Louisa County (5-0) at Powhatan (4-1), 7:30 p.m.
The basics: The Lions are coming off a 36-17 win over Western Albemarle while the Indians took down Charlottesville 23-6. Powhatan fell at Western Albemarle two weeks ago 28-21 in the only common opponent between the two. With the Lions playing Albemarle, Western and now Powhatan, their Jefferson District schedule appears pretty front loaded. The Indians continue to run a pro-style run heavy offense under longtime coach Jim Woodson. The Powhatan defense held Midlothian, Caroline and Charlottesville to seven points or less. So these are two fairly like minded teams that play solid defense and grind teams town.
Key matchup: The Louisa secondary against Powhatan quarterback Jacob Moss. Field conditions and injuries for the Warriors meant that Western wasn’t able to really try and see if it could take Albemarle’s gameplan against the Lions and make it work for them. But with improved conditions, will the Indians use Moss and get him to try and spread the ball around to Jared Somerville, Colby Cheatham and Clay Allen-Hamby? Moss was successful moving the ball through the air against a healthy Western defense so the opportunity to try and do that with Louisa is tempting. Also, the alternative is trying to find a way through the 3-5 front eight of this Louisa defense that is just a meat grinder when it comes to running backs. If nobody has been able to run well against this unit, why go head first into that challenge? With Isaiah Nichols picking off two passes a week ago, expect the secondary to be ready to be challenged. With three interceptions and two for scores two weeks ago, coming after this group if you’re Moss comes with a challenge too.
Who to watch: Louisa quarterback Rob Allinder. Last week, conditions basically dictated that the Lions had to just lean on old school Louisa football with Hunter and running back Kalup Shelton combining for nearly 350 yards on the ground. But just like the Indians will be tempted to see what Moss can do in the air, the Lions will be eager to continue Allinder’s growth as a passer after picking up big plays from receivers Noah Robinson and Mark Carter. With Allinder and Hunter on the field, defenses have been in a no-win situation. That’s the beauty of it right now. Don’t be surprised if we see a little bit of Air Louisa this week.
The line: The Lions by 9. This is a solid road test for Louisa here but the Lions have all the advantages talent wise to come up with another double digit win. Western’s 19-point margin was the closest anyone’s come to a win against the Lions so far.
William Monroe (1-4) at Heritage-Leesburg (4-2), 7 p.m.
The basics: The Dragons are coming off their bye week after a close win on the road against archrival Madison County 20-14 the week before. The Pride is coming off a 35-6 over Loudoun Valley. This was a last minute reschedule for the Dragons as Manassas Park was supposed to play in this game but was unable to field a team this year. That’s a tough break for Monroe as Heritage is a pretty good team. But with the Dragons getting that first win under their belt, maybe they can ride some of that momentum and the two weeks to prepare for Heritage work in their favor.
Key matchup: The Dragons’ secondary battles Heritage quarterback Brett Johnson. The 6-foot-2 junior signal caller was 11-for-20 with 198 yards and three touchdowns last week against Loudoun. Monroe has Alex Kinsey, Sal Coyle and Jaekwon Wayne to counter this passing attack. They held a Madison County offense that likes to throw the ball deep to two scores two weeks ago. This unit will be called upon again to come up with some solid coverage at the minimum, and might have to find a way to come up with a turnover and convert it into points for the Dragons to pick up win number two.
Who to watch: Monroe’s Alex Kinsey. His play at quarterback could not be more important. He was dinged up three weeks ago but looked pretty good back in action with Madison. Between being the engine that drives the Monroe offense with his dual-threat ability and then what he brings as a defender in the secondary, Kinsey is a heady player that matters a lot, especially when he’s at full strength. Just how much better will he look after a week off. Kinsey at 100% makes team look a lot different and in a good way on both sides of the ball.
The line: Heritage by 3. The Pride have won two of the last three with a 21-14 loss to Dominion being the break up between three straight.
Goochland (5-0) at Cumberland (0-5), 7 p.m.
The basics: The Bulldogs handled business with a physical Buckingham team in a 21-7 win last week. Now they get a Dukes team that’s coming off a 67-12 loss to Amelia. This is as serious of a mismatch as it gets in the James River District. The perennial leader taking on the team that struggles the most. Cumberland has lost 48-12, 50-16, 48-6, 42-12 and of course the 55-point loss last week. Goochland can take a number approaches here, but the most important one is to get the win wrapped up quickly and get the first team players off the field healthy. If things get out of hand out of the gate, this is where the Bulldogs can open up the playbook and try things that might be useful down the road, particularly in the playoffs. It’s also an opportunity for the younger members of the team that don’t get a lot of reps to get some valuable experience.
Key matchup: The Dukes’ offensive line against the Bulldogs front seven. Jamal Carter leads a defensive line that is big, quick and mean. Sam Brooks and Kindrick Braxton lead a linebacking corps that flies to the ball, knows how to read and react. Cumberland has to be perfect upfront not just to be successful, but from this unit backing the Dukes up and creating great field position for the Bulldogs offense.
Who to watch: Goochland’s Dakhari Burgess. The Bulldogs running back has been getting a handful of snaps each week and could be poised for a big game this week. Burgess had a solid 20-yard run against the Knights last week and has really nice speed to break off even bigger runs. The backfield has been very even in terms of snaps for him and fellow backs Connor Popielarz and Quincey Snead. This is a chance for Burgess to really pile up the yardage.
The line: The Bulldogs by 28. These are the games that are hard to watch in the first half if your a Goochland coach. The bad news? There’s probably three more of these until the season finale with Amelia.
Madison County (1-4) at Nelson County (1-5), 7:30 p.m.
The basics: The Mountaineers are coming off a 67-7 win on the road with Rappahannock. The Governors fell 56-14 to Covington last week. Madison ran away with this one last year 56-7. With the number of close losses that the Mountaineers have had their 1-4 record is a bit misleading. Nelson has dropped three straight since their 36-28 win over Craig. It would be nice to see a close game here but Madison’s offense has shown a lot of big play ability between last week and against two Class 3A programs in William Monroe and Fluvanna County.
Key matchup: Nelson’s front seven against Madison’s Matt Lewis. The Mountaineers running back can get lost in the mix a bit with Elijah Lewis’ play at quarterback but his 116 yards last week came on just 10 touches and he had three touchdowns. If you’re the Governors you might be better off clamping down on both Lewis’ and the running game and just hoping there aren’t too many stretch plays down the field in the passing game that get connected.
Who to watch: Madison County’s special teams. With a pair of touchdowns coming in the return game from Almus Davis and Jack Bourdon, the Mountaineers were able to race out in front of Rappahannock. Madison’s offense can be very explosive when Elijah Lewis is able to get things going to receivers Matt Carpenter, Sam Estes and Nick Messenio. If this offense is already being spotted points or gets great field position because of the Davis’ and Bourdon’s on special teams the Governors will be up against the gun. Quarterback George Brown and the Nelson offense have looked good against Bath County and Craig. But if the Mountaineers are getting short field after short field, Brown and Nelson won’t be able to win this in a shoot out.
The line: Madison by 6. The Mountaineers have a few too many weapons across the field for the Governors in this one.
Collegiate (2-2) at Woodberry (1-2), 4 p.m.
The basics: The Cougars dropped their second straight game with a 34-17 loss last week to follow a 42-0 loss the week before with Flint Hill. The Tigers are coming off a bye week that followed their 47-37 loss on the road to Landon. This is a big one in the Prep League. The Tigers already have a win on a last second field goal over St. Christopher’s. The Cougars have a 7-3 win over Trinity Episcopal. The winner of this one moves to 2-0 and when it comes to each other is really like being 2.5-0. Woodberry, in keeping with the cat theme, has won the lion’s share of Prep League titles since 2008 with 2012 and last year being the only times they didn’t blow the Prep League out of the water.
Key matchup: Woodberry’s secondary takes on Collegiate receiver Ayinde Budd. The Delaware-bound receiver clocks in at 6-foot-5 and 203 pounds. So suffice it to say, he’s a physical presence and he’s got some wheels. Collegiate’s offense always spreads the ball around the field so this secondary is used to this being a weekly challenge. The Tigers will need Dequece Carter and Luke Hutchinson to step up and lead the charge and they’re awfully athletic. Can they overcome the size issue that Budd presents?
Who to watch: Woodberry running back Kay Muganda. The junior is a physical problem too. At 5-foot-11 and 200 pounds, he’s a bowling ball and just the type of running back that can keep the Collegiate offense off the field. While Woodberry has quarterback Ben Locklear and a deep threat in Carter to score quickly on big plays if it wants to, expect Muganda, this offensive line and tight end Kyle Bilodeau to try and put together long, disheartening drives. Collegiate’s defense started out strong but with 76 points given up in the last two weeks, the Tigers have an opportunity exploit the weak part of this team and also keep the strength of this team on the sidelines if Muganda can move the chains methodically.
The line: Woodberry by 1. The Tigers fell last year on the road 31-28, but Woodberry has played a strong early schedule and with two weeks to prepare it might have the edge here at home.
Fork Union (0-5) at St. Christopher’s (2-3), 1 p.m.
The basics: The Blue Devils fell 34-21 in a strange game with Norfolk Academy last week. FUMA was down 28-0 in the third quarter, raced back to make it 28-21 just before the fourth quarter. Fork Union wasn’t able to complete the comeback, but the second half promise is something that the Saints coaching staff has to keep a watch on. St. Christopher’s is coming off a bye after a 26-25 loss to Norfolk Academy. That said, St. Chris’ offense is rolling with 139 points in five games and so the Blue Devils have their work cut out for them.
Key matchup: The Saints secondary takes on Blue Devils receiver Elijah Hawks. The Fork Union receiver had himself a day last week. With six catches for 146 yards and two touchdowns, he’s shown what kind of threat he can be in this passing attack. Fork Union struggled on the ground last week, and that’s a been an area of inconsistency so St. Chris will want to be all over Hawks to make sure that the Blue Devils don’t have their most potent weapon easily available. Hawks can get the job done in a number of different ways as he’s a great deep route runner but also has explosivity in the open field on short passes. If he doesn’t’ get blanket coverage, it would be a big surprise.
Who to watch: Fork Union’s Kenyon Carter. The Blue Devils have shuffled around at quarterback. Drue Hackenberg has played well at times. Carter has played well at times. But Carter was behind the comeback effort last week with 243 yards, three touchdowns on 9-for-22 passing. He threw a pair of 47-yard passes to both Hawks and Larry Elder. The last few games with St. Christopher’s have been close. If Carter is the starter and can do what he did in the third quarter for four quarters, the Blue Devils should be in line to get that first win of the year. If that doesn’t happen, the uphill climb gets a lot tougher.
The line: St. Christopher’s by 1. Just like last week, there’s no reason FUMA can’t swipe the win here. The Blue Devils just have to avoid digging the big hole early which has been a problem.
Orange County (2-3) at Albemarle (1-4), 7 p.m.
The basics: True to projections, Albemarle got on the right track last week after a brutal four-game stretch to the start the season, blowing out Monticello. With Albemarle kicking itself into gear, it makes the Jefferson District race behind Louisa County pretty interesting, and with the Hornets looking to bounce back again after a frustrating loss to Fluvanna County at home on Saturday, this one is critical for both teams’ playoff hopes. Yeah, that’s right, we’re at the midway point in the season, it’s time to talk about the playoffs. A win here would be a critical boost for both squads. Two solid ground attacks lock up with Mahki Washington and DaQuandre Taylor bringing it for Albemarle and Jaylen Alexander toting the rock for Orange. Alexander had an uncharacteristically slow week against the Flucos, but turnovers, in the form of an interception return for a touchdown and a fumble return for a touchdown helped do in Orange. If they can shore up those mistakes, it’ll go a long way toward getting the back on track again, like they did after losing to Spotsylvania
Key matchup: Orange’s front seven takes on the Albemarle ground attack. While Orange lost last week, the defense played particularly well, limiting the Fluvanna Wing-T to just eight points. They managed to hold the Flucos’ array of runners in check. Now Kyrie Carter
Who to watch: Albemarle’s Myles Ward. Ward got going in a big way last week with three touchdown catches. With the Patriots already proving against Patrick Henry-Roanoke two weeks ago how difficult they can be on the ground, they can now clearly make teams pay for single covering Ward on the boundary. Now the defense has to choose — help with a safety on Ward or help against the one-two punch in the run game. Tough spot to be in.
The line: Albemarle by 10. The Patriots should build on last week’s momentum here.
Charlottesville (0-6) at Fluvanna County (4-1), 7 p.m.
The basics: Two programs having polar opposite seasons so far. Fluvanna has gotten a lot of the breaks while Black Knights have had nearly everything go wrong. Fluvanna has had its best season since 2001 after five years that produced five wins including a huge road win on Saturday over Orange County behind an opportunistic defense. Charlottesville can’t scratch its way into the win column despite some solid offensive numbers. Graduation the last couple of years has taken its toll on the Black Knights’ defense and they’ve struggled against the run. Now they face a wing-t that much like CHS’s own triple option requires defenses to be disciplined and play assignment football. Perhaps that gives Charlottesville an edge here over some of the other Jefferson District teams that don’t face a throwback offense in practice each week. Still, slowing down Fluvanna runners Prophet Harris, Dahris Tinsley and Dametrez Christmas isn’t an easy task and freshman quarterback Kobe Edmonds keeps settling in each game.
Key matchup: Fluvanna’s front seven takes on Charlottesville’s Sabias Folley and the ground game. Last week, Fluvanna’s defense set the tone early and forced Orange to do the bulk of its offensive damage through the air with a physical approach to defending the run. That has become a theme for the Flucos during this renaissance. Whether it’s Nate Smith, Malachi Hill, Joey Van Dyke or some new name that emerges, Fluvanna has to answer the bell here.
Who to watch: Fluvanna’s offensive line. For the Wing-T to move the ball, the Flucos’ offensive line has to get a push. Both Walt Stribliing or Ahmad Opie have opened some key holes in this early run, they’ll need to keep it going now.
The line: Fluvanna by 7. Common opponent difference — Fluvanna beat Orange, Orange beat CHS — runs the pick here.
Monticello (1-5) at Western Albemarle (3-2), 7 p.m.
The basics: Both teams come in after losses, but one has a lot more positives to glean from than the other. Western Albemarle fell to Louisa in The Jungle without starting quarterback Carter Shifflett in an admirable effort by Wyatt Hull in his first start. If the Warriors can get Shifflett back and get the run game with Austin Shifflett going, they could have a similarly balanced, successful outing to what Albemarle produced a week ago in a shutout win over the Mustangs. Monticello, meanwhile, lost its fifth-straight and hasn’t found its rhythm on offense since the opener while the defense has ran into its own struggles against Fluvanna’s Wing-T and Albemarle’s spread attack in the first two Jefferson District games. While records often don’t matter in a rivalry game like this one, the Warriors have a proven track record already this year and should come in confident. Monticello, on the other hand, gets a huge chance to flip the script and get back on track with its young roster.
Key matchup: Western’s linebackers take on Malachi Fields. If Monticello is going to get going offensively, they’ve got to fix turnovers and free up Fields and Devonta Hargrove in the ground game. That won’t be an easy task against the Western linebackers where Aidan Saunders and Tai Atuai are the team’s top two tacklers at 24.5 and 23 stops each. Saunders was banged up early against Louisa and it showed as the Lions’ ground game found running room without him in the mix. If Western gets Saunders back it’ll go a long way toward clamping down against the Mustangs.
Who to watch: Western’s Jack Lesemann. Last week he came up with a huge pick six in the second half to keep the Warriors alive against Louisa County and while he hasn’t been explosive offensively yet, the first tight end in some time in Crozet could be an added wrinkle in the passing attack if the Warriors have to throw it around a little against Monticello.
The line: Western Albemarle by 10. The Warriors have proven themselves already with a quality win on the road at Powhatan and a hard-nosed effort against Louisa.
STAB (2-2) at Greenbrier Christian (2-3), Thursday 6:30 p.m.
The basics: After a week off, STAB returns to action looking to extend its winning streak to three straight games after an 0-2 start. STAB’s defense has been solid the last two games, surrendering just six points against HRA and Kenston Forest. If the STAB defense can put together a similar performance, an efficient offense can take care of the rest. They’ll have to do it against a Greenbrier Christian squad coming off a tough 30-28 loss at the hands of Virginia Episcopal.
Key matchup: STAB’s defensive line faces Greenbrier’s Hunter Davis. Davis is averaging nearly 100 yards per game at a clip of 4.7 yards per carry, and with an offense for the Gators tilted slightly toward the pass, he helps keep the opposing defense honest. Look for STAB to try and bottle him up with guys like Joe Ambrosi who had three tackles for a loss against HRA.
Who to watch: STAB’s Gabe Decker. Decker had 124 total yards against Hampton Roads Academy as he got on track catching the ball and running it. Decker is a speedy wrecking ball when he’s got the ball in his hands, look for the Saints to find him early and often.
The line: STAB by 7. The Saints should keep it rolling here.
Norfolk Christian (2-2) at Blue Ridge (1-4), Saturday 2:30 p.m.
The basics: This has, quite suddenly, become a must-win game for Blue Ridge. Even before the year, with the Barons’ challenging schedule, their handful of games against VISAA Division II’s top tier teams were going to be critical, but with a narrow loss to North Cross a week ago, Blue Ridge has to have this one if it wants to make a late move up the playoff standings. Norfolk Christian was a state finalist a year ago and comes in off a 51-6 loss to No. 3-ranked Fredericksburg Christian. The Ambassadors edged out North Cross earlier this season 22-20. This is a formidable opponent, but the Barons get them at home and they should have some confidence carry over from last week’s strong late surge against the Raiders that ended up falling just short. If Blue Ridge can win this one, they’ll have a shot at getting in the playoffs and with their talented roster and experience against some of the state’s best teams, anything can happen then
Key matchup: Norfolk Christian’s secondary takes on Blue Ridge’s deep receiving corps. With Michael Asher stretching the defense deep, Maliq Brown getting going with a touchdown and three catches for 48 yards and Sammy Fort notching 84 yards on six catches, Blue Ridge has a wealth of options for quarterback Xavier Kane to get involved. Last week eight different players for Blue Ridge caught at least one ball.
Who to watch: Blue Ridge wideout Jack Charboneau. Charboneau hauled in a critical touchdown as part of the wild rally against North Cross. With an array of weapons at the skill spots, adding someone else to the mix who can deliver in the clutch is a big boost.
The line: Blue Ridge by 7. The Barons know what’s on the line, expect them to rise to the occasion.
Kenston Forest (1-3) at Covenant (4-0), Saturday 1 p.m.
The basics: So far, so good for Covenant football as they stayed unbeaten and rolled past Hampton Roads Academy 62-0. Now they host one of the state’s original 8-man squads in Kenston Forest, a program with an extensive history in this version of the game. Nothing should chance for a Covenant squad that’s pulled off an impressive three-week shutout streak in a format where offensive scoring and production is usually through the roof. If the Eagles can keep this stifling defensive approach up, they’ll be in great shape as the VISFA playoffs roll around.
Key matchup: Kenston Forest’s linebackers face Covenant signal-caller Luke Sorenson. With Rick Weaver rumbling around and Jonas Sanker testing the edge, it can actually be easy to lose focus on Covenant’s first-year starting quarterback Luke Sorenson. He rang up three touchdowns a week ago against Hampton Roads Academy and he’ll look to keep that flow going against Kenston Forest.
Who to watch: Covenant defensive backs Wesley Arrington and Connor Poindexter. The Eagles have been excellent defensively the last three weeks and having some experienced hands in the secondary certainly can’t hurt. If Arrington and Poindexter are locking things down coverage wise, it frees up Jonas and Nic Sanker to wreak some havoc on that side of the football.
The line: Covenant by 21. The Eagles don’t show any signs of slowing down right now.