Region 2A East quarterfinals: Strasburg (8-3) at Goochland (11-0), 7 p.m.
The basics: The Rams bounced back from a 38-7 loss to William Monroe to beat King Wiliam 41-20 thanks to turnovers and special teams play. The Bulldogs made quick work of Washington and Lee 49-7 in their Region 2A East playoff opener. This is a favorable matchup for Goochland but one they can’t look past. Yes Strasburg has struggled against the power running games of Monroe, Clarke County and East Rockingham. But the Rams also have four wins in one possession games. Goochland has yet to play in a one possession game, a testament to just how good this team has become on both sides of the ball. And maybe it doesn’t happen this week, but sooner or later this team is going to be tested in the fourth quarter. Nonetheless, Strasburg is not a team you can allow to linger around.
Key matchup: The Rams defensive front tries to solve Goochland’s four horsemen running back stall. Marcus Burton is a battering ram. Jasper Carter is versatile back with power and speed to break away. Calvin Martin and Cordell Mattox are electric. That’s 739, 575, 504 and 409 yards respectively amongst those four and remember that for the most part, those guys played with running clocks in the second half and barely saw the field in the fourth quarter. They have 26 touchdowns combined with Burton and Carter with seven each and Martin and Mattox with six each. If that’s not balance and depth, we don’t know what is. And with an offensive line that only gets better each week, Strasburg has to find a way to keep them off the field or at least playing defense. In this game, the Rams have to have a magic number and that’s 200 yards rushing. If Goochland gets that, it’s winning. If not, Strasburg has a shot in this one. From a defensive standpoint, trying to stop these backs means playing a simple front, staying at home if you’re a linebacker and making all the right reads if you’re a safety. That’s so hard to teach and even harder to execute.
Who to watch: Goochland’s Ricky Mayfield. While the Bulldogs always have an insane running back corps, and that’s year-after-year, sometimes the front seven on defense gets lost. But when Goochland’s made runs it’s been behind great play at that level. Jess McLaughlin was a beast during the 2011 playoff run and Nathan Adams every bit as much or more in 2012. Mayfield has been playing particularly well and he’s got company with Marqual Chennault who’s also been an absolute force too. Look for Mayfield and company to focus on Strasburg’s Austin Miller who’s a threat in both the running and passing game.
The line: Bulldogs by 9. Goochland has all the matchups in their favor on both sides of the ball, but they still have to go out there and do the job.
Region 2A East quarterfinals: Madison County (6-5) at Stuarts Draft (11-0), 7 p.m.
The basics: The Mountaineers playoff opener looked oddly similar to it’s season opener against King William and Madison took down Nandua 63-26. The Cougars followed up their huge regular season finale win against Riverheads with a 49-16 rolling of Nottoway. For Madison, this is the big test, facing the number one seed that is going to be no different than facing Clarke County or East Rockingham. The former gave Madison fits. The latter, Madison rallied to find a way to win that one. And that right there is the best way to describe this Mountaineer team. It’s one filled with potential, but also one that’s had to scratch and claw for every win and has endured its hiccups along the way. This would be the biggest win in well over a decade, but Madison needs to be next to perfect in this one.
Key matchup: Madison’s offensive line against the vaunted Stuart Draft defensive front seven. This is hands down the best defense that the Mountaineers have seen. They’re big, they’re fast, they have depth. While Madison’s line has had its struggles in pass protection against their toughest opponents, the run-blocking has been a different story as this Mountaineers unit always seems to find a way to get quarterback Chris Smith free for a long run, or open up a small door for running back Isiah Smith to do his thing. If Madison’s line can find a way for Chris Smith to get the passing attack going, this game changes. But the big thing for the Mountaineers is about moving chains, maintaining field position until they get those big plays from Smith and Smith.
Who to watch: Isiah Smith. If you haven’t seen what he does, what he can do with just a little opening, this is the game to see it. Smith is a four-year starter who’s toed the line since his freshman year and while his junior year was truly special, this senior campaign has been nothing but unreal. He’s lightning in a bottle and as good as the Cougars are, there’s going to be those moments where the Draft coaching staff will scratch their head and wonder how this senior running back finds a way to assert himself even when they throw everything but the kitchen sink to stop him.
The line: Cougars by 10. The top seed and a proven one at that still at home playing in colder weather with arguably the top defense in the Region 2A East playoffs, Draft has the right pieces falling in place here. But never sleep on Madison, everyone that has has been met with a surprise.
Region 4A West Quarterfinals: No. 8 Charlottesville (7-4) at No. 1 Woodgrove (10-0), 7 p.m.
The Basics: It was pretty obvious last week that John Champe wasn’t exactly sure how to stop Charlottesville’s option attack. When the Black Knights are playing with confidence and getting the job done on that side of the ball, they’re flat out tough to stop. The option could end up being the Black Knights’ trump card as not too many teams run it, making preparation particularly tough for squads that don’t see the Black Knights each year. Of course, on the flip side, Woodgrove is coming out of a bye week where they had a chance to heal up and prepare. There’s no question that this is a challenging opponent for the Black Knights and that they’ve got some serious work to do after a long bus ride. Woodgrove is averaging 46.9 points per game and the last time they were held under 48 was mid-September. Still, the Black Knights have been on fire lately, so there’s reason to think that if the same version of the Black Knights shows up Friday, Woodgrove is going to face a serious challenge of their own.
Key Matchup: Charlottesville’s secondary takes on Woodgrove’s passing attack. The Wolverines’ aerial assault gets a big lift from Mason Gryniuk, a 6-foot-2 receiver who led Loudoun County with 927 receiving yards in the regular season. That’s going to be an interesting matchup for the Black Knights who have given up some significant yards at times against passing offenses like in a win over Western where they surrendered 223 yards through the air. The Black Knights will need Rakeem Davis, Tre Durrett and company to play big-time football in the secondary. Throw in a Sam Neale pick like they got against John Champe and Charlottesville will be in it with the Wolverines.
Who to Watch: Charlottesville’s Sabias Folley. With 1,089 yards of rushing and 18 touchdowns, Folley has truly emerged as one of the area’s best power backs this year, and in the triple option he’s got the potential to give Woodgrove fits. Plus, if you load up against him, Lorenzo Louderback or Rakeem Davis can fry the Wolverines on the edge. You’ve got to play great fundamental defense against Charlottesville and Woodgrove is capable of it, but that’s easier said than done.
The line: Woodgrove by 10. Group 4A teams that are unbeaten at this point in the year are generally the real deal, but the Black Knights are red-hot and with the right breaks could steal one here.
Region 5A North Quarterfinals: No. 5 Albemarle (9-2) at No. 4 Potomac Falls (9-2), 7 p.m.
The Basics: Albemarle knew it could compete with its fellow 5A schools in the playoffs going into the first round clash with Falls Church, but now they’ve got proof. The Patriots’ first playoff win in 19 years is a huge confidence builder for a team that thrives when they’re confident. That’s when J’Quan Anderson’s ability to extend plays and improvise combine with Jamal Thompson gets in rhythm and Lorenz Brown makes teams pay downfield. If Albemarle is clicking offensively, it has the potential to be majorly problematic for Potomac Falls, who is coming off a 28-7 win over Orange County where they started slow, but finished with 28 unanswered points. Can Albemarle prevent a similar run and move the ball against a stingy Panthers defense? The last few weeks of this season say yes as Albemarle has won some close battles en route to a 7-game win streak. Keeping it going won’t be easy, but the Patriots just keep finding ways to win.
Key Matchup: Albemarle’s linebackers take on Potomac Falls’ ground game led by senior Kash Jackson. Jackson rushed for 112 yards and three of the Panthers’ four touchdowns against Orange last week as Potomac Falls managed to carve out a ground game against Orange. Since a meltdown against Louisa, Teshawn Massie and David Tomlin at middle linebacker have solidified the Patriots’ run defense, with Massie stacking up 73 total tackles while Tomlin has 92 total on the year. With that tandem locking down the run, Jackson could find tough sledding which would force Potomac Falls to try the air where Zykal Foster is applying pressure on the edge and a sound, dangerous group of defensive backs is lurking.
Who to Watch: The Patriots’ secondary. Albemarle’s defensive backs are taking on Potomac Falls’ leading wideout Kaevon Chase in particular. The Jefferson District doesn’t have many wideouts like Chase, a speedy 6-foot-4 matchup nightmare who had 906 yards in the regular season. But Na’il Arnold has been an underrated presence in the secondary for Albemarle this year with 10 pass breakups this season in his return to the field after not playing football since sixth grade. The junior has combined with Kris Anderson at free safety (five picks on the year) to give the Albemarle secondary an effective combination of players. Throw in Jamal Thompson and potentially J’Quan Anderson in spot duty and Albemarle has a bunch of game-changers on the back end of the defense.
The line: Albemarle by 1. Seven wins in a row and Albemarle has won in tough spots already like Powhatan. If the Patriots draw on that experience this has the potential to be another huge victory.
VISAA Division II State Final: Blue Ridge (8-2) at North Cross (11-0), 1 p.m. Saturday
The Basics: They’ve had to become road warriors to get it done, but Blue Ridge is back in the state championship game for the first time since 2012. By virtue of two tough road wins over Trinity Episcopal to close out the regular season and over Atlantic Shores in the state semifinals, the Barons will get a chance to play for a ring Saturday against a squad they lost to earlier this season. So now there’s a little potential revenge thrown in too with the Raiders on the other side of the field. These are two foes in general that know each other well from Old Dominion Football Conference battles, including the Raiders’ 42-34 win earlier this season where Blue Ridge squandered a halftime lead at home. Blue Ridge continued last week to get the job done with a stingy defense and a potent ground attack, with Jamison Harrison piling up 342 yards and five touchdowns at running back. The Blue Ridge defense settled in and held a previously-dynamic Atlantic Shores offense to just 15 points. The Barons have an identity and they matchup with a team capable of challenging them with a balanced offense. Isaac Harris at running back, Miles Lowman at quarterback with a host of weapons? Blue Ridge will definitely have its hands full again this week.
Key Matchup: Blue Ridge’s ballhawking defensive backs take on North Cross’s passing attack. With temperatures expected to settle in the low 60s around game-time Saturday, the Raiders could get a chance to throw the ball a little more than might usually be advantageous in November. That’ll mean that Blue Ridge’s secondary and linebackers will need to be ready to roll as Lowman has thrown for 2,485 yards and 36 touchdowns this season while throwing to Tyler Slash, Nariq Bailey and ZaeWaun Baines in a pretty equal distribution (713, 650 and 573 yards respectively). The Barons counter with Cameron Carr, Xavier Kane, Nazir Hopson and Aaron Aldridge among others, and can apply pressure to Lowman on the blitz. Blue Ridge is, unlike most high school teams, capable of guarding a three or four receiver attack effectively because of their athleticism. Can they do it for another week?
Who to Watch: Blue Ridge’s offensive line. The Barons’ crew up front is the reason Justin Armwood and Harrison have been posting some big time rushing totals, and now they face one more big test where they’re going to have to open up holes against the Raiders. Expect Blue Ridge to add a couple of wrinkles in up front so that they can once again get the ball moving against North Cross.
The line: Push. Blue Ridge is playing really well, but the Raiders nipped them earlier in the season. This one feels about dead even.