 7 p.m.
The basics: Albemarel faced a bulldozer of a squad in Mountain View last week. Big at nearly every single position and in turn a challenge to block and tackle for young, inexperienced Patriots. Now they take on an Eastern View squad that beat Culpeper last week and is always one of the state’s most formidable Class 4 programs. This year is no exception as new faces in the backfield managed to pile up 214 yards on the ground last week, making it clear that graduation wasn’t going to slow down the Cyclones’ rushing attack.
Key matchup: Albemarle’s front seven takes on Eastern View’s Lawson. Lawson had 152 yards on the ground last week in his debut as the Cyclones’ lead back. Albemarle struggled to stop Mountain View’s multi-faceted ground game last week and things won’t get easier against Eastern View.
Who to watch: Albemarle’s Robert Jones. With Washington on the shelf and Mountain View pinning its ears back to attack Jake King, Jones was one of the few bright spots for Albemarle as he caught a couple of solid catch and runs for first downs on pinpoint short passes by King. It was a gimpse of what Albemarle’s offense could look like going forward and Jones will need to be a factor.
The line: Eastern View by 21. Young Patriots’ brutal schedule start continues with Cyclones.
Blue Ride (1-0) at Hargrave (0-1), Friday 7 p.m.
The basics: Blue Ridge got things started the right way with a strong surge after a slow start against Nansemond Suffolk. The Barons were resilient, shaking off an early missed field goal and a scoring burst by the Saints to pick up the win. Blue Ridge has athletes all over the field and uses them effectively by creating mismatches on the edge on offense and challenging teams on defense. Now they take on a Hargrave squad that absorbed a 43-0 loss on the road to Atlantic Shores in the Tigers’ season opener. Look for a similar effort by Blue Ridge against the Tigers.
Key matchup: Hargrave’s passing attack contends with Blue Ridge’s aggressive man-to-man scheme. The Barons can play football a lot of different ways on defense, but when you’ve got serious athletes, going man-to-man in the secondary to free up pass rushers is a pretty strong approach. Maliq Brown proved that choice right with a momentum-flipping pick against Nansemond Suffolk. Can they keep that going against the Tigers?
Who to watch: Blue Ridge’s Kenyon Carter. Carter’s debut at quarterback for the Barons was solid. He and Lance Gaskins obviously have a rapport with a pair of touchdown connections and it’s hard not to like Icesys Lewis if you’re his quarterback. Carter was effective at employing a bunch of different weapons by spreading the wealth. In other words, it was a nearly ideal start.
The line: Blue Ridge by 21. Barons should roll here with their arsenal of weapons.
Fork Union (0-0) at Bishop O’Connell (0-1), Saturday 1 p.m.
The basics: Fork Union gets the Mark Shuman era started on the road with a battle against Bishop O’Connell. The Blue Devils have largely revamped the roster and while key players like Will Stupalsky will be missed, defensive end Myles Brickhouse and newcomer at wideout Tigo Moss are reason to believe the Blue Devils will be vastly improved this year. That test will start against an O’Connell squad that absorbed a 35-0 blowout loss to Archbishop Curley a week ago. Look for Fork Union, who beat O’Connell a year ago, to take care of business here.
Key matchup: Bishop O’Connell’s run defense takes on V’Jon Hampton. Mostly a defensive back a year ago, Hampton broke out in early scrimmage work as a potentially gamebreaking running back, breaking off an 80-yard touchdown run on the Blue Devils’ first play of the year against a team other than itself. Hampton could give the Blue Devils a much-needed bell cow back against his challenging schedule.
Who to watch: Fork Union quarterback Alex Williams. The Blue Devils’ 6-foot-5 signal-caller gives some stability and a cornerstone for the offense to build around in Shuman’s first year. If the Illinois native is as locked in as he looked early in a scrimmage against New Kent, Williams is going to be dangerous.
The line: Fork Union by 17. Vastly improved from a year ago, this edition of the Blue Devils shouldn’t have to sweat this one out.
Bishop Sullivan (1-1) at Woodberry Forest (0-1), Saturday 2 p.m.
The basics: Woodberry Forest’s schedule is a bunch of heavy hitters, and opening up with Georgetown Prep, as the Tigers found out with a short fall camp, is an immediate challenge. Prep created a pack of turnovers in the early going and picked up a 30-14 win over Woodberry. Expect the Tigers to bounce back quickly from this one, but they’ll have to do so against a Bishop Sullivan team that’s emerged on the national scene with a loaded roster
Key matchup: Woodberry’s Ben Locklear versus Nehki Meredith. While it’s over-simplifying the passing game to go quarterback on safety, a quarterback of Locklear’s caliber can play mind games with a safety, looking them off, pushing them in the direction he wants to go to open up passing lanes. Meredith, an N.C. State commit, will be an interesting challenge in that regard, pushing Locklear to be at his best.
Who to watch: Woodberry’s Jianni Woodson-Brooks. Part of a talented linebacking corps, Woodson-Brooks will be a key part of Woodberry stopping the run and clamping down against the pass. He’s got the athleticism to do both and now he’ll be tested by Bishop Sullivan’s multi-faceted offensive approach.
The line: Woodberry by 1. Quite a schedule the Tigers have assembled but this program hasn’t lost two in a row in season since 2011.