Class 2, Region A Championship: No. 2 Poquoson (9-3) at No. 1 Goochland (12-0), 7 p.m.
The basics: For the longest time, the Bulldogs were actually chasing the Islanders in the standings. But with three losses in their last four games, the Islanders wound up surrendering the top seed. It would appear that Poquoson has bounced back to form though after a 62-0 win over Bruton and a 49-0 win against Greensville in the first two rounds of the playoffs. Facing Amelia for the second time in three weeks, the Bulldogs kept their perfect season rolling with a 41-20 victory against the Raiders. Goochland has not faced much of a challenge outside of the two meetings with Amelia. Poquoson plays in a Bay Rivers District that features some really strong 3A and 4A schools including York, Lafayette and Jamestown so they are battle tested. This should be a good battle between the top two seeds in this bracket.
Key matchup: The Bulldogs front seven against the Islanders’ rushing duo of Colten Hicks and Bailey Green. Against Greenville in the first half, Hicks needed just 10 carries for 158 yards and Green just nine touches for his 143. Goochland has fared well most of the year against the run, but this will be the best backfield it has faced. With front seven that includes first teamers on the All-James River District squad in Ricky Mayfield, Sam Brooks, Jamal Carter and John King, the Bulldogs have the size, strength and talent to bottle up Hicks and Green. Keeping those two in between the hash marks will be crucial as they can do an awful lot of damage in open space on sweeps or when they bounce things out to the edge of the field.
Who to watch: Goochland’s Dallas Holmes. The senior has showed a lot of big play ability in the first two games of the playoffs. Don’t be surprised if he and quarterback Devin McCray wind up connecting on some big passes downfield as the Islanders will undoubtedly throw everything they have to slow down running back Jasper Carter. Holmes has three receptions for 121 yards in the last two weeks including a 70-yard touchdown last week. The Bulldogs are hard enough to stop when you’re a defense trying to stay honest against the single-wing. A few plays here and there from McCray to Holmes could very well give the Bulldogs the edge here.
The line: Goochland by 1. The Bulldogs haven’t fallen in a home playoff game since 2014. They are 6-0 since then.
Class 4, Region B Championship: No. 3 Louisa County (12-0) at No. 1 Dinwiddie (12-0), 7 p.m.
The basics: Both these squads are coming off thrilling victories the previous week. The Lions pulled off an upset on the road last week against Monacan to take down the second seeded Indians, bouncing back from a 21-7 deficit to win 35-28. Dinwiddie took down unbeaten Eastern View with a last minute field goal to seal a 40-37 win. These are two solid teams on both sides of the ball. If the second round was any indication, this should be a fantastic football game. Expect it to be very, very physical. And on the emotional side, it’s pretty obvious by now that this senior class for Louisa and coach Mark Fischer have a scratch and claw to them when they’re down that is very, very dangerous.
Key matchup: The Lions front eight against Dinwiddie’s K’ymon Pope. The quarterback is a problem. He had 20 carries for 155 yards to go along with his 163 yards passing. Louisa has to keep focused on running back Zyan Sturdivant, but running backs haven’t been able to do a whole lot against this defensive front. Last week Louisa found a way to bend and not break against a gifted mobile quarterback in Syour Fludd. They need to be as good or better against Pope, stopping him from extending plays, picking up first downs with his feet or making big plays downfield. Tony Thurston and the defensive line should be able to collapse the pocket — so far, nobody has stopped that from happening for Louisa. Once again it will be up to this unbelievably deep linebacking unit whether it’s Brandon Smith in the middle or Raquan Jones or Job Whalen on the edges to clean up the mess that the defensive line spills outward. Again, nobody has really been able to stop that unit from doing its job and certainly not for more than a quarter or two.
Who to watch: The battle of the big names — Dinwiddie linebacker K’Vaughn Pope versus Smith. These two might not run into each other on the field, but this is almost a dueling banjo battle of linebackers with a wealth of Division I offers. Yes, that line of thinking usually works better on the offensive side of the ball, two opposing quarterbacks or running backs trying to out-do the other. But linebackers can do it just the same if you’re playing close attention. If you’re playing the game or on the sidelines, you can feel the tone of a game being set or changed because of an amazing athletic play. Pope and Smith are the guys that make those kind of plays when they defy the odds. So much game planning goes their way that they wind up being underappreciated by the casual fan because they’re wrapped up in double teams and so forth. But teammates and coaches see the effect they have on a game, appreciate the opportunity their sacrifice creates for other teammates. Pope is headed to Ohio State next year and his offer list is every bit as extensive as Smith’s. There’s a chance they could be teammates or opponents in the very near future. This will be the only time they share the field as high school athletes.
The line: Louisa by 1. With all that’s on the line for the Lions seniors and their coach, you can’t pick against them right now until they lose.