Just nine days remain in the 2016 high school football regular season, and, while some teams are playing to better their postseason seeding, others are playing for their playoff lives. Let's take a look at upcoming games and what effect they may have in the final push to the playoffs.
Petersburg (2-6) at #1 Dinwiddie (8-0), 7pm: The Crimson Wave are still in the 3A East playoff race, but have lost six in a row. The Generals lead 8-0 Eastern View by a half-point in the race for the #1 seed in their 4A East Region eight-team bracket from Conferences 19 and 20. Eastern View faces 4-4 Fauquier tonight. If both favorites win, it will come down to results of other games to determine whether Dinwiddie holds to the top spot heading into the final week of the regular season. Thus, for Bryce Witt and company, nothing is secure, except they know they'll be in the playoffs. But the Generals want to stay at home as long as humanly possible, maybe all the way through to the finals December 10th. The 4A State Championship will be held at Zable Stadium at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg. But first things first, Dinwiddie must take care of Petersburg.
#2 Hermitage (7-1) at Glen Allen (2-6), 7pm: Devin Flowers has been on a tear for the Jaguars of late, but the offense steps up in quality of opponent, significantly tonight, as Glen Allen holds Senior Night for the Class of 2017. As Glen Allen looks to building for the future, Hermitage is in a dogfight near the top of 5A South Central. Again. They enter this week tied for second with Highland Springs, less than a point behind current top seed L.C. Bird. The Panthers could win tonight and lose ground, as we'll explain in a moment. The Panthers have never lost to the Jaguars, and need to just take care of business and escape this week without injury, so they then can turn their focus to Douglas Freeman.
#3 L.C. Bird (7-1) at Huguenot (2-6), 7:30pm: The Skyhawks will be heavily favored, but playing a two-win team will likely hurt them in 5A South Central if results hold to form. L.C. Bird are big Patrick Henry fans tonight (see below) and are rooting for their former assistant's team, Glen Allen, to pull a shocker. L.C. Bird, too, wants an easy game, no injuries, and get through tonight, then they can prepare for a highly confident James River team with their own playoff aspirations.
#9 Patrick Henry (7-1) at #4 Highland Springs (7-1), 7pm: It's Senior Night at Kreiter Stadium for a pretty special group. You know that quarterback Juwan Carter and his senior teammates will be chomping at the bit to win their final regular season game at home. Head Coach Loren Johnson won't look past the Patriots to next week's rival trip to Varina, now the players need to follow his lead. A Springer win over a seven-win team could vault them into the top spot in 5A South Central with a week to go. But if there's anything we've learned this year, do not overlook Patrick Henry. The Patriots offensive line has not been tested, however by the likes of Tavien Blackwell, Aaron Motley and company, plus the closing speed of Rell Coley and company. Getting their running game going is an absolute must if Patrick Henry wants to pull off what would be considered an upset. The last time Patrick Henry went to Highland Springs? November, 2002, when the Patriots pulled off a last-minute 23-22 win in the old Group AAA, Division 5 Regional Playoffs.
#7 Monacan (8-1) at #5 Manchester (7-1), 7:30pm: It's the end of the regular season for the Chiefs, who still are trying to play their way into a top four slot in 4A East, Conferences 19/20, to try to host a first round game. But in their way are the Lancers, who themselves are trying to overtake Colonial Forge, who has a bye this week, and reclaim the top spot in 6A South, Conferences 3/4. The premise to a win is simple for both: which defense plays the best? Each team has plenty of playmakers, and the team that makes the big plays will get the big win. Manchester still has Cosby to deal with net week, while Monacan, win or lose, will watch from the sidelines next week to find out their first round destination. Both teams are going to the playoffs, it's just a matter of seeding now.
#6 Douglas Freeman (8-0) at Mills Godwin (4-4), 7pm: The schedule makers give us a great one in the Colonial District. First, it's Rivalry Night. Records never matter when the Rebels and Eagles meet. They've been battling since Eagle Nation was born at the end of the 1970's, over 35 years of great games. So, first, the Rebels will be sky high to win at Axselle Stadium. They won't be, or at least shouldn't be, overlooking Mills Godwin thinking of their showdown with Hermitage next week. If they do that, the Eagles could strike, even without Wesley Dugger. They put a bit of a scare into Hermitage before falling 35-20 last week. An Eagle loss doesn't completely close the door on the playoffs, but will certainly those chances. On the other hand, an upset of the Rebels could bring enough rider points that Godwin could catch, or surpass the loser of Henrico/Lee-Davis with a week to go. The Rebels, from Trey Laughlin to Tanner Dobrucky, will want to control the ball, the tempo, and wear down their rivals. A win likely clinches a top four seed, and a home game in the first round of the 5A South playoffs, as it's hard to see even a 7-3 Varina, with an upset of Highland Springs, overcoming well over three points in the standings.
#8 Thomas Dale (6-2) at Hopewell (6-2), 7:30pm: This is the sleeper game this week, a terrific Central District showdown between two playoff teams. The Knights moved up a notch to third in 6A South, Conferences 3/4, and are rooting for Monacan to knock off Manchester, since Thomas Dale is 1.5 points behind the Lancers entering tonight's action. But Merner Field is a tough place to play. Just ask Meadowbrook. Only Dinwiddie has handled the Blue Devils at home. Hopewell is playing to draw closer to clinching the #1 seed in 3A East Region, Conferences 26/28. A win here and a final win over Prince George next Friday, also at Merner, and they'll stay at Merner for at least two weeks, so long as they continue to win.
#10 Goochland (9-0) at Bluestone (4-4), 7pm (Radio: WZEZ, 100.5 FM): The Bulldogs go for an undefeated regular season, their first since 2011, when they started 14-0 and lost to Gretna in the state finals. The Bulldog defense has not allowed 20 points or more yet this season, and have pitched four shutouts. They are the cornerstone for this Joe Fowler team, and need to continue that streak, especially as the postseason begins. A reminder that Goochland is off next week, and their final VHSL rating will be based on nine games, not ten, as they faced VISAA member Fork Union early in the season.
GAME OF THE WEEK: Henrico (5-3) at #11 Lee-Davis (6-2), 7pm (Coverage: WHAN, 102.9 FM, 1430 AM, online HERE, on mobile at @Tunein App on "Radiall", 6:30pm airtime): We'll be keeping both @hanoversports and @henricosports plenty busy with our Game of The Week, as Lee-Davis and Henrico essentially play for a postseason berth. Tonight's winner may not officially clinch, but will definitely take a giant step forward towards the playoffs. It's certainly a more urgent situation for the Warriors, who gave up a surprising 56 points at home last week to Highland Springs. Henrico's defense is better than that, and we look for them to bounce back. But, to do so, they must stop Nathan Evans and the ball control running game of Lee-Davis. Evans, on his Senior Night, will want to simply ball. But sophomore quarterback Zach Lass may be the X-Factor here tonight. He's growing in confidence, and, if he can stretch the field and prevent Akeem Smith and company from keying on Evans, the Confederates could be looking at 7-2 ahead of the long-awaited trip to Ashland for The 58th Tomato Bowl next Friday, also our Game of The Week on WHAN and the RVA Sports Network.
Atlee (3-5) at #12 Varina (5-3), 7pm: The Blue Devils are ranked for the first time this year, a win away from their first winning season since 2013, and knocking on the door of a postseason appearance, also their first in three seasons. But standing in their way is a desperate team, the Atlee Raiders, who begin tonight in 14th place in 5A North, where it is a 16-team, all-conferences tournament. Atlee benefited from several teams near them in the standings also losing last week, allowing them to stay in 14th place. Wins over Varina, and Armstrong next week, though winless, could be enough to get a postseason bid. A loss tonight hurts. Severely. They'll then have to scoreboard watch. With a win, Varina draws close to a postseason bid, but it will likely come down to next week's annual showdown with Highland Springs, this year at home, to determine Varina's fate. A win tonight, coupled with losses by Mills Godwin (above) and Deep Run (below), would be huge. They know that the loser of our Game of The Week, Henrico and Lee-Davis, will stay below them as long as they are victorious.
Meadowbrook (3-5) at Prince George (4-4), 7:30pm: This is an elimination game in 5A South. The winner survives, and still needs help to navigate their way to the top eight, as the Monarchs begin tonight in 11th, over a point and a half behind #8 Matoaca, the Royals are 12th, and nearly two points behind. The Warriors, however, won't get bonus points with a win over a winless Colonial Heights tonight should they do so, so the winner here gains ground, and roots for Douglas Freeman to defeat Mills Godwin and John Marshall to shock Deep Run. Both teams have a rough Week 11 ahead, as Meadowbrook hosts Dinwiddie, and Prince George goes to Hopewell. But, with big obstacles come big rewards if you're able to pull off the upset, and Meadowbrook has already done it once, handing Highland Springs their only loss back in September. Prince George seeks a "signature" win this season, while Meadowbrook seeks some consistency, especially on offense.
Matoaca (4-4) at Colonial Heights (0-8), 7pm: As mentioned above, Matoaca begins tonight with the eighth and final playoff berth in 5A South Central, and hope to even move up with a win, even over a winless Colonials squad, since someone must lose between sixth-seeded Lee-Davis and seventh-seeded Henrico. But all the while, Terrance Whitfield and company will be looking over their shoulders for Deep Run, Mills Godwin and the winner of Meadowbrook/Prince George. Look for the Warriors to try to put this game away early and get the starters off the field as soon as possible, so the Warriors can start getting ready for Thomas Dale in what could be, again, could be, a must win game next week depending upon tonight's results. By the way, Matoaca fans are Manchester fans tonight, as a Lancer win over Monacan gives the Warriors one VHSL bonus rider points. Next Friday night, when the numbers are being crunched, you'll need every point you can get.
John Marshall (1-7) at Deep Run (4-4), 7pm: The very fact that we are talking about Deep Run football and playoffs, on October 28th, is a testament to the work of the Wildcats and new head coach Chad Hornik. The Wildcats finish with the Justices, then the Vikings of Thomas Jefferson, and have a winning season within sight, which would be their first since 2012. What works against the Wildcats is the soft end to their schedule, as the Justices and Vikings have a combined four wins so far. So Deep Run will need to win, and get help, like a Patrick Henry win over Lee-Davis next week, a Thomas Dale win over Matoaca, and so on. The problem there is the rider points you gain even when you lose. Right now, a Deep Run win over John Marshall yields 26 points. Next week, if Lee-Davis loses to Patrick Henry, they still get 20 points. The Wildcats have hope, and, on paper, the easiest ending to a season in 5A South. But will two wins be enough to overtake one of the top eight? Time will tell.
Thomas Jefferson (3-4) at J.R. Tucker (1-7), 7pm: The Tigers get their first win last Saturday at John Marshall, and look to finish strong in 2016 as the Vikings, still in the 3A East playoff race, visit Parham Road. With no playoffs for the Tigers, it's all about building for the future. The Vikings have a lot to play for, and need a win to ensure a postseason bid, if not this week, then next week in their finale, but that's at Deep Run, and we already know they'll have much to play for.
George Wythe (1-7) at Cosby (4-4), 7:30pm: Senior Night for the Titans, who see Forest Park over their shoulder. Cosby is favored, and needs the win to set up the final week of the season. Cosby will face Manchester while Forest Park battles CD Hylton, the current #7 seed who sit three-quarters of a point ahead of #8 Cosby at this moment. And, yes, the Bulldogs are still alive and well for a 3A East playoff berth. The combined records of the eight teams who will eventually make the 3A East top eight from Conferences 26 and 28 could be rough.
Clover Hill (1-7) at James River (5-3), 7:30pm: We don't think the Rapids will be overlooking this game, choosing to focus on L.C. Bird coming over the horizon next week. There's too much to play for, as James River sits in a fifth place tie with Freedom-Prince William entering action. Freedom plays Woodbridge (2-6) tonight, so wins by both them and James River will cause little separation in the standings going into the final week. Then, James River can go and give L.C. Bird its best shot and see what happens. 6-4 should earn James River a postseason bid in 6A South, Conferences 3/4. Clover Hill would love, however, to finally play the spoiler, and get a victory for momentum going into 2017, where a successful JV season this year could feed into the varsity program.
AFTERNOON: Collegiate (4-2) at Norfolk Academy (6-2), 3:30pm
Armstrong (0-8) at Hanover (1-7), 7pm
Powhatan (6-2) at Fluvanna (1-7), 7;30pm
Orange (5-3) at Louisa (7-1), 7:30pm
West Point (4-4) at King William (5-3), 7pm
Poquoson (5-3) at New Kent (4-4), 7pm
Roanoke Catholic (7-1) at Blessed-Sacrament Huguenot (2-5)
Fishburne Military (1-4) at Richmond Christian (3-3)
Benedictine (5-2) at Fork Union (2-6), 12pm
Woodberry Forest (6-1) at St. Christopher's 5-2), 1pm
Trinity Episcopal (3-4) at Bishop O'Connell (3-5), 1pm