You’ve Come to Fight as Free Men: Weekly Briefing Week Three


Orange County (2-0) at Charlottesville (1-1), 7 p.m. Friday

The Basics: Orange County has made good so far on the promise it showed this spring with a pair of solid wins, one in a shootout with Courtland, the other a more low scoring affair with Culpeper. Now they take on the Black Knights who just stunned most everyone that isn’t in their locker room with a win over James Monroe. It’s the Jefferson District opener for both squads and the Black Knights get a chance for a measuring sticky type game. Have they closed the gap on the Hornets, who rolled 36-6 over the Black Knights in the spring? Last week indicated serious progress and now the Black Knights get a chance to prove it wasn’t an anomaly.

Key Matchup: Charlottesville’s secondary contends with Will Lewis and Sheldon Robinson. The Black Knights’ defensive improvement from spring showed last week but now they’ll contend with potentially one of the best receiving combinations in the district with the senior Lewis and the freshman Robinson. It’s a dynamic pair that can cause all kinds of problems for defenses. Can the Black Knights’ talented defensive backs stand up to the test.

Who to Watch: Orange’s speedy offense takes on a Charlottesville defense that just held James Monroe to seven. This is the strength-on-strength matchup in this one as the Hornets’ offense can score quickly from anywhere on the field while the Black Knights’ defense looked vastly improved against the Jackets, including an interception by Polo Hill in overtime. Whichever team gets the better of this matchup almost surely picks up the win. 

The Line: Orange by 7. The Hornets have Poirier and he’s the difference-maker here. 

Buckingham County (0-0) at Fluvanna County (0-2), 7 p.m. Friday

The Basics: For Buckingham County, the long wait is finally over. Thanks to COVID issues at Brookville, the Knights get to play their first game since the region playoffs in 2019 with a rapid fire reschedule that renews the Battle of the Bridge rivalry that got put on the shelf after the 2011 installment (a 68-0 Buckingham win). Buckingham faces a Fluvanna team looking to get its footing after a blowout loss last week to Spotsylvania and a narrow loss to Broadway in week one. They certainly have the experience edge on the Knights having played last spring and with two games under their belt. Can that translate into the Flucos’ first win of the year?

Key Matchup: Fluvanna’s front seven takes on Buckingham’s ground attack. It’s possible that during the last two years that the Knights have been dormant…but it’s not likely. Buckingham’s identity as a power rushing team is well-established. Expect more of the same when they face the Flucos. Fluvanna’s front seven (could even be eight or nine in the box) will have to get in gear and be ready to play hard-nosed football.

Who to Watch: Buckingham’s secondary tries to contain Kobe Edmonds. One of the best bets for the Fluco offense is trying to get Edmonds the ball on the edge, which means the defensive backs have a ton of work to do for the Knights. 

The Line: Push. We haven’t seen Buckingham play in almost two years, this one is tough to figure out.

Turner Ashby (1-1) at Monticello (0-2), 7 p.m. Friday

The Basics: The Mustangs have dropped two straight road games to open the year in what appears to be a rebuilding year, but it’s early. Can the Mustangs get on track and pick up a victory in their home opener? They’ll need some playmakers to come to the forefront quickly. TA beat Fort Defiance before a blowout shutout loss against Brookville. Which TA squad is going to show up at Monticello Friday night.

Key Matchup: Monticello’s offensive line takes on Turner Ashby’s defense. Outside of Logan Clark’s late 57-yard sprint for a touchdown the Mustangs averaged just 2.1 yards per carry against Wilson Memorial. Improving there is critical. 

Who to Watch: Monticello’s front seven. The Mustangs nearly gave up two 100-yard rushers a week ago. Shoring up their run defense is an absolute must to get back on track.

The Line: Turner Ashby by 7. The Mustangs get a solid chance to show some improvement tonight. 

Albemarle (2-0) at Patrick Henry-Roanoke (0-1), 7 p.m. Friday

The Basics: Albemarle continues its customary tour of 5A teams before Jefferson District play begins with a road trip to face another set of Patriots. This is a critical opportunity for Albemarle to stack another win up before jumping into the JD gauntlet and a chance to bolster what has the potential to be an impressive playoff resume if Albemarle can turn the style, effort and intensity they’ve shown the last two weeks into a full four quarters night in and night out. The formula of running the ball and playing lights out defense is a really, really good one. Can they sustain it? Albemarle played well in a scrimmage with Brookville while the Bees easily dispatched Patrick Henry two weeks ago and Patrick Henry is plugging a lot of new faces into the lineup this season, so this appears to be a winnable road game for the experienced, savvy Patriots from Charlottesville.   

Key Matchup: Patrick Henry’s wideouts take on the Albemarle secondary. Running the ball against Albemarle is exceedingly difficult because the front seven works together so well and they’re all sound tacklers. But the alternative of trying to attack Albemarle through the air? With Jacob Terry and Malik Washington patrolling the boundaries and Isaiah Grevious and Christian Humes in the middle? There just aren’t many openings.  

Who to Watch: Albemarle’s Eb McCarthy. McCarthy exploded for more than 200 yards and two scores against a talented, resolute defense in William Fleming’s bunch. If he brings that same level of intensity, vision, power and speed every Friday, it changes everything about what Albemarle can do with dual threat sophomore quarterback Amaje Parker. 

The Line: Albemarle by 7. Albemarle takes their show on the road for the first time and get a chance to start 3-0. 

King George (0-0) at Louisa (2-0), 7:30 p.m. Friday

The Basics: In the fire drill that is COVID-era scheduling, Louisa County loses a clash with Massaponax and picks up a rematch from the spring playoffs with King George within 24 hours. The Lions now get a chance to exorcise some demons, albeit against a new look King George squad that graduated quarterback Charles Mutter and several of his top targets. A different but dangerous and dynamic skill group takes over for King George and should provide the Lions’ so far lock down defense with its biggest challenge to date. King George has its own set of problems trying to contain quarterback Landon Wilson and human Swiss Army knife Jordan Smith who have so far been the tip of the spear for the Lions on the ground — and they’ve kept it almost exclusively on the ground, with Wilson throwing for 167 yards in two games. Odds are good they’ll have to open it up a little Friday, so we could see another dimension of the Lions we haven’t seen through two games in this one.

Key Matchup: King George’s offensive line battles the Louisa defensive line. Anyone who plays Louisa is going to have to scheme against the fierce bookend duo of Eli Brooks and Qwenton Spellman, and King George handled it well enough last spring. They return three starters from that group that isn’t afraid to mix it up. Brooks, Spellman and the rest of the Lions’ defensive line get a big chance to show how much work they’ve put in here.

Who to Watch: Louisa’s Troy Fischer. You need guys on every team who find or develop or embrace a role. Troy Fischer is plugging a lot of those kinds of holes for the Lions, emerging as an effective short yardage threat and making some defensive plays with a fumble recovery. When a guy who isn’t necessarily a star player can step up like Fischer did against Courtland? That’s an indicator of just how deep and just how well built your program is.

The Line: Louisa by 1. King George graduated some key pieces and the Lions have been thinking about the loss to the Foxes since spring. This one should be good.

William Monroe (1-0) at Broadway (1-1), 7 p.m. Friday

The Basics: William Monroe packed a season worth of storylines and energy into a single night against Spotswood, from honoring Joshua Johnson to riding a comeback from a touchdown deficit in the third quarter to Mitchell Morris’ first victory as a head coach. Monroe lived nine lives worth of stuff in those four quarters and that can make it challenging to get ready for the next week in situations like that. They’ll take on a Broadway squad that dropped a clash with Strasburg after opening the season with a hard fought win over Fluvanna County. Can the Dragons find some of that same magic from last week and take it on the road?

Key Matchup: Broadway’s tackles take on Thomas Mack. Thomas Mack, for a significant stretch of the second quarter against Spotswood looked essentially unblockable. It seems likely that Mack wreaking havoc on Spotswood prompted their change to a packed in, Wing-T look in the second half. They just had to do something because Mack wasn’t letting them do anything in their base set in the first half. Now Broadway has to figure out a solution.

Who to Watch: William Monroe’s Davien Griffieth. It can’t be stressed how important Griffieth’s development is to the Dragons. His teammates have pointed out how much the sophomore has grown, and he helped them beat Spotswood with his feet and his arm last week while staying cool and calm most of the game. If he can bring that same approach and keep putting teammates into position to make plays, it’ll go a long way toward helping ignite the Dragons. 

The Line: William Monroe by 1. The Dragons have to compartmentalize a lot of emotion from last week, but they’ve got the weapons and the mental toughness to do it. 

Meridian (1-1) at Madison County (0-1), 7 p.m. Friday

The Basics: Madison County’s rebuilding effort took a step forward last week with its highest scoring output of the Larry Helmick era with 26 points against Central Woodstock (including a 6-0 lead early on), but they surrendered 63 points in what became an up-and-down affair. The Mountaineers are going to have to obviously shore that up going forward. Meridian is a familiar opponent for Madison as it’s the new name for longtime Bull Run District member George Mason and the Mustangs now reside in the Northwestern District. Meridian split with Falls Church and Kettle Run over its first two games.

Key Matchup: Meridian’s ground game takes on Madison’s run defense. Can the Mountaineers continue to make progress at figuring out how to stop the run? That’s a big question each and every week, but stopping the run is going to be a critical component in the defense’s development. 

Who to Watch: Madison County’s Jordan Morris. Morris picked off two passes and took one to the house for a pick six. Playmakers are starting to emerge for the Mountaineers, and Morris appears to be one of them.

The Line: Meridian by 10. The Mountaineers just have to keep taking incremental steps each Friday.

Fredericksburg Christian (1-0) at St. Anne’s-Belfield (1-1), 7 p.m. Friday

The Basics: STAB bounced back in a huge way last week with a blowout win over Hargrave just a week after Fork Union dropped the Saints. STAB got improvement on multiple fronts, especially from a defense that started producing points and turnovers of its own. Nolan Bruton got back to slinging the ball around well at the quarterback slot and now they’ll play their third-straight game at home. 

Key Matchup: STAB’s front seven looks to contain Fredericksburg’s Noah Martin. Martin is a lightning quick weapon who did some damage in Fredericksburg Christian’s first game. Containing him will be critical and with FCA running some Wing-T type sets, that means staying at home is critical for the Saints. Chance Mallory, who had three tackles for a loss against Hargrave, could be a difference maker against Martin.

Who to Watch: STAB’s Austin Williford. Williford was a defensive player of the week pick over on the SP Podcast after scoring two different defensive touchdowns, a pick six and a scoop and score. If he’s going to be that kind of impact player, it’ll go a long way toward STAB establishing a defensive identity. 

The Line: STAB by 7. The Saints are starting to find a groove.

Benedictine (0-2) at Woodberry Forest (0-0), 4 p.m. Friday

The Basics: When you have a building block like Donovan Baker at running back, that’s a start and Woodberry is about to find out how far that start can take them as they enter into their first full slate since 2019. The Tigers take on a reeling Benedictine team that has started the post Jay Woolfolk era off with two straight losses and will come into Woodberry hungry. There are seemingly zero gimmes on the Tigers’ challenging schedule, so expect Woodberry to be prepared and ready to rectify a string of close losses from back when the Tigers’ current seniors were just sophomores. 

Key Matchup: Benedictine’s offensive line takes on Woodberry’s defensive front led by Rodney Lora. This has the potential to be a coming out party for some new members of the Tigers’ defensive front including Armel Mukam on the edge. This is definitely a position group to watch and they get an early test against a Benedictine squad that’s accustomed to getting it done up front on offense.

Who to Watch: Woodberry’s quarterbacks. Anthony Lio appears set to be the guy at quarterback for the Tigers who’ve had some envious stability at that spot going from Lindell Stone to Ben Locklear over the last seven years or so. If Lio takes on that mantle he could give them a more dual threat look that they haven’t had in years. 

The Line: Woodberry by 14. The Tigers have played just one game in the last 18 months or so and it wasn’t at home — expect them to be ready and fired up for this one.

Nelson County (0-1) at Prince Edward (0-2), 7 p.m. Friday

The Basics: The Governors face a short week after playing Page County Tuesday night but they get an excellent chance to pick up a win here as Prince Edward hasn’t scored in its previous two games, losing to Chatham and Altavista in blowout fashion. If Nelson can get off on the right foot on the road and shake off the short rest, they could be in position for their first win of the year. 

Key Matchup: Nelson’s defensive front takes on Prince Edward’s ground game. Stopping the run is a critical piece of the puzzle for the Governors and that group is going to have to step up in this one.

Who to Watch: Nelson County’s Johnny Oneida. The Governors top returning offensive threat needs to find his footing against Prince Edward as he’s one of the key figures that Nelson needs to step up this year. 

The Line: Nelson by 1. Big opportunity here for the Governors. 

Covenant (0-2) at Randolph Macon Academy (0-1), Noon Saturday

The Basics: In eight man you know you’re going to give up some points, its kind of embedded in the nature of the wide-open format. But Covenant surrendered 56 points last week in a 56-34 loss to Southampton Academy on the road and the Eagles are going to have to shore that up. RMA actually got shutout against Kenston Forest last week, so the defense gets a chance to show some improvement in this one. They’ll have to start with improving against the ground game, they surrendered 421 rushing yards last week.

Key Matchup: Covenant’s receivers takes on the Randolph Macon secondary. The Eagles have a pretty good group of wideouts including Lukas Sanker who had a couple of big catches in the loss to Southampton. If that group continues to create separation it should keep giving the offense a spark. 

Who to Watch: Covenant quarterback Stephen Burton. Burton has shown the ability to put it up and let his wideouts make plays and also get the job done with his legs. They’ll likely lean on his for that kind of injection of energy again this week. 

The Line: Covenant by 7. Great opportunity for the Eagles to get on track and pick up their first win over the year. 

Hargrave at (1-1) Blue Ridge School (0-1), 2 p.m. Saturday

The Basics: The Barons finally returned to the field after nearly two years and they started with a tough one on the road against Nansemond Suffolk, falling 49-31. Now can the Barons bounce back and get straightened out before facing a much more manageable opponent in the Tigers? Expect Blue Ridge to settle in and go on the attack in this one. 

Key Matchup: Blue Ridge’s secondary takes on Hargrave’s passing attack. STAB picked off the Tigers twice last week. Can the Barons create some similar havoc Saturday?

Who to Watch: Blue Ridge’s rush defense. The Barons surrendered five touchdowns to big-time running back George Pettaway, but some signs suggest that when not facing a superstar, the Barons’ rush defense should be a strength. Can they clamp down on Hargrave?

The Line: Blue Ridge by 14. The Barons should get the job done here.