Madison County (0-2) at William Monore (1-1), 7 p.m.
The Basics: It’s a cliche, but in this one you can usually throw out the records. But the Dragons have won seven in a row and they have the upperhand here again this year. Monroe has some dynamic offensive weapons and Daelan Powell-Jackson is on pace to take 10 kickoffs back for a touchdown this year as he’s taken one to the house in each game for the Dragons. Both teams are coming off a loss, but while for William Monroe last week may feel like a step backward, for Madison County, the Mountaineers defense is improving, holding an opposing team to under 40 points for the first time in awhile. Madison will need to see continued improvement on both sides of the ball as they continue to rebuild and a strong showing against the Dragons would go a long way toward jumpstarting the process. Madison has to find a way to contain Shea Jeffers at receiver for Monroe, or he’s got the ability to make them pay dearly for leaving him open.
Key Matchup: Madison’s still-developing offensive line takes on Isaiah Taylor and Thomas Mack. Taylor had seven tackles last week at defensive end and Thomas had a pair of sacks against Spotswood coming from the edge. If the Mountaineers don’t want Wade Fox to face a similar fate to the Blazers’ quarterback they’ll have to figure out how to protect on the edge, because the Dragons are looking to attack on that side of the ball.
Who to Watch: William Monroe’s Troy Jones had 10 tackles against Broadway and considering Madison County’s offensive balance, he’s best positioned to shut down the Mountaineers again since he can make an impact in the ground game and in the secondary. Jones will be a key part of the Dragons’ efforts to bounce back from the road loss to Broadway.
The Line: William Monroe by 17. The Dragons should be able to get things rolling again.
Fluvanna County (1-2) at Louisa County (2-1), 7:30 p.m.
The Basics: Nobody can say Louisa County shies away from anyone in the scheduling department, which is part of what makes their long regular season win streak that ended last week so impressive. The Lions lost Massaponax last week due to COVID and added King George. They’re just never afraid to test themselves. The King George loss looked similar in some ways to the Lions’ spring playoff loss to the Foxes with a balanced attack on offense giving the Lions’ defense some trouble. It came down in large part to the fact that the Louisa defense couldn’t get off the field, allowing King George to convert 10 of 15 third down chances. That’s not up to the Lions’ standards, and you can guarantee that got addressed this week in practice. Fluvanna County, meanwhile, also replaced one really tough opponent in Brookville with a challenging one in Buckingham and the Flucos earned their first win of the season. Now they’ll face an angry Louisa squad in The Jungle, so business is going to pick up fast.
Key Matchup: Fluvanna’s offensive line takes on Louisa’s defensive line. If you can’t block Louisa County, they’re bound to eat you alive. Fluvanna County will have to figure out how to take care of business in the trenches against Eli Brooks and Qwenton Spellman or they’re in for a long night and Kobe Edmonds isn’t going to find much running room.
Who to Watch: Louisa County’s Jordan Smith. The Lions’ senior continues to exemplify the word playmaker and Louisa continues to find ways to get the ball in his hands. He rang up 115 yards of total offense on 11 touches last week with King George surely well aware of his explosiveness. Your only real hope defensively is to contain him.
The Line: Louisa by 21. The Lions haven’t lost two regular season games in a row since 2015. Don’t bet on it happening here.
Western Albemarle (2-0) at Turner Ashby (2-1), 7 p.m.
The Basics: Western Albemarle’s slow start against Charlottesville is one of the only things that gives anyone pause about the Warriors. Because since the early stages of that first quarter, Western has outscored the Black Knights and Rockbridge 82-7. This will be a step up in competition for the Warriors who venture outside the friendly confines of Crozet for the first time. Turner Ashby is on a roller coaster — so far they’re either blowing teams out like they did against Monticello last week or they’re getting blown out like they did two weeks ago against Brookville. Western will need to lean heavily on its bread and butter of hard-nosed, sound defense and a ground game that Kaden Morrow and company have made sure doesn’t miss much of a beat from the spring.
Key Matchup: Western’s defensive line and linebackers take on the Turner Ashby rushing attack. Western is so experienced and so talented in the front seven that Turner Ashby certainly won’t see the same rampant success it saw against Monticello while rushing for 317 yards last week. Carson Tujague, Ross Bassett, Dakota Howell and company will see to that, but there’s no doubt they’ll need to bring their A game.
Who to Watch: Western’s Morrow. Huge numbers against Rockbridge and a clear message sent that Austin Shifflett’s graduation didn’t end the Warriors’ transformation into a run-centric offense. The Warriors’ ground game is here to stay.
The Line: Western Albemarle by 7. The Warriors have a firmly established identity and that should carry them even in challenging road matchups like this one.
Charlottesville (1-2) at Spotswood (0-2), 7 p.m.
The Basics: It’s worth noting that while the final was decisively in Orange’s favor, Charlottesville was in the game for three quarters before things crumbled late in the third. The Black Knights’ defense is small, but they’re quick and for the most part pretty sound. Stringing together four quarters every week is important and several key offensive options were out of the mix for the Black Knights, leading to a lot of on-the-fly shuffling. If Charlottesville can settle that down, they can compete night in and night out in the Jefferson. Winning on the road at Spotswood would be a huge step in the right direction.
Key Matchup: Charlottesville’s defensive front takes on Spotswood’s ground and pound. A couple of weeks ago, the Blazers — who often employ multiple looks offensively — had success against William Monroe with some old school rushing action, all inside the box, quick trapping type stuff. Charlottesville sees that every day in practice, but holding up against for an entire game can be challenging. The Black Knights will have to be locked in to make sure they’re ready to roll when the Blazers get physical.
Who to Watch: Charlottesville’s Nasir Lindsay. On a team that desperately needs some offensive spark, Lindsay gave it to the Black Knights against Orange County. Long runs, big catches, Lindsay showed a ton of game-breaking potential last week. Can he repeat it on the road.
The Line: Charlottesville by 1. The Black Knights have to get back on track to get this done on the road but they have the potential to do just that.
Orange County (3-0) at Harrisonburg (1-2), 7 p.m.
The Basics: Orange County is undoubtedly the hottest squad in the area, and they’re doing it without a key piece of the puzzle with Will Lewis currently out. The Hornets are delivering on potential they showed but struggled to translate last spring and they’re off to a red-hot start. Now it becomes about keeping that momentum going as the schedule starts getting tougher. Finishing off this last opponent before the bye week is critical. Harrisonburg gave Albemarle some second half trouble, but the Hornets definitely have an edge because Paul Poirier is just making plays on plays on plays at quarterback and on defense. He fought through being banged up in the first half against Charlottesville to rush for big yards and make a monster pick. He’s impacting the game at so many different levels right now.
Key Matchup: Harrisonburg’s front seven deals with the two-headed Poirier/Bryant Chiles rushing monster. Poirier and Chiles combined for 253 yards on the ground last week against a Charlottesville team that had just ground down James Monroe. The tandem averaged 10.5 yards per carry. A defense can’t get stops and get off the field when that’s happening, so Harrisonburg has to find an answer.
Who to Watch: Orange’s Taylor Gibson. The Hornets’ linebacker is seemingly always around the football. He was in on 15 different tackles last week, with four solo stops. That’s a necessity against Charlottesville’s option attack and if he can show up like that every week, Orange’;s defense will continue to show it’s ready to compete at a high level in the district.
The Line: Orange County by 7. The Hornets have proven they can win on the road with two straight victories, they should keep it rolling here.
Goochland (1-1) at Armstrong (1-2), 7 p.m.
The Basics: Goochland had a bye week to stew over its first regular season loss since the program’s opener in 2019 and Armstrong is now firmly in the crosshairs. The key right now appears to be to get the offense going, After giving up two touchdowns against Collegiate in the first quarter. The Bulldogs’ defense found a groove and held the Cougars scoreless until the fourth. You can bet that was the focus this week and that Goochland will execute better this week.
Key Matchup: Goochland’s offensive line takes on Armstrong’s front seven. Goochland is always fueled by the ground game and they’ll need to get the offensive line going to give that rushing attack a jump start. There’s experience there, but that cohesion is still coming and with so many new faces toting the rock, Goochland needs it to happen fast.
Who to Watch: Goochland’s De’Andre Robinson. We can’t stress enough just how good Robinson is, he’s without a doubt one of the area’s best defenders. Against Collegiate in the loss he had two sacks and five tackles for a loss. He’s the definition of an impact player.
The Line: Goochland by 10. Goochland doesn’t lose many games, and they rarely lose two-in-a-row. The last time within a season? 2015.
Nelson County (0-2) at Cumberland (0-1), 7 p.m.
The Basics: Nelson County’s offense showed signs of significant improvement from week-to-week last Friday in a 56-30 loss to Prince Edward. Putting up 30 points a week after scoring just six was a solid jump and shows the Governors are starting to figure some things out. The defense has to follow now though as they’ve given up more than 50 points in each of the first two contests against Page and Prince Edward. Cumberland didn’t score at all in their opener, a 44-0 loss to King and Queen Central, so something has to give here.
Key Matchup: Nelson’s defense takes on Cumberland’s rushing attack. The Governors have to get some spark from the defense in order to get on the right track. Cumberland wants to move the ball on the ground so look for Nelson to load the box up to try and shut off the ground game.
Who to Watch: Nelson’s James Lloyd. Lloyd threw for a touchdown in week one when he found DaVeon Rose, and the Governors are going to need more of that from Lloyd if they’re going to get on track before jumping into the Dogwood gauntlet in the coming weeks.
The Line: Nelson County by 7. The Governors should find a rhythm this week.
Virginia Spartans (1-1) at Fork Union (1-1), Saturday 2 p.m.
The Basics: Fork Union got a week after a couple of mixed results in their first two games, a blowout win over STAB and a narrow 12-point loss to St. Michael the Archangel. Now they’ll face another opponent that could potentially be overmatched before Fork Union dives headlong into Prep League play in early October. If Fork Union can use this one to iron out the kinks and keep developing that swarming, opportunistic defense it showed against STAB, they’ll be in excellent shape for the stretch run.
Key Matchup: Fork Union’s secondary takes on the Spartans’ aerial attack. Moving the ball against Fork Union through the air is not an easy task because there are a bunch of ballhawks floating all over the secondary.
Who to Watch: Fork Union’s Caleb Davis. Davis had 91 yards for the Blue Devils in their opener against STAB and Fork Union is going to need a spark from the ground game the rest of the season. While a lot of players on the roster are capable of providing that spark, Davis is the one who has already proven he can get the job done. Look for a heavy dose of him Saturday.
The Line: Fork Union by 21. The Blue Devils should have their way with things here.
St. Anne’s-Belfield (1-2) at Collegiate (1-1), Friday 4 p.m.
The Basics: STAB has been through a bit of a roller coaster to start the year with blowout losses sandwiching a blowout win over Hargrave. Now they draw a challenging road matchup with a talented, hard-nosed Collegiate squad that gave Goochland some serious problems in the Cougars’ win over the Bulldogs. Now STAB has to try and figure out an answer for a dynamic offense and stingy defense just a week after struggling to contain Noah Martin. Can the young Saints take a step forward and go toe-to-toe with the Cougars?
Key Matchup: STAB’s Nolan Bruton faces the Collegiate front seven. The Saints’ quarterback has proven to be a reliable source of offense the last couple of weeks but STAB is going to find tough sledding against a Collegiate front seven that suffocated Goochland for the most part. Can Bruton find holes or get it done with his feet?
Who to Watch: STAB’s Chance Mallory. He might be known for his shooting prowess on the hardwood, but Chance Mallory gave the Saints’ defense a physical edge two weeks ago against Hargrave with five solo tackles. Can he bring that same intensity and impact against a more challenging opponent this week?
The Line: Collegiate by 10. The Cougars looked fantastic against Goochland and played a loaded Trinity squad tough. Challenging matchup for the Saints.
Blue Ridge (1-1) at Fishburne (0-1), Saturday 2 p.m.
The Basics: Blue Ridge bounced back from a road loss to Nansemond Suffolk Academy and an extra week together made a lot of difference for a Blue Ridge team still getting to know one another as the offense came to life in a huge way and the defense shook off a couple of early surprises to close the door on Hargrave. Camden Brewer’s seven total touchdowns made him the breakout star, but Robby Matos, who’ll be a guard for the Barons come basketball season, was a human highlight reel with three touchdown catches on just three total catches and 107 yards. He caught one where he leapt north of the corner’s shoulders, and he hit another open field tackler with a dead leg move that turned a simple out into perhaps the day’s most exciting play. Blue Ridge has weapons. Consistency and getting things dialed in is the key, but they’re well on their way.
Key Matchup: Fishburne’s front seven takes on Blue Ridge’s offensive line. The Barons’ offensive line opened holes on the ground and they kept Camden Brewer clean enough to throw six touchdowns against Hargrave. That’s a pretty good day at the offense for the Barons’ crew in the trenches. If they can keep improving and working together as a unit, the Barons have a special crew up front. Plus, Reuben Walbrook checks in at 6-foot-6, 313 pounds at left guard and that doesn’t hurt. Throw in Charles Ferguson at center and the Barons are starting to find a way to get things going up there.
Who to Watch: Blue Ridge’s Diarmid Stewart. Whenever a 6-foot-5 receiver shows up at Blue Ridge, it’s almost always because they’re there for basketball first and Stewart is no exception. But few have had the kind of home debut that made it clear they could have a serious impact in both sports like Stewart did. More than 100 yards and a pair of touchdowns indicate that Stewart could be a major part of the equation this year in St. George.
The Line: Blue Ridge by 35. If the Barons’ offense is locked in like it was last week, Blue Ridge should roll here.
Greenbrier Christian (2-1) at Covenant (1-2), Friday 4:30 p.m.
The Basics: After a bumpy start to the season including struggling to get on the practice field due to heat and the opener against Blessed Sacrament being called at the break due to heat, plus a narrow road loss to Southampton, Covenant got on track Saturday with a 48-24 win over Randolph Macon Academy on the road. Now the Eagles get a chance to tune-up again before a rematch with Blessed Sacrament next week. Can Covenant build on last week’s success?
Key Matchup: Covenant’s offensive line takes on Greenbrier’s defensive front. The Eagles got the offense moving the last two weeks and that means the offensive line is rounding into shape. Can they protect and hold up against a more challenging opponent in Greenbrier Christian.
Who to Watch: Covenant’s Mark Wamhoff notched four touchdowns in the win over Randolph-Macon Academy, giving the Eagles a serious spark. Now he’ll try and sustain that production in the eight-man game’s high scoring format.
The Line: Covenant by 1. The Eagles got on track last week, now they’ll look to keep it going.
Georgetown Prep (0-1) at Woodberry Forest (0-1), 2 p.m. Saturday
The Basics: Woodberry Forest’s schedule is brutal, there’s no time to ease into things, not with a Benedictine opener and a Georgetown Prep chaser. The Tigers struggled to move the ball on offense against the Cadets and they’ll have to get that sorted out, but there were some defensive struggles at times as well. There’s a lot of potential on both sides of the ball and you can bet the Tigers’ staff went to work shoring things up in the last week, but Woodberry had only played one game in the last 18 months before last week. That’s a big-time challenge to overcome and there are essentially no gimmes on the Tigers’ slate.
Key Matchup: Woodberry’s Donovan Baker versus Georgetown Prep’s Isaiah West. This one pits a pair of 2022 West Point commits against each other in these two talented running backs. Whichever team can get that run game going should have a serious leg up in winning this one.
Who to Watch: Woodberry’s Baker. Baker had a couple of dynamic plays against Benedictine on an otherwise frustrating day for the Tigers. It’s clear that at least right now he’s the catalyst, and he’ll need to provide some energy in this one.
The Line: Woodberry by 1. The Tigers can bounce back here, but they’ll need to be locked in.