Region 4B semifinals, No. 4 Eastern View (11-0) at No. 1 Louisa County (11-0), 7:30 p.m.
The basics: Well, while it still might be fun for the Lions to run into one of the squads from last year’s playoff run, say Monacan or Dinwiddie, this is the one pretty much everyone was rooting for because it didn’t happen last year. The Cyclones were bounced last year in this round by Dinwiddie in a 40-37 classic, but after a 40-3 drubbing of the 5-seed in Midlothian last week, the Cyclones will be eager to pick up the win that evaded them in 2017. The Lions, true road warriors last year, get to play at home until they lose or get out of the Region. With a 36-3 win over Huguenot, Louisa gets to play a program that is just 38 miles away. Oddly enough, this is the first undefeated playoff opponent the Lions have faced. Louisa is 9-10 all-time in the playoffs with four of those wins coming in 2017 and another three in the other big state final run in 2006. Eastern View is 7-6 alltime in the playoffs. The Cyclones have only won more than one game in the playoffs once, back in 2016 where they picked up a pair of victories before falling to Lafayette. Louisa is 3-1 against Eastern View with wins from 2008-2010 and a loss in the most recent meeting between the two back in 2012. This is as good of a second round playoff game as you get and it’s going to be packed in the Jungle by a pair of fan bases that have been awaiting this exact matchup in the playoffs since Eastern View opened its doors in 2008.
Key matchup: Eastern View’s defense front takes on Jarett Hunter’s ability to make reads in the single wing. The Cyclones defense has given up just 8.27 points per game. Nobody’s scored more than one touchdown on them since Spotsylvania at the end of September, who also holds the highest total with 21 points in a 63-21 game. A big part of that is that Eastern View’s offense has gone up so big early, chewed up so much time that teams get one-dimensional trying to comeback. Louisa has options, but none better than Hunter’s talent as a running quarterback who decides to in a heart beat whether to handoff one of two ways or take the ball for himself. Of course, the Lions can also bring in quarterback Rob Allinder and use Hunter in more of a classic running back role too. The bottom line is that when the chips have been down, the Lions have counted on Hunter to tote the ball. He does a great job of knowing when to keep it for himself, but also letting Kalup Shelton pick up reasonable gains to set up the next play. And that’s the thing about this Louisa offense. It’s not dialing up the big play every down, it’s more like boxing, throwing a jab, throwing a jab and waiting for that perfect hook. But sometimes it can just jab your to death too. With Avery Sites leading a stout defensive line, linebacker Zach Brown leading the attack in the middle and defensive back Alex Spangler, this unit with both test and be tested by Hunter. That’s going to be quite the show one way or the other.
Who to watch: Lousia County’s Brandon Smith. The senior is something that Eastern View has only seen on tape but not in person. The Penn State-bound, frothing, rabid, sideline-to-sideline linebacker is somebody that multiple Jefferson District coaches have described as unsolveable because there is no running around him, only into him. Teams get fooled into Louisa’s trap because as good as Smith is, Reggie Cosby, Aaron Aponte and Austin Sims are highly underrated and it’s not like teams don’t take them seriously either. With Eastern View running the ball out of the spread using quarterback Matt Lowry and running back Trey Holmes at running back, the big thing for Smith and his unit is to make sure that neither of those two break off big chunks. Both runners are nimble, slippery and dangerous in space. What they aren’t is a pair of battering rams. So if Smith is able to take advantage of his size and speed and get a big lick on either, that could change the game. That’s not going to be easy though. Eastern View’s big offensive line led by Adam Lillard and Jason Southern, a pair of 270-pounders, doesn’t let to many defenders have their way with this dynamic rushing tandem. That said, they’ve never had to deal with somebody like Smith.
The line: Louisa by 1. We’re going solely on strength of schedule here. The Lions played a pair of teams with eight wins. The Cyclones played one. Homefield should be helpful, but both these teams have so much depth that this really will come down to talent and mistakes.
Region 3C Semifinals: No. 7 Liberty-Bedford (6-5) at No. 3 Western Albemarle (9-2)
The Basics: A major door opened for Western Albemarle last Thursday when Liberty-Bedford went on the road and knocked off No. 2-seeded Spotswood and the Warriors walked right through it with a dismantling of Rockbridge. That earned Western a second home game, and they’ll face a Liberty team that was clearly underseeded in part because they play in a loaded Seminole District that went 5-2 in week one in the playoffs. The Minutemen, in fact, lost by just three points back in September to No. 1-seed Heritage-Lynchburg, so this squad isn’t going to be comfortable leaving Crozet quietly. Liberty has been tested regularly with its tough schedule and bounced back from a three-game losing skid to win three of its final five games with losses to E.C. Glass and Rustburg. Inconsistency has plagued the Minutemen while Western has been consistent all year, leaning on a strong ground attack — Austin Shifflett went for 191 yards last week to push him over 1,700 on the year — and a defense with a ton of different stoppers capable of getting the job done and playing their role. Liberty is going to have its work cut out for it in this one and Western’s defense has proven capable of answering the bell night in and night out.
Key matchup: Western’s seasoned front seven takes on Liberty’s dual threat quarterback Aladdin Elroumy. Elroumy accounted for five touchdowns a week ago in the upset road win over Spotswood. If he puts together a similar performance, it’s going to give the Warriors’ senior-laden defense some headaches and could make this one a tough escape for Western. That’ll start with Bronson Brown and Sayer Brown up front and continue with Aidan Saunders and Jack Lesemann at linebacker. If that quartet can keep Elroumy hemmed in, it’ll go a long way toward clamping down on the Liberty offense.
Who to watch: Western’s Carter Shifflett. The Warriors’ junior quarterback’s development has been astounding, going from an entirely unknown quantity to a first team All-Jefferson District pick for his game management and soundness with the football to an unleashed threat in the first round of the playoffs where he threw for 186 yards and four touchdowns. If there was a most improved player in the area award, Shifflett would undoubtedly be in contention. Can he keep making teams pay for loading up against Austin Shifflett with his crafty play action work? We’ll find out this week.
The line: Western Albemarle by 1. Warriors’ dynamic offense is the difference-maker here.
Region 2A semifinals, No. 4 King William (9-1) at No.1 Goochland (11-0), 7 p.m. at Fluvanna County
The basics: The Cavaliers are playing a playoff game with the Bulldogs for the third time since 2011. King William destroyed Greensville in the first round, 35-0 with all of those points in the first half. Goochland had an interesting night with Brunswick early but ran away with a 26-8 win. The Bulldogs engaged in a classic in 2011 with the Cavaliers before blowing them out in 2012. Now in 2018, the question that begs to be asked — how good are these records really? King William played two teams with a winning record going 1-1, getting housed by a really good Central Woodstock team and then bouncing back to beat a solid West Point team. Goochland handed the second seed in Region 2A, Amelia, it’s only loss of the year two weeks ago. The Bulldogs also beat a playoff team with a winning record in Buckingham at the end of September. So these two have beat up a lot on the teams they should have. King William plays the best team its seen since Central, Goochland sees the best team since Amelia. Usually the 1-4 matchups in Class 2A aren’t this good, but this one appears to be pretty solid.
Key matchup: The Goochland defensive front takes on King William’s large offensive line. The Cavaliers have a pair of tackles in Tommy Rife and Nathan Baker who measure in at 6-foot-2 and 280 pounds and 6-foot-3 and 290 pounds respectively. Goochland has a pair of true Bulldogs in defensive tackles Khalil Holman and Jamal Carter and then another mauler in 6-foot, 225-pound defensive end Jacob Massey. But behind them will be Sam Brooks who is going to sport the club on a hand he injured against Amelia. Brooks sat out last week because Goochland had that luxury, but he was dressed and ready to go if the time came. The senior linebacker is a jack-of-all-trades. He’s outstanding in coverage, flies to the ball on the run. He’s like having an extra lineman and safety at the same time. This is going to be a great battle in the trenches and Brooks might be the guy that makes the difference. While King William might have a size advantage, Goochland has an athletic advantage. Nothing like a contrast in style. And with this game on field turf at Fluvanna, the speedier athletes are going to happier than playing in the muck. The Cavaliers need to make room for Marc Gresham and Kolbe Jorgeson.
Who to watch: The quarterbacks. These are run first teams. Goochland’s Devin McCray is a great at running this offense, making reads on the run for himself or his backs, and also at rolling out and getting the passing game going when the time comes. King William’s Lance Alfonso isn’t a big runner, but he threw for a trio of touchdowns last week to three different receivers, none of them more dangerous than Gresham. Don’t be surprised if McCray is tasked with covering Gresham on defense. But getting back to the QB side of the ball, how often will either squad take to the air? This game might come down to who is the more polished passer or rather, who’s under less duress from the opposing defense. Either way, with both teams needing to control the clock with the ground game, of course the quarterbacks will dictate the flow of the big plays in this one. It’s just a matter of who needs to and who can. Those two aren’t mutually exclusive.
The line: Goochland by 3. The Bulldogs are 2-0 in the only meetings between these two. And playing on field turf should benefit Goochland athleticism on both sides of the ball.
VISFL 8-Man Championship: Covenant (9-0) versus St. Anne’s-Belfield (7-3) at Albemarle 2 p.m Saturday
The Basics: When STAB and Covenant, two of the major catalysts for the creation of the VISFL 8-man league, helped put this together, they may not have seen this coming. But considering the historical record of the Saints and Eagles, Covenant’s seasoned talent at the skill spots and STAB’s young talent and the rest of the league’s teams’ developing status, this matchup may have been something of a foregone conclusion. A third edition of the Saints/Eagles pits two squads that are playing really well right now, with the Eagles still unbeaten while STAB comes in the game on a 7-1 run to finish the season, with the lone loss coming to Covenant. This game has the added bonus of two coaches in STAB’s John Blake and Covenant’s Seth Wilson who are adept Xs and Os guys, so we should see some new wrinkles with no games left on the schedule and that should make this one exciting. Still, Covenant has put 62 on the Saints in both previous matchups, and STAB has struggled to find a rhythm. Coming up with stops and getting the ball moving on offense early will be critical for the Saints — they can’t afford a slow start in this one with Rick Weaver, Jonas Sanker, Luke Sorenson and even Chaz Harvey flashing an ability to score on the ground or through the air. The Saints have their work cut out from them to try and flip the script from the first two losses, though we don’t often get to test the “it’s hard to beat a team three times” adage during football season. Perhaps that tilts in the Saints’ favor.
Key matchup: STAB’s balanced ground attack takes on the Covenant run defense. Thomas Harry was jacked up last week to play and it showed, and with Gabe Decker and Amani Woods in a groove too, the Saints had a balanced ground game going throughout the win over Virginia Episcopal. Covenant though is a suffocating group on defense, they did an excellent job of flowing to the ball and tackling soundly when STAB runs power. Against Brunswick a week ago, the defense helped Covenant stack up a 28-0 lead before they’d even touched the ball.
Who to watch: Covenant’s Jonas Sanker. Sanker scored against Brunswick in the semifinals in three different ways, taking a pick back for a touchdown, a slant route 70 yards on the run and a punt return for a score. He’s such a multi-faceted threat on his own that he can open things up for Rick Weaver up the middle by forcing the defense to stay at home on the edge on offense and he can roam and create havoc anywhere on defense. Tough matchup problem for the Saints in all three phases.
The line: Covenant by 14. Eagles are pretty locked in and have proven capable twice of controlling this matchup.