Weekly Briefing Week Six

Photo by Bart Isley

Orange County (1-4) at Louisa County (5-0), Friday 7:30 p.m.

The basics: Louisa County made it clear with an early dismantling of Charlottesville that they’re intent on a take-no-prisoners approach to the Jefferson District slate this year. The game was out of reach for the Black Knights in a flash. The Lions are so active defensively, that it almost looks like overkill at times — they’re sacking a quarterback who would’ve been picked off anyway if they’d made the throw they were attempting. They’re stuffing one ball carrier while perfectly tracking the quarterback who’s carrying out a fake. Everything is seemingly accounted for with this group of predators who are hunting big plays, big stops and nights where the opposing offense manages less than 50 yards of total offense like Charlottesville did a week ago. Now that group turns its attention to the Battle for the Gordonsville Tastee-Freeze, an annual border war with the Hornets. Orange comes in with a little momentum as the passing game found its footing with Walker Johnson connecting twice with Jireek Washington for big touchdowns in a blowout win over Albemarle. This is a week where the Hornets have to take advantage of the lessons learned against Eastern View and North Stafford, two powers with similar personnel to Louisa. Can the Hornets find the kind of intensity knocking off Louisa is going to require and find some holes in the Lions’ armor? 

Key matchup: Louisa’s linebackers take on Orange County’s Jaylen Alexander. The credentials of the Louisa linebackers are well-established, but they bear repeating every week because it’s a tremendous position group that the Lions have put together. Austin Sims has taken up residence in the middle now alongside Alex Washington, who played safety nominally a year ago. Nominally is the right term because no program is more adept at moving personnel around to take away what opponents do than Louisa is currently. Then Aaron Aponte is a terror on the edge and he was coming free and clear too often last week for Charlottesville’s liking. All that means a potentially challenging night for Orange’s Alexander who has had to endure a lot of nine-man boxes already and now faces a team that has the talent to hunt him down without loading the box. 

Who to watch: Louisa’s Noah Robinson. Just what Jefferson District teams wanted to see, Louisa add another playmaker back into the mix. Robinson, an ODU commit, returned to the lineup for the Lions and made an immediate impact, hauling in two critical long passes. The Black Knights, like most opponents, have to load up against the run, which means one-on-one chances on the boundary with safeties playing up. Robinson gives the Lions another way — Buck Hunter was already dangerous — to cash in on that situation with quarterback Landon Wilson flashing an accurate arm on the deep ball. 

The line: Louisa County by 17. The Lions’ suffocating defense is the difference-maker here.


Monticello (1-4) at Albemarle (0-5), Friday 7 p.m.

The basics: What a difference a week can make. Monticello wasn’t given enough of a chance in the run-up to its battle with Western Albemarle, though most provided the caveat that if Malachi Fields played big-time football, that would change the equation. Fields did exactly that, throwing for 218 yards while rushing for 130 yards and three touchdowns. He punched it in in overtime to set the table for a defensive stop on Western’s two-point try, proving not only that he can put up solid numbers but he can also come up clutch in tough situations when the Mustangs are trying to get a win. Albemarle, meanwhile, absorbed another learning experience at the hands of Orange County, falling to 0-5 as the Patriots try to find answers and gain experience with a ton of young players still adjusting to new roles. This is another strong chance for a win in this one for the Pats as the Mustangs will have momentum after last week but are a completed two-point conversion pass from Western away from being 0-5 themselves. Can Albemarle take advantage and get on the right track.  

Key matchup: Monticello’s front seven takes on Albemarle’s Ebenezer McCarthy. The Mustangs struggled in the second half to clamp down on Western’s resurgent ground attack and gave up three straight rushing touchdowns. McCarthy is perhaps the Patriots’ most dynamic threat in the lineup, and if he can find some running room it would be a huge lift for the Patriots’ struggling offense. 

Who to watch: Monticello’s Jason Armstrong. Armstrong caught six balls, including a couple of wild catches, one off a tipped ball at least 15 yards down field that ricocheted off a Western defender. Armstrong is a soccer goalie by trade, and clearly some of the reaction and hand skills followed him to football. His 30-yard touchdown capped a scoring drive to open the third quarter, a score that ended up being critical to the Mustangs holding on. 

The line: Monticello by 7. The Mustangs can get the win here with another big performance by Fields. 


Charlottesville (0-5) at Fluvanna County (3-1), Friday 7 p.m.

The basics: The Flucos come in on a roll, having blown out Waynesboro, a feat that’s rare enough that to find a margin of victory in the vicinity of 49-8 you’ve got to go back to 2009 and a 39-0 win over William Monroe. The Black Knights come in after another blowout loss, this time at the hands of Louisa County. The difference in records is a touch deceiving as the Black Knights played a veritable murderer’s row of opponents to start the season and now enter a much more manageable back half of the schedule. This is the week where the Black Knights have to start cashing in on the lessons and experience of the first five games if they want to put together a push and put themselves into the Region 3C playoff picture. If the Black Knights can find a way to build on the last few weeks they can challenge a Fluvanna team that has proven already in a lot of ways that last season wasn’t a fluke, rising to No. 2 in the power poll voting. The Flucos seem to have a different standout runner each week (in part a product of the Wing-T’s versatility and ability to take advantage of specific weaknesses), but the defense has consistently been pretty good and the offensive line is moving the ball no matter who’s toting the rock. This is a critical game for both squads.

Key matchup: Fluvanna’s offensive line takes on Charlottesville’s defensive line. This is likely where this one will be decided, because the Black Knights are going to struggle to get off the field on defense if they cant counter the Flucos’ offensive line led by Walt Stribling. Fluvanna wants to control and essentially melt the game clock so getting stops early in a drive is ultra critical against the Flucos and that means fighting off an offensive line that’s really starting to come together. Charlottesville defensive end Jaleom Adams-Mallory and company have their work cut out for them. 

Who to watch: Fluvanna’s Malachi Hill. Hill’s work as a ball carrier is important, but it’s on defense where he flashes some next-level potential. Hill has 31 total tackles already including five for a loss as well as a pair of sacks. He understands his role, plays it well like a senior should and he’s a crucial component for the Flucos up front. 

The line: Fluvanna by 7. The Flucos appear to be healthier, but this may not be an easy one at all.


William Monroe (1-3) at Western Albemarle (1-3), Friday 7 p.m.

The basics: This one is a product of Powhatan’s move out of the Jefferson District as a rivalry from past days in the JD before Monroe’s move to the Bull Run, is renewed. The Dragons will surely try and build off the momentum they picked up in a rivalry win over Madison just before the bye week, so look for a heavy dose of Dupree Rucker. Teams have had some success running against, Western in a variety of ways, though the Dragons will have to do it in a traditional way with Rucker rather than Monticello’s quarterback-based rushing attack that gave the Warriors issues in the first half in particular a week ago. Western’s chief battle is putting four quarters together against opponents, and this would be an excellent week for that to start at home against a Monroe defense that has allowed some big gains and big scores already this season. The Warriors will counter Rucker with their own array of offensive weapons including John Buetow who had a big-time effort against the Mustangs as his work between the 20s helped setup scoring runs by Austin and Carter Shifflett that eventually forced overtime. 

Key matchup: Western’s offensive line takes on Monroe’s defensive line. The Warriors’ offensive line has shown flashes of getting to the level they need to be at in the Waynesboro game and the second half of the Monticello clash a week ago. The Dragons have some big guys up front, but they’ve been vulnerable to the ground game at times. Can the Warriors’ young group build on the confidence of last week’s second half and get the ball moving against the Dragons? Or will Monroe’s defensive line settle in and make some key stops? 

Who to watch: Western’s Cameron Greene. Greene has had his moments in the early going for the Warriors on defense, and they’re going to need more of his productivity if they’re going to shut down Rucker and the Dragons’ ground game. Monroe doesn’t get that many shots at opponents in the Jefferson, they’re going to be fired up for this one. Greene can help temper that enthusiasm by disrupting the Monroe backfield. 

The line: Western by 6. The Warriors should have the edge here.


Amelia County (3-1) at Goochland (3-1), Friday 7 p.m.

The basics: If Goochland is going to get tripped up again — and it doesn’t seem likely the way the Bulldogs have gotten things going lately — this is one of the spots where it might happen. But Goochland rarely has true let down games and they know enough about the Raiders to know not to mess around with them. Look for Goochland to grind it out on the run and play suffocating defense — their usual formula for success especially at home where the Bulldogs last lost a regular season game when this year’s seniors were in middle school — September of 2015. 

Key matchup: Goochland’s secondary tracks Amelia quarterback Antonio Harris. Harris throws a lot of quick screens but can also throw it downfield a little. He’ll have to be careful to pick his spots against a strong Goochland secondary loaded with ballhawks.

Who to watch: Goochland’s Dakhari Burgess. Burgess has emerged as another in a long line of speedy ball carriers on the wing. He’s been solid in an expanded role this year, attacking the edge and picking up big chunks of yards from the wing. 

The line: Goochland by 21. Bulldogs keep things rolling here.


St. Christopher’s (4-1) at Fork Union (2-2), Friday 3:30 p.m.

The basics: This should be an excellent Prep League battle as two talented squads lock up. The Blue Devils dropped a 37-24 road battle with Norfolk Academy a week ago and now get a major test in St. Christopher’s, who beat Woodberry already earlier this season. This will pit two productive offenses against each other, but Fork Union will have to answer the bell defensively, where St. Chris has been better, having blown out Norfolk Academy and Bishop O’Connell, two teams that FUMA was engaged in close battles with. St. Christopher’s has a ton of excellent athletes who crossover from their lacrosse squad which makes them tough at a ton of different spots. 

Key matchup: St. Chris’ secondary looks to clamp down on FUMA’s array of wideouts. The Saints held Bishop O’Connell to -15 rushing yards a week ago, so expect the Blue Devils to attack via the air. The Saints are pretty good there too, picking off three passes a week ago. Whoever can gain the edge here — FUMA will look to Montigo Moss and Elijah Hawks primarily but Steve Zegbe and Nasir Edmond are also dangerous — will likely control the game.

Who to watch: Fork Union’s Alex Williams. Williams is averaging 222 yards per game and has already thrown 8888 yards and two scores per game. If he and the offense can minimize turnovers while the defense keeps coming around, he’s going to be one of the area’s most dangerous weapons by the end of the year.

The line: St. Christopher’s by 7. The Blue Devils get a chance to cash in on a huge opportunity here at home, this one could come down to the final play, but St. Chris gets the edge because of the common opponent results.


Gretna (3-1) at Nelson County (3-2), Friday 7 p.m.

The basics: Nelson County announced its re-entrance into the Dogwood with a resounding win over Altavista last week, a huge step forward for a program that continues to build. Now they get a quick reminder that there are few, if any, off weeks in the Dogwood as they take on a 3-1 Gretna squad who’s long history of success at the Class 2 level is well known. This year’s edition of the Hawks can play too, with a dynamic rushing attack that can pile up yards. They’ll look to shut down the explosive Nelson offense who scored 50 points against Altavista and served notice to their old-new district that they’ve got weapons that are more than capable of breaking the game open. Now they’ll see if they can make this a week-in, week-out thing against a tough Gretna squad.

Key matchup: Nelson’s front seven takes on a Gretna rushing attack that rushed for 330 yards against Radford. The Governors didn’t get blown up by Fluvanna on the run a couple of weeks ago, but they did struggle at times to get off the field. Gretna will present another challenging, multi-faceted rushing attack that’ll push Nelson’s capabilities. 

Who to watch: Nelson quarterback George Brown. He’s a player to watch most every week, but after rushing for 236 yards last week against Altavista it’s hard to ignore Brown. Brown also threw for 143 yards without tossing a pick, so he’s taking good care of the ball too. 

The line: Gretna by 10. The Hawks are a really good football team based on the close loss to a Radford team that went 12-2 last season, this is typical of the Dogwood gauntlet.


Southampton (2-3) at Covenant (2-0), Friday 4 p.m.

The basics: Covenant hasn’t gotten many games under its belt but they’ve made short work of the opponent in both of them, cruising past Brunswick last week in dominant fashion. Southampton fell 36-6 to STAB earlier this year so this has the potential to be another cakewalk for the Eagles. Quite simply, Covenant has better athletes than most of the teams they’re playing, and Jonas Sanker is an incredibly dynamic option at quarterback and linebacker while Nic Sanker can dominate defensively or on the boundary at wideout. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Southampton will have its hands full. 

Key matchup: Southampton’s special teams contend with Covenant’s Michael Asher. Asher got the scoring started against Brunswick with a punt return for a touchdown. Trying to hem in Asher is no easy task and if he gets loose in the return game again it could make for a long night for Southampton. 

Who to watch: Covenant’s Cole Finley. Finley had a rushing touchdown and a fumble recovery in the win over Brunswick. He gives the Eagles another reliable player who can produce on a team that’s chock full of them.

The line: Covenant by 28. The Eagles roll again most likely in this one.


Clarke County (3-1) at Madison County (0-4), Friday 7 p.m.

The basics: As we’ve stated before, final scores aren’t really the point for Madison County this year. It’s about establishing a culture, creating expectations and finding a foundation to build the kind of winner that Clarke is year-in and year-out. But the Mountaineers still have to play during this stretch of rebuilding, and Clarke is a particularly tough opponent in a schedule full of them. 

Key matchup: Madison’s front seven against Clarke’s ground game. Clarke has a reputation for excellent ground attacks and they’ll surely try and establish that out of the gate against Madison. Figuring out how to stop the run is an important part of Madison’s program development. 

Who to watch: Madison’s Khalid West. West is the best playmaking option for the Mountaineers and if they’re going to pull off a shocker, they’d likely need a huge game from him. We’ll see if West can provide a spark. 

The line: Clarke by 21. Madison has a tough road for a program trying to rebuild from the ground up.


Blue Ridge (4-1) at Norfolk Christian (1-4), Friday 7 p.m.

The basics: Last week didn’t go to plan for Blue Ridge to put it mildly. The Barons, who’d looked dominant, particularly on defense, before falling 70-28 to North Cross, who has now surpassed Blue Ridge into the No. 1 spot in VISAA’s Division II. Now the Barons have a clear path — get in the playoffs and possibly get another shot at the Raiders. That starts this week with a long road trip to Norfolk Christian, a squad that’s often been a state power but has stumbled to a 1-4 record this year. This should be a manageable matchup for the Barons who have an array of versatile athletes, particularly at the skill positions. This is a crucial tuneup for the three-game stretch that makes up most of October — Atlantic Shores, Roanoke Catholic and Goochland — all three top squads with winning records. 

Key matchup: Norfolk Christian’s secondary contends with the Barons’ wideouts. Blue Ridge’s wideout corps is so deep with Lance Gaskins, Maliq Brown and Iceysis Lewis leading the battalion. If that trio gets going, Norfolk Christian could be in for a long night, so stopping them is job one for the Ambassadors.  

Who to watch: Blue Ridge’s Lance Gaskins. Gaskins has already emerged as one of this season’s top receivers. Then he had a fumble recovery for a touchdown last week against North Cross, showing he can be an impact player on defense too. Can he keep it rolling against Norfolk Christian?

The line: Blue Ridge by 17. The Barons get back on track this week.


Buckingham County (3-1) at Northumberland (4-0), Friday 7 p.m.

The basics: This is a random but needed test for the Knights as they face a Northumberland squad that has made the Division I playoffs the last three years and has started off strong. Northumberland has thrown up two-straight 60+ point performances in their last two wins, and now they’ll go toe-to-toe with a Buckingham squad that’s giving up less than eight points per game. Something has to give here and based on what we’ve seen odds aren’t great that it’ll be Buckingham’s defense. The Knights are rugged, tough and they fly to the ball. That’s a pretty excellent combination for a big-time defense, capable of shutting down most opponents. 

Key matchup: Buckingham’s secondary takes on Northumberland quarterback Mason Adams. Adams threw for seven touchdowns against Bruton last week — he is a solid senior who’s mobile enough to make people miss and can fling it. Buckingham’s secondary hasn’t been tested by quite this productive of a passing game, so this will give them a shot at figuring out how to clamp down on the spread, which could be huge in the postseason. 

Who to watch: Buckingham’s Tae Toney. He’s the straw that stirs the drink at quarterback and with him in the lineup, defending the Knights’ ground attack is a tall order. If Toney is in a rhythm and Walter Edwards is hammering away, the opposition is bound to wear down. 

The line: Buckingham County by 7. Great chance for another quality win for the Knights.


Woodberry (0-4) at Collegiate (3-1), Friday 4 p.m.

The basics: Woodberry has a lot of the right pieces, but they’re struggling to put it all together against a schedule that just doesn’t allow much margin for error. The Tigers nearly knocked off a well respected Landon program before falling in overtime and they were close against St. Christopher’s. But this is the program’s first time going 0-4 to start the year since 2005 when they went 0-6 before finishing 1-9. This one is far from an easy task — there are essentially no gimmes in the Prep League this season, and Collegiate beat a Catholic High team from Virginia Beach 41-33 that Woodberry lost to 31-16. Not exactly the best situation to get thrown into when trying to get on track. Can the Tigers put all the pieces together this week?

Key matchup: Woodberry’s linebackers deals with Collegiate’s Wake Forest commitments quarterback Nigel Williams and tight end Trey Boll. Williams and Boll are both dynamic athletes and while Williams is headed to Wake as a corner, his athleticism makes him an electric dual threat quarterback. Boll is also an absurd athlete who committed to UVa to play baseball before switch to Wake for football. The Tigers will counter with UMass pledge Mathieu Massé-Pelletier and company on defense. Can they crank it up and hem in Williams and Boll?

Who to watch: Woodberry’s defense. The Tigers’ defense held Landon to just six points in regulation last week and against a program of that quality, that’s probably going to have to be enough to win — that’s a championship-level effort. But it wasn’t enoguh, so the defense is left to try and buckle down against a quality Prep League team after an effort came up just short. 

The line: Collegiate by 7. The Tigers’ tough schedule continues and the Cougars get the edge based on common opponents.


St. Anne’s-Belfield (3-0) at Virginia Episcopal (3-0), Saturday 2 p.m.

The basics: Getting in games is becoming a little tougher in 8-man with some cancellations that have left the Saints with just three games so far, but STAB has been excellent when they’ve gotten on the field. While the records are identical, this one might be a mismatch too as the Saints face a VES squad led by former UVa standout Demtrius Nicholson as the new Bishops head coach. VES battled Greenbrier to a hard-fought 14-10 defeat while STAB dismantled the Gators 55-19. Look for the Saints to get their playmakers involved early. 

Key matchup: VES’s front seven takes on STAB’s Amani Woods. STAB had the ball all of about 10 minutes against Southampton in a 36-6 win, mostly because Southampton couldn’t stop Woods and Nic Reese. Woods needed just five carries to amass 137 yards and two touchdowns while Reese ripped off a 68-yard touchdown run. If VES can’t hem in Woods and prevent Reese from finding the edge they’ll be in a lot of trouble quick.

Who to watch: STAB’s Jago Gould. STAB middle linebacker Joe Ambrosi’s defensive credentials are well established, but Gould has the potential to give STAB another defensive stopper after he made five solo stops against Southampton. If Gould can put together that kind of effort consistently, it’ll be even tougher for teams to attack the Saints.  

The line: STAB by 21. The Saints have got things dialed in, and a week off shouldn’t change that.