Louisa County (5-0) at Monticello (1-4), Friday 7 p.m.
The basics: Louisa County extended its Jefferson District win streak to 16 games last week with a victory over Orange County, one of its chief potential challengers in a district that’s short on teams that can make the Lions sweat. The Lions are making this look easier than it is because they’ve put in an incredible amount of work in the offseason and don’t look past anyone, bringing the heat every Friday from the opening kick. Now the Lions hit the road to take on Monticello, a team that is seesawing a bit to start the Jefferson District, edging Western Albemarle before getting blown out by Albemarle. Now the Mustangs get the district’s ultimate test in Louisa, who’s defense has been lights out and who’s offense has so many weapons it’s hard to predict who’s going to blow up on any given night. Jarett Hunter is the chief culprit with 599 yards on the year, capable of shredding defenses on the edge or right up the middle, a master of taking whatever the opposition gives him. Whoever the Lions turn to in the ground game — Hunter, Robbie Morgan, Kalup Shelton and Alex Washington are all options — should find success against a Monticello defense that was porous last week against Albemarle’s one-two punch of Mahki Washington and Ebenezer McCarthy.
Key matchup: Louisa’s linebackers take on Monticello’s dual threat quarterback Malachi Fields. The Lions face a special athlete here in Fields but they counter him with a fleet of special athletes of their own at linebacker including Austin Sims, Aaron Aponte, Kalup Shelton and roving monster Alex Washington. That group will be critical to keeping Fields in check with a heady pass rush and excellent coverage in the middle of the field where Monticello has done some damage at times. This one tilts in Louisa’s favor.
Who to watch: Louisa County’s secondary. The Lions’ entire secondary — Buck Hunter, Jarett Hunter, Alex Washington, Robbie Morgan, maybe Noah Robinson now that he’s back and everyone else steps up and gets in the mix — is just playing incredible this season. Opponents are averaging just 31 passing yards per game against the Lions. Some of that is a product of playing Charlottesville, Massaponax and Courtland that rarely throw, but even so 31 yards is incredibly low. It’s almost negligible. That’s incredible to take away one element that dramatically.
The line: Louisa County by 21. The Lions can take away Monticello’s strengths and that’s trouble for the Mustangs.
Orange County (1-5) at Charlottesville (0-6), Friday 7 p.m.
The basics: Orange County blew out Albemarle and played Louisa tight for a quarter before the Lions put them away, so the Hornets have to be feeling pretty good about going into this final stretch of four winnable games. It wouldn’t be a shock for the Hornets to be sitting at 5-5 by the end of the season and possibly on the edge of the Region 4B playoff picture. That’ll start with continued solid play from the offensive line which has found some cohesion and protected Walker Johnson for stretches the last two weeks. When Johnson has time he can make some top notch plays, particularly when he connects with Jireek Washington. Throw in Jaylen Alexander’s usual hard running and Orange has the kind of offense that could be problematic for the rest of its opponents. For Charlottesville, the best news is that the first six games on their slate are over. Their next four games, including this one, feature opponents with just one win each. Has the Black Knights’ confidence survived these first six games? Because if it has, Charlottesville could close strong down the stretch, particularly if they can stay healthy.
Key matchup: Orange’s linebackers take on Charlottesville’s triple option. The Hornets’ linebackers, including Noah Carey and Chance Williams will have to play responsibility football against the Black Knights’ option. Louisa’s run game requires similar discipline and the Lions ended up running roughshod over Orange like Louisa does to most teams. Orange will need an improved effort against Charlottesville because shutting down Isaiah Washington is far from easy either.
Who to watch: Orange County’s Noah Carey. While Jaylen Alexander is likely to find a lot of running room against the Black Knights, Charlottesville could be particularly susceptible to Carey’s power approach. The Hornets’ big back is a runaway freight train when he gets going, and with Charlottesville playing key players both ways and nursing some injuries, he could be a problem for the Black Knights.
The line: Orange by 10. The Hornets have the edge here thanks to Alexander.
Western Albemarle (1-4) at Fluvanna County (4-1), Friday 7 p.m.
The basics: If Fluvanna County wants a chance to move up the Region 3C playoff ratings where the Flucos are currently fifth, these are the kind of games they have to win. That won’t be easy against a Western team that feels like it’s constantly on the cusp of figuring it out with an array of weapons who can’t seem to get in sync, whether it’s timing, protection or any number of other complications. The Flucos aren’t winning particularly pretty or putting up any monster numbers but they’re steadily clipping along while playing some suffocating defense that’s held opponents to eight or fewer points each week the last three times out. If that defensive performance becomes the norm for Fluvanna, it’s going to go a long way toward getting the program into some consistently high expectations, which is where things are currently trending. Western has been slipping since blowing out Waynesboro, falling in overtime to Monticello before getting beat by a Monroe team that controlled the clock with the ground game and made key plays when they had to. Now Western heads south to face the team that’s currently No. 2 in the district in the Flucos, so the road isn’t getting any easier.
Key matchup: Western’s offensive line takes on Fluvanna’s defensive front. The Warriors had trouble last week with William Monroe’s front seven because most often the Dragons were bringing more than the Warriors could block. Fluvanna likes to attack defensively too, but Trevor Wade and Walt Stribling have also been causing some ruckus on that side of the ball up front, which could make things particularly tough on an undersized Western offensive line. Odds are good this one will be decided in the trenches.
Who to watch: Fluvanna’s Runner of the Week. Seemingly every week someone else is stepping up in the ground game (for Fluvanna it has been Kobe Edmonds, Malachi Hill and a couple of others), and it’s going to be interesting to see who the Flucos turn to next. That’s the nature of Wing-T football some years, where the offense is simply exploiting some key weakness in the defense, which leads to a different runner carrying the load. The best part about those years? Everyone is fresh come playoff time.
The line: Fluvanna by 7. Flucos have a formula that’s working well right now.
Brentsville (2-3) at William Monroe (2-3), Friday 7 p.m.
The basics: Make no mistake, despite Western Albemarle’s less than stellar record this year, beating the Warriors on the road was a big step for William Monroe, giving them a huge shot in the arm ahead of Northwestern District play. In order to make a push to potentially win a district title and maybe earn a home playoff game — the Dragons sit in seventh currently in Region 3B, but it’s a fluid region — the defense that showed up in Crozet has to show up every week. This game has been a one-point clash the last two years, and it’ll likely be a close one again. The Dragons are locked in on this one. Running back Dupree Rucker, who had a huge 192-yard outing against Western was already punctuating every sentence with “On to Brentsville” immediately after beating the Warriors. If the Dragons feed Rucker and the defense maintains the level it was at a week ago? Brentsville could find tough sledding in Stanardsville.
Key matchup: Monroe’s front seven takes on Brentsville running back Kyler Cornwell. A solid athlete who doubles as a middle linebacker for the Tigers, Cornwell brings a physical presence to the running back spot. Last week, the Dragons largely clamped down on John Buetow and Austin Shifflett, bringing more than Western could block on most plays. That approach could work again against Cornwell and the Tigers, who want to run downhill.
Who to watch: William Monroe linebacker Xzabia Kolpack. With 13 tackles last week, he was the tip of the spear in an impressive defensive effort that left Western Albemarle scrambling most of the night. Now the Dragons have to keep replicating that effort each week in the Northwestern District. It’ll likely start with Kolpack.
The line: William Monroe by 1. The last two games have been decided by a point, makes sense this one would come down to one as well.
Madison County (0-4) at Stonewall Jackson-Quicksburg (1-4), Friday 7:30 p.m.
The basics: While the focus for the Mountaineers isn’t on their record this year, this is possibly a good chance to get a first win on the road. They’ll face a squad also hungry for a win with the Generals’ lone victory coming against Rappahannock.
Key matchup: Madison’s secondary takes on Justus Proctor. Proctor is the deep threat in the Stonewall Jackson triple option and because of the run responsibilities required of defensive backs when defending the triple, keeping track of Proctor can be a challenge.
Who to watch: Madison quarterback Jeremey Fox. Fox threw for 222 yards and two touchdowns a week ago against Clarke, though the bulk of that came against reserves. But if Fox can get going in the passing game against Stonewall Jackson, it could be enough to get the job done.
The line: Stonewall by 7. Madison has the tools to make this close.
Buckingham (4-1) at Cumberland (0-6), Friday 7 p.m.
The basics: In case it wasn’t obvious before, Buckingham is for real this year. The Knights simply disposed of a high-flying Northumberland team, indicating the chasm between good 1A and good 2A squads is sometimes awfully wide. If that was a big test, Buckingham passed with flying colors, scoring 57 points quickly en route to a 57-30 win against a spread-based Northumberland squad that had been putting up big offensive numbers. The Knights erased any doubt about how well they can compete in Region 2B, jumping up to third in that region for those efforts behind Stuarts Draft and Strasburg. Now they face archrival Cumberland to start the back half of the schedule.
Key matchup: Cumberland tries to contain Buckingham quarterback Tae Toney. Toney scored five touchdowns while rushing for 152 yards against Bluestone two weeks ago and he’s a big reason the Knights are sitting exactly where they want to be heading into the back half of the schedule. Cumberland has struggled to contain most everyone on their schedule, and that likely isn’t going to be much different against the Knights.
Who to watch: Buckingham’s Walter Edwards. With teams trying to hem in Toney, some lanes may start opening up even wider for Edwards between the tackles, the productive starter at running back over the last few years. Allow that at your own peril opposing defenses — Edwards is capable of making teams pay dearly when he gets a head of steam.
The line: Buckingham by 28. The Knights are just too much for Cumberland.
Goochland (4-1) at Prince Edward (1-3), Friday 7 p.m.
The basics: The Bulldogs jumped up in the Region 3B playoff standings and now hold the top spot after beating Amelia 35-0 in one of the most challenging games left on Goochland’s schedule. Now the Bulldogs take a four-game winning streak on the road where they’ll face Prince Edward. Goochland will continue to fine-tune as they start pushing toward the playoffs in the back half of the season, but there isn’t a lot of fine-tuning to do defensively where the Bulldogs are a smothering, turnover-generating machine. If Goochland keeps this up, they’re likely to make some serious noise when the playoffs roll around and the competition heats up.
Key matchup: Prince Edward’s front seven versus the Goochland ground attack. Quincy Snead is back in the lineup and starting to find a rhythm for the Bulldogs, and he’s the kind of slippery back that can take Goochland’s ground game to another level. Trying to tackle him in open space can look silly at times, and if Snead stays healthy, Goochland will just get progressively dangerous as the weather gets colder and tackling gets harder.
Who to watch: Goochland’s Devin McCray. McCray picked off two passes early against Amelia to help snuff out any hope the Raiders had for an upset, including taking the second one to the house. It was part of a four-forced turnover first half for the Bulldogs in the win. McCray has been and continues to be a ballhawk. Testing him isn’t just dangerous anymore, it’s a veritable lock he’s going to make you pay.
The line: Goochland by 28. The Bulldogs face a favorable back half of the schedule.
Nelson County (3-3) at Dan River (4-2), Friday 7 p.m.
The basics: Nelson County came back down to earth a little bit last week in a 67-20 loss to Gretna, but the Dogwood District has a way of humbling squads on a regular basis. Nelson fell out of the top eight in Region 2C with the loss and now they’ve got just four games to claw their way back in if they’re going to find a way to make the playoffs for the first time since most of the roster was born. That starts with a difficult road matchup against Dan River this week, currently seeded No. 3 in Region 2C just behind Gretna. Wins are hard to come by in the Dogwood and that’s true this week because Dan River is a tough place to play and they’ve got several good wins to their name already this year. Can the Governors pull off a stunner and put themselves back in playoff position?
Key matchup: Dan River’s front seven takes on the Nelson ground game. Nelson’s ground game essentially ground to a halt last week against the Hawks. While the Governors finished with 110 yards, they managed just 3.0 yards per carry, not enough to keep the sticks moving. Look for Dan River to take a similar approach to hem in the Nelson offense — it’s going to be up to the Governors to impose their will on the ground or find a different way to get first downs and maintain possession.
Who to watch: Nelson’s Brice Wilson. Wilson continues to produce, hauling in nine catches for 175 yards against Gretna to account for the majority of the Governors’ offense against the Hawks. Wilson is an electric playmaker with the ball in his hands, and while Nelson would prefer to attack on the ground, they’ve got an option in Wilson to attack through the air.
The line: Dan River by 10. Nelson has a shot here, but they’re going to need to execute perfectly to pull it off.
Blue Ridge (5-1) at Atlantic Shores (4-3), Friday 7 p.m.
The basics: The Barons are earning some frequent flyer miles on the St. George to the Tidewater route as they return to the 757 this week for a road clash with Atlantic Shores at the Virginia Beach Sportsplex. The Barons bounced back from a loss to North Cross with a second half surge for a win over Norfolk Christian on the road last week and now they’ll face an Atlantic Shores squad currently fifth in the VISAA’s Division II. A win here is critical for the Barons to shore up their No. 2 seed in Division II and set the stage for a potential rematch with North Cross in the state playoffs. The competition is about to get even tougher after facing the Seahawks, with Goochland, Benedictine and 4-1 Roanoke Catholic left on the schedule. Can the Barons hand Atlantic Shores its third straight loss. Common opponents, including Atlantic Shores’ loss to Christchurch last week indicate an advantage for the Barons.
Key matchup: Atlantic Shores’ secondary contends with the Barons’ wideouts. One of Scrimmage Play’s closely held football beliefs is that in high school, guarding one good receiver is usually possible, two is a challenge, but three is just exceedingly difficult. There just aren’t that many capable defensive backs usually on a high school football team. Blue Ridge tests that theory each week with its array of wideouts in Lance Gaskins, Iceysis Lewis, Maliq Brown and Cameron Kewely. Finding a way to stop all four is a massive challenge.
Who to watch: Blue Ridge’s Tramell Thompson. Thompson was an impact linebacker as a junior for the Barons, but last week he got carried at running back and emerged as a physical, downhill runner there, scoring a pair of touchdowns and running over a few Norfolk Christian linebackers along the way. Thompson running consistently that way would give an already dynamic Blue Ridge offense another dimension.
The line: Blue Ridge by 7. Barons pick up another key win heading into the homestretch.
Trinity Episcopal (5-2) at Fork Union (2-3), Saturday 1 p.m.
The basics: Fork Union is at the midway point of its season, and results are mixed record-wise so far in the first year under head coach Mark Shuman. There’s no question though about the attitude and approach adjustments — Fork Union seems to expect to win and expect to compete more than in recent years, a testament to Shuman’s work and the confidence of this year’s edition of the Blue Devils. Can this group keep moving the needle against this difficult schedule? We’ll see in the coming weeks, starting with Trinity this week, one of the state’s biggest surprises with key wins over Collegiate and St. Christopher’s already. Fork Union lost to St. Chris already last week, and against Trinity they’re likely going to have to put up a lot of points to offset the Titans’ explosive offense — they’re averaging nearly 50 points per game.
Key matchup: Fork Union’s secondary takes on Trinity quarterback Jack Toscano. Toscano went an efficient 14-for-20 in a rout of North Cross a week ago, throwing for 245 yards and three touchdowns in the win. The sophomore has already thrown 20 touchdowns and the Blue Devils are going to have to find ways to confuse him in coverage or lock down his wideouts if they’re going to slow him down.
Who to watch: Fork Union’s Montigo Moss. It’s hard to argue with the one-handed catch he pulled off last week against St. Christopher’s. He’s got high-level skills and Fork Union will surely look to put the ball in his hands as often as possible.
The line: Trinity by 7. Fork Union has the weapons to make this one interesting.
Virginia Episcopal (3-1) at Covenant (4-0), Saturday 1 p.m.
The basics: We’re now a week away from a probable VISFL championship preview when Covenant squares off against St. Anne’s-Belfield, but the Eagles have a little work cut out for them before that as they face perhaps the No. 3 team in the VISFL, Virginia Episcopal. The Bishops scored against STAB last week but couldn’t stop the Saints, so look for more explosive offense from the Eagles this week after they’ve been torching opponents to start the year. The Eagles defense has been smothering too, but they’ll be tested for the first time with an offense averaging nearly 40 points per game this year — expect that they’ll meet the challenge.
Key matchup: VES’ secondary contends with Jonas Sanker to Nic Sanker connection. The Bishops struggled to clamp down on STAB a week ago and Jonas to Nic Sanker is likely to be too much for them to handle again. Jonas connected with his brother for three first half touchdowns a week ago through the air, and they’ve been tough for anyone to defend.
Who to watch: Covenant offensive lineman Jude Steljes. While the Sanker brothers and Michael Asher are providing explosive plays offensively, they’re getting it done in large part because Steljes and company are protecting well. If that group can keep it going when the intensity increases, it’ll be a huge key to the Eagles’ success.
The line: Covenant by 28. The Eagles should roll again this week with a key matchup looming next week.