James River (0-1) at Madison County (0-0), Friday 7 p.m.
The basics: Madison County’s Jon Rasnick era gets going with the Mountaineers opening the season with James River, a squad that posted an 8-3 record a year ago with a playoff loss to Gretna ending the Knights’ campaign. James River comes into Madison reeling a bit after a blowout loss to Stuarts Draft and is breaking in a new coach of their own in promoted assistant Tim Jennings. Can Madison get things going in the right direction with an early season victory at home?
Key matchup: Madison County’s defense takes on James River running back Luke Peay. The Mountaineers’ defense is a work in progress as the program looks to rebuild. It’ll start with trying to contain Peay and the ground game.
Who to watch: Madison offensive lineman Jacob Sacra. The Mountaineers are building around the guys in the trenches and Sacra is a big part of the plan. Can he help get the offense moving against the Knights?
The line: James River by 3. The Knights went 8-3 a season ago and will likely be locked in after absorbing that loss against Stuarts Draft.
Chancellor (0-1) at Louisa County (1-0), Friday 7:30 p.m.
The basics: Louisa County did a lot of Louisa County things last week while rolling past Courtland in the season opener.The Lions employed a hard-nosed, take no prisoners ground attack meshed with just enough passing to keep opponents honest and a stingy defense that gave up just 157 total yards of offense. That kind of approach on both sides of the ball is going to power a lot of success if the Lions stay healthy and keep spreading the wealth. There are players all over the field for Louisa, Jarett Hunter is just the tip of the spear with his 219 yards on 22 touches. Robbie Morgan, Landon Wilson, Xavien Hunter and Kalup Shelton all saw some success in some form or another on offense and the defense is just a swarm of excellent players playing their role and hemming in opponents. This is a deep, well-coached, talented Louisa squad that should be able to handle Chancellor.
Key matchup: Louisa’s highly-regarded secondary goes head-to-head with Chancellor quarterback Trevin Edwards. Edwards threw for 236 yards and four touchdowns a week ago against Massaponax and did it on an efficient 15-for-19 night. The Lions’ secondary that includes Xavien Hunter, Jarett Hunter and Alex Washington will look specifically to clamp down on Kim Carruthers, who had 108 yards and three TDs last week. This is a big early test for the defensive backs.
Who to watch: Louisa’s Robbie Morgan. Morgan showed flashes of excellence a season ago and his talent continues to get him on the field in a crowded offensive skill position group for the Lions. Morgan had seven touches for 65 yards and two touchdowns a week ago, bolstering Hunter’s own monster effort.
The line: Louisa County by 10. The Lions should keep things rolling against Chancellor.
Page County (0-0) at Nelson County (1-0), Friday 7 p.m.
The basics: It’s Page County’s opener while Nelson comes in after scoring the most points they’ve tallied against a VHSL opponent since 2012 when they scored 64 against William Monroe. The Governors beat Randolph Henry 50-23, employing a balanced offensive attack while doing enough defensively to stay in control after giving up an early touchdown. Now Nelson will look to win start 2-0 for the first time since 2007 and win two games in a row within a season for the first time since 2011. This is an important opportunity to build momentum ahead of Dogwood District play especially after the Governors missed a chance at a win in this clash a year ago, falling 16-6 after having a shot to win late.
Key matchup: Page County’s front seven takes on Nelson running back Felix Rodriguez. Rodriguez rushed for 177 yards and a touchdown on 15 touches a week ago, and Page County will have their hands full trying to stop the Governors’ power run game especially since you’ve got to keep tabs on quarterback George Brown every play.
Who to watch: Nelson County’s Brandon Jamerson gave the Governors another serious threat in the passing game against Randolph Henry with 100 yards receiving. If he can keep that rolling and Nelson can get Brice Wilson involved even more as a pass catcher, then the Governors will be a potent offense this season.
The line: Nelson by 1. The Governors weren’t far out of this one a year ago. A year wiser at the skill positions should make the difference.
William Monroe (0-1) at Spotswood (1-0), Friday 7 p.m.
The basics: William Monroe’s season didn’t get started like they’d hoped as they fell to Turner Ashby last week at home, a frustrating opener for a team with a lot of key pieces back and strong leadership during camp. The Dragons can get to work on proving that was an anomaly against the Blazers this week, who got a statement win in week one over East Rockingham. A strong showing against Spotswood where the offense finds a little bit of rhythm would be a huge lift for the Dragons. That’ll start with a heavy dose of Dupree Rucker at tailback and a better effort blocking up front by the group in the trenches.
Key matchup: Monroe’s front seven takes on Spotswood’s ground game including Ethan Barnhart. Barnhart rushed for 291 yards on more than 30 touches against East Rock, a necessity with quarterback Ryan High out of the lineup. Can the Dragons’ run defense put together another strong effort like they did early on a week ago against Turner Ashby against a more potent opponent?
Who to watch: William Monroe’s Shea Jeffers. Jeffers 17-yard red zone grab last week was one of the few positives from the Dragons’ offense last week. Getting Jeffers in the mix will help keep defenses honest against the ground game.
The line: Spotswood by 21. Blazers’ ground game is too much for the Dragons here.
Monticello (0-1) at Culpeper (0-1), Friday 7 p.m.
The basics: Monticello stumbled against Spotsylvania last week, falling 35-13. The Mustangs have a lot of work to do before the Jefferson District slate gets going and they can start getting on track against Culpeper, who’s coming o