Here, In Defiance of Tyranny: Weekly Briefing Week Six

Albemarle (3-1) at Orange (3-1), 7 p.m. Friday

The Basics: Now we’re going to start sorting some things out. Western Albemarle’s clash with Goochland was the first in a critical series of matchups each week and the next one up is Albemarle versus Orange. Both teams are 3-1 and coming off wins after Orange beat CHS and Albemarle beat Monticello last Thursday. Both teams are looking to reverse spring seasons that didn’t exactly meet expectations and this is a chance to kick things into high gear. The winner will be in position to compete for a Jefferson District title while the losing squad will have a lot of work to do to get back in that conversation in a year where five Jefferson District schools are playing pretty good football and picking up wins. Amaje Parker enters the period of the schedule where the sophomore is going to be in some duels with some of the district’s best signal-callers, this time Paul Poirier. If he can stay within himself and do the things he’s done that have sparked Albemarle to this early run, it would be a huge lift for Albemarle’s cause. Orange is going to need some players to step up beyond Poirier, like Bryant Chiles and Sheldon Robinson have done in the early going. Look for the Hornets to try and get some of them involved in the mix early on and get a rhythm.

Key Matchup: Albemarle’s defense takes on Orange quarterback Paul Poirier. This will be an excellent measuring stick for both squads as Albemarle tries to figure out how to hem in the most dynamic quarterback they’ve faced this year while Orange tries to tackle beating the most suffocating defense they’ve faced. Can the Patriots sniff out dual threat Poirier or will the Hornets take advantage of whatever cracks they can find in the Patriots’ armor? With this being the strength-on-strength part of the matchup, whoever can get the better of this one gets a huge leg up Friday night. 

Who to Watch: Albemarle’s Eb McCarthy. McCarthy has stacked up more than 700 yards on the ground and is becoming the kind of runner he and the Patriots envisioned after getting stronger this summer to be ready to hold up against the pounding week-in and week-out. Expect a heavy dose of McCarthy against the Hornets early. 

The Line: Albemarle by 6. The Patriots’ defense can be the difference-maker here. 


North Cross (3-1) at Blue Ridge (3-1), 2 p.m. Friday

The Basics: This one has a ton of new faces, but whenever Blue Ridge and North Cross go head-to-head there are major stakes for VISAA’s Division II and that usually leads to an exciting matchup. The Raiders are balanced like they were last time these two locked up in the 2019 state title game. They’re averaging an almost identical 135 yards passing and 134 yards rushing per game behind running back Kam Johnson and quarterback Connor Lange. The Barons counter with an offense that has been explosive but hasn’t completely clicked in two games, the Fishburne and Nansemond Suffolk matchups. They’ll have to bring their best against the Raiders, the best opponent they’ve faced so far. If dual threat Cam Brewer plays they way he’s been playing, it’ll go a long way toward helping the Barons pick up a critical victory. 

Key Matchup: Blue Ridge’s front seven takes on Johnson. Great measuring stick for the Blue Ridge run defense, as they gave up several scores to UNC commitment George Pettaway in the NSA opener and now get a chance to test themselves against Johnson who’s averaging a whopping 8.3 yards per touch. The Raiders’ balance makes this a tougher task, but look for the Barons to rise to the occasion.

Who to Watch: Blue Ridge’s Diarmid Stewart. Huge target, huge numbers so far. North Cross will have their hands full trying to matchup with the 6-foot-5 wideout. If the Barons’ offensive line protects Brewer and he gets connected with Stewart, that would be a huge lift for Blue Ridge. 

The Line: Blue Ridge by 1. Barons are at home and the Raiders are coming off a long layoff, that gives Blue Ridge a very narrow edge. 


Norfolk Academy (2-2) at Fork Union (2-1), 4 p.m. Friday

The Basics: This is a critical matchup for Fork Union if the Blue Devils are going to fight their way back into the VISAA Division I playoff picture. FUMA sits just outside the top six and the Bulldogs are in the No. 6 slot. It follows that a win over Norfolk Academy would significantly boost Fork Union’s stock statewide. The last time out, Fork Union took apart the Virginia Spartans to the tune of a 49-0 win. This is a significant step up in competition for the Blue Devils over their first three games, but it’s also a critical matchup as Norfolk Academy has already dropped games to Fork Union’s next two opponents in blowout fashion, so this will set the stage for this critical stretch for FUMA.  

Key Matchup: Fork Union’s secondary takes on Bulldogs quarterback Cooper Tyszko. Tyszko has thrown for 468 yards, but he’s gotten into trouble occasionally with six picks and just five touchdowns. With the ballhawks and athletes that Fork Union has prowling the secondary, that could be a huge advantage for the Blue Devils if they can force Tyszko into some poor decisions.

Who to Watch: Fork Union’s ground game. The Blue Devils are playing power football and so far, so good. Caleb Davis rushed for 84 yards and a touchdown on just nine touches against the Spartans and Colin Reynolds and Leland Edwards have been solid too. The Blue Devils have options and they can be unpredictable without having to take to the air, and that’s a huge advantage.

The Line: Fork Union by 7. Great chance for the Blue Devils to kick things into high gear.

Trinity Episcopal (3-2) at St. Anne’s-Belfield (1-3), 7 p.m. Friday

The Basics: St. Anne’s-Belfield has had a couple of weeks off now and they’ve got a huge challenge ahead of them this week as they face a Trinity Episcopal squad that is ranked No. 10 in the Richmond area and No. 4 in VISAA’s Division I and has a pair of quality losses to Episcopal High and Bishop McNamara. The Titans are built to contend for a state title now, having beaten Collegiate 37-0 while STAB lost to the Cougars, ranked No. 2 in the state, 35-7. The Saints are also now playing for head coach John Blake’s final year at the helm as his retirement from being the football coach was announced last week.

Key Matchup: STAB’s secondary takes on the Jack Toscano to Trai Ferguson connection. The Titans have an explosive quarterback/wideout connection when Toscano throws to Ferguson, and STAB’s young secondary will surely be tested early and often. 

Who to Watch: STAB’s Braden White. As the Saints look for playmakers, White seems like a potentially dynamic presence. Look for them to try and find ways to get him in the mix. 

The Line: Trinity by 14. The Titans are loaded up this year and STAB has stacked up some injuries, which always challenges a squad’s depth.


Goochland (2-2) at Fluvanna County (1-3), 7 p.m. Friday

The Basics: This is a critical opportunity for both teams, for the Flucos, it’s about trying to come up with a major upset while Goochland needs to find an offensive flow after a turnover-riddled performance against Western Albemarle. If the Bulldogs can get back on track here and in the next two games against Charlottesville and Monticello, it would be a huge boost before they tackle the three-game stretch of Albemarle, Orange and then Louisa to finish the season. Western Albemarle gave the Goochland offense fits playing base defense and handling their responsibilities well. Fluvanna hasn’t yet shown that soundness, but expect them to try and recreate some of what worked for the Warriors. 

Key Matchup: Fluvanna’s run defense takes on the Bulldogs’ ground game. Goochland is looking for some rhythm on offense and while C.J. Towles can break some big-time plays, a more consistent, less-improvised rushing attack would be a huge step in the right direction. The Flucos struggled to stop the run against Buckingham and Louisa in the last two games before their bye week. Can the Flucos clamp down on Goochland?

Who to Watch: Goochland’s Derek-Anthony Pierce. Between his acrobatic touchdown catch and equally dynamic interception, Pierce did everything he could to keep Goochland in it against Western Albemarle. Expect a lot more plays like that from the sophomore in the future.

The Line: Goochland by 14. Look for a big bounce back by the Bulldogs here. 


Wilson Memorial (3-0) at Western Albemarle (4-0), 7 p.m. Friday

The Basics: This is a serious stretch of football for the Warriors that started last week with Goochland, continues with the unbeaten Hornets and then features back-to-back clashes with Albemarle and Louisa County. They passed the first test with flying colors, beating Goochland with a cold-blooded defensive effort and a clock-grinding final drive tha just put away the Bulldogs. It’s a completely different identity than we’ve been accustomed to seeing Western win with in the past, but it’s well-suited to this group of talent the Warriors have. Throw on top of it that the Warriors essentially brought back everyone from the spring campaign and there’s a reason they’ve been able to hit the ground running.

Key Matchup: Wilson Memorial takes on Western quarterback Nathan Simon. While the Warriors are getting it done on the ground, Simon can do some serious damage right around the time the defense gets sleepy or starts stacking the box against the run. If Wilson tries to solely stuff Kaden Morrow and the ground attack, Simon can make them pay. 

Who to Watch: Western Albemarle’s Joshua Williams. When you play opposite Carson Tujague at outside linebacker, you’re going to see some action. Williams stacked up tackles in a solid performance against Goochland. If he can deliver that kind of performance every week, it just makes an already strong Western linebacking group that much stronger.

The Line: Western by 10. The Warriors’ defense is just suffocating opponents right now. 


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

The Basics: Nelson County played three solid quarters last week coming off a hard fought win over Cumberland, but Randolph Henry pulled away in the fourth to put away the Governors. Nelson has the defense headed in the right direction, now they just need the offense to catch up. 

Key Matchup: Chatham’s front seven takes on Nelson’s ground game. The Governors struggled to get any offense going against Randolph Henry, but Johnny Oneida did manage a touchdown on the ground and seems like a good bet to get the Nelson offense going. 

Who to Watch: Nelson’s Carson Beccera. Beccera had seven stops in the Governors’ loss to Randolph Henry and three of those were tackles for a loss. If he and the defense can keep playing well, they’ll be ready to take advantage when the offense comes around.

The Line: Nelson by 1. The Governors should be able to get on track here.


Madison County (1-3) at Parry McCluer (1-3), 7 p.m. Friday

The Basics: Sometimes winning the first one is really the hard part. Sometimes it’s winning the second and the third. This is an important opportunity for the Mountaineers to pick up another road win as they travel to face the Blues down in Buena Vista. The win over Monroe came in large part because the defense created a lot of havoc and was opportunistic on the turnover front. A similar effort would be a huge boost in this one.

Key Matchup: Parry McCluer’s linebackers take on Madison quarterback Wade Fox. Fox is dynamic on the ground and through the air, as William Monroe discovered two weeks ago. 

Who to Watch: Madison County’s Taylor Fincham. Against William Monroe, he had a huge pick to seal the win and a big catch for a first down on a critical drive. If he can keep emerging as a weapon it’ll help take the Mountaineers to the next level.

The Line: Madison by 1. The Mountaineers have had a week off, now they get a chance to win two-in-a-row for the first time since 2018.