Region 3C Quarterfinals: No. 5 Fluvanna County (6-4) at No 4. Brookville (7-3), Friday 7 p.m. at Amherst High
The basics: The Flucos are playing in their first playoff game since 2000. That’s a huge step for this program, but a playoff win would take what’s already been a validated breakout season and tattoo an exclamation point on it. Fluvanna is coming off a 35-7 loss on the road to Louisa County and on a three game losing streak, so there’s a lot going on here. Brookville ran into some trouble in the middle of the season with E.C. Glass and Rustburg but has since won three of its last four including a regular season finale win over Liberty Christian 23-6.
Key matchup: The Flucos rushing defense takes on Brookville running back Ryan North. The junior packs a punch in a small package. At 5-foot-8 and 210 pounds, he was the leading rusher in Brookville’s win over LCA that saw the team put together 274 yards on the ground and three touchdowns. Fluvanna should be prepped for this. By facing the top two teams in the Jefferson District at the end of the year in Western Albemarle and then Louisa, the Flucos have been up against some true power rushing teams. While the Bees operate out of a spread look, there’s no question that playing against Louisa’s single wing and Western’s spread and prostyle attack should help them. The Flucos showed well against both teams defensively in the first half. They just have to make sure that the Bees don’t grind them down like Fluvanna’s last two opponents did in the second halves of the last two weeks. Defensive lineman Joey Van Dyke and linebacker Malachi Hill give Fluvanna proven commodities to lead the attack with both layers of the front seven.
Who to watch: Fluvanna’s Prophett Harris. Whether as a runner on offense or as cornerback, Harris has been truly impactful all season long. In this game he’ll get a chance to shine in both areas, because Bees quarterback Zach Mann will put the ball in the air to Brendan Brown. On the other side of the ball, the Flucos will need Harris to make the touches he gets count. Sometimes that will mean big gains on the ground, other times, just moving the chains with a slick move. Harris has been a great player on a team that’s struggled in years past but now sits as a great player on a team that’s come out and made a name for itself this season. A big game from him would be all to fitting and inspire the group around him.
The line: Brookville by 3. The Bees have played an impressive schedule and managed it really, really well. They’re going to be a tough out. Fluvanna can hang here, but they have to win the second half of this game to pull of the upset.
Region 2C quarterfinals: No. 7 Buckingham (6-4) at No. 2. Glenvar (9-1), Friday 7 p.m.
The basics: The Knights finished up what was a wild season playing four games in 13 days and finishing with a 32-14 win over Prince Edward to turn a 2-4 season into a playoff appearance. Buckingham has won four straight but now jumps back into play with the big boys. The Highlanders fell for the first time last week with a 17-7 loss to Radford. The Knights have played a 1-loss Appotmattox team that could easily win it’s fourth straight Class 2A title (something that’s never been done) and also a 1-loss Amelia team and an undefeated Goochland team. Buckingham nearly beat Amelia and showed well against Goochland before things got away late. So don’t be surprised if they put up a good fight here on the road and are in a position to steal one late. The Knights pulled the upset against Dan River on the road back in 2014 when few thought they had a chance. This is Buckingham’s first playoff appearance since 2015. It would be something if the first year of the Seth Wilkerson era saw the Knights win a playoff game like this, but it is going to be an uphill battle to say the least.
Key matchup: The Knights offensive line takes on the Highlanders defensive line. Obviously this is the key for Buckingham every week, but in this week it rings a little more true. Senior lineman Maxx Philpott is a 6-foot- 295-pound force in the middle. In the middle is Buckingham’s bread and butter. The Knights have to find a way to move Philpott and make space for running back Walter Edwards to do his thing. The junior running back is the pulse of this offense. When he gets going in the big pile runs that offense has embraced this season the Knights are just a different team. It will be up to a young offensive line that’s made huge progress to try and scheme a way around Philpott and make sure Edwards has a big day. Buckingham’s blueprint is simple for it to win. It’s just a lot easier said than done.
Who to watch: Glenvar quarterback Landrey Gerbers. The senior is a load at QB at 6-foot-6 and 235 pounds. He’s a dual threat and obviously he packs a serious punch as a runner. The Knights will need a good push up front from Cole Edmonston to apply pressure in the pocket. Then QT Stanton and Edwards have to be sound at linebacker. While Glenvar has been solid offensively with Gerbers, the Highlanders have flourished as a defense first team. Stopping Gerbers takes away the biggest threat on the other side of the ball.
The line: The Highlanders by 4. Buckingham has put together a great run here to get into this position but Glenvar’s defense has teeth and depth to go on a deep playoff run.
Region 2A quarterfinals: No. 8 Brunswick (3-7) at 1. Goochland (10-0), Friday 7 p.m.
The basics: The visiting Bulldogs have lost five of their last six including last week’s 32-0 defeat to Greensville. The hosting Bulldogs have just completed a third straight undefeated regular season with a doozy of a win over unbeaten Amelia 17-12 last week after weeks of coasting through the lower end of the James River District standings. A single digit game was great preparation for Goochland. It’s something it hasn’t seen since week one with Thomas Jefferson , and really only Buckingham and Nottoway were able to provide tests before the big showdown with the Raiders last week. Now it’s back to October mode with Brunswick… except you can’t afford to come up short here.
Key matchup: Brunswick linebacker Malik Hicks and the front seven take on Goochland quarterback Devin McCray. He’s back! McCray got a bit of a vacation in October but Goochland showed just how much he means to the team against Amelia with his legs and arms. While Goochland was held to 171 yards of offense, McCray accounted for 61 yards passing and another 55 rushing with a pair of touchdowns. It was tough day offensively for Goochland, but McCray worked his way through it. It will be up to Hicks to figure out where McCray decides to handoff, to take off and what to do if he decides to occasionally drop back and throw. Goochland might not need much for their quarterback this week, but now that its playoff time, you know the gloves are off.
Who to watch: Goochland’s linebacker Sam Brooks. As important as McCray’s two interceptions were on defense for Goochland last week, Brooks’ six tackles (two for a loss and a sack) are the staple of this defense. Just like McCray on offense, Goochland’s top defender has been spending a lot of second halves on the sidelines. But when he gets to play four quarters it shows. Look for him to try and make an impact early in this one and force turnovers to set up the Goochland offense with short fields to run up this score quick and make life easy.
The line: Goochland by 17. It’s good to be the top seed in Region 2A, that’s why winning last week was so important.
Region 5D Quarterfinals: 8. Albemarle (4-6) at 1. Massaponax (9-1), Thursday 7 p.m.
The basics: Albemarle has had a roller coaster of a season. The Patriots lost four straight, won four straight and then dropped the final two games of the regular season including a flat performance a week ago against cross-county rival Western Albemarle. The reward for that four-game midseason swing and scheduling tough early? A matchup with a Massaponax team that’s a physical nightmare to play against with a power run game and a hard-hitting defense. The Panthers are riding a three-game win streak and their lone loss came at the hands of Division 6’s Colonial Forge who is perhaps the best team in the state and hammered Albemarle 45-7 during that four-game skid that started the season. The Patriots are going to need a tremendous effort to hang with the Panthers, which means the defense is going to have to get locked in after Western shredded them last week. Massaponax runs the triple option, so it’s assignment football for a defense with some productive players in the front seven including All-District picks Jake Rombach, Eric Taylor and John Barber. Can they play assignment football and stuff an attack that rarely gets stuffed?
Key Matchup: Albemarle’s front seven takes on Massaponax’s offensive line. Led by West Virginia-bound guard Donavan Beaver, this isn’t your typical triple option offensive line with a bunch of quick, undersized technicians. These are quick, massive technicians with Beaver’s 6-foot-6, 275-pound frame setting the tone. The triple option can easily change things up with misdirection to take advantage of what a defense offers it, and behind that offensive line is a fleet of potential ball carriers who can make Albemarle play. Albemarle’s Rombach, Taylor, Barber and Donovan Berry as well as Marquan Jones who’ll likely find himself in the box most of the night have their hands full.
Who to watch: Albemarle’s DaQuandre Taylor. The Patriots’ quarterback has looked like a rugged, near unstoppable runner at times this year, but he’s also experienced frustration while trying to get in sync with a largely new crop of skill players while also shouldering more of the load when Mahki Washington got hurt. It’s possible Washington returns against Massaponax, but the Patriots will need both to play the best game of their high school careers to knock off the Panthers.
The line: Massaponax by 21. The Patriots run into a steamroller here, they’ll need to be all but perfect to get over the hump.
Region 4B Quarterfinals: 8. Huguenot (4-6) at 1. Louisa County (10-0), Friday 7:30 p.m.
The basics: Louisa County find itself in what is becoming a familiar spot. Hosting a home playoff game after completing its second-straight 10-0 campaign. This time they’ve got outright home field advantage too and the Lions open up with a favorable opponent in Huguenot, who is coming off a 41-0 drubbing at the hands of Monacan, Region 4B’s No. 2 seed. But this is a loaded, tough region where there aren’t any gimmies as Louisa learned last year when it had to open with Chancellor, a vastly improved team that gave it some trouble before the Lions pulled away in the second half. Expect the Lions to be ready this time around, especially with Jarett Hunter running the way he has and the defense forcing six turnovers just a week ago against Fluvanna. Louisa has all the ingredients it needs to be a tough out for anyone during this postseason. Brandon Smith who is always great at middle linebacker seems to have found another gear recently and Aaron Aponte and Reggie Cosby have elevated their games of late too. The Lions are just clicking at a really high level while Huguenot just isn’t right now. They went seven possessions without a first down in the first half against Monancan, and they’ll jump into the Jungle still searching for an offensive rhythm. The Falcons’ last three wins of the season came against three teams with a total of four wins between them, so Louisa should be in pretty good shape if they come out and execute.
Key Matchup: Huguenot’s front seven takes on Louisa’s multi-faceted attack. The Lions’ offense has a unique dimension in that they can essentially flip from a spread-based approach to an old school single wing. That essentially forces opposing defenses to prepare for two completely different teams. When Rob Allinder is in at quarterback, the Lions can sling it more than usual and tend to attack on the edges with quick horizontal passes or down the sideline. When Jarett Hunter comes in as part of the more traditional Louisa single wing package, suddenly you’re back to trying to defend smash mouth football. The transition can be jarring and Louisa and its coaching staff have used it deftly this year. Huguenot has its work cut out for them.
Who to watch: Louisa’s Xavien Hunter. Hunter is just a junior and on a defense packed with playmakers and with a front seven like the Lions’ it’s easy to overlook the corner. But Hunter was solid against Fluvanna making a pair of big plays with a fumble recovery and a breakup on a perfectly-played fade in the end zone. The Lions’ young, fluid secondary has been rightly pointed as a potential point of attack for opposing offenses, but so far the haven’t gotten burned and they’re starting to come around in a big way. Hunter is a big part of that improvement.
The line: Louisa County by 21. The Lions should cruise here, one reward of the work they put in during the regular season.
Region 3C Quarterfinals: 6. Rockbridge County (6-4) at 3. Western Albemarle (8-2), Friday 7 p.m.
The basics: While Fluvanna County’s turnaround has been the story of 2018 football, what Western Albemarle has done is pretty impressive too. After two years of winning five total games, the Warriors went 6-1 in the Jefferson District and their two losses are to teams that are No. 1 or No. 2 in their respective regions. Bottom line, the Warriors have gotten it going in a big way and as we’ve pointed out repeatedly this year, they’ve done it with an entirely new offensive identity focused on a downhill ground attack led by 1,500-yard rusher Austin Shifflett and his savvy offensive line. Throw in the improved play of quarterback Carter Shifflett who has become a serious threat on the ground and with his arm in his own right and the Warriors have enough different dimensions to get the job done against whatever a defense throws at them. Now they face a Rockbridge team that has beaten the teams its supposed to beat but only has one win over a team with a record better than .500, 6-5 Fort Defeiance. Common opponent wise, both teams beat Broadway, Western in its opener, Rockbridge in its season finale. Both teams lost to Lord Botetourt, Western 35-16, Rockbridge 66-6 a week later back in September.
Key Matchup: Western’s seasoned defense contends with Rockbridge playmaker Johnny Dunn. Dunn is a threat on the ground and through the air. He scored all three Rockbridge touchdowns a week ago against Broadway with three catches for 98 yards and two scores and ran for 94 yards and a touchdown. Western has proven capable of neutralizing a lot of different kinds of weapons with top-notch team football on the defensive side. They’ve got versatile pieces like first team All-JD picks Jack Weyher and Jack Lesemann
Who to watch: Western’s Bronson Brown. Brown quietly put together a tremendous season on the defensive line for the Warriors. Brown piled up 16.5 tackles for a loss during the regular season and 4.5 sacks while making 37 solo stops. While the Warriors’ key to success defensively has been the fact that they are extremely balanced defensively with each player working within their role (as evidenced by seven players with 30 or more tackles in 10 games), having someone like Brown excelling in his spot has been a huge boost.
The line: Western Albemarle by 7. The Warriors’ identity reigns supreme here — they know who they are and they’ve proven determined to stay true to it.