Obviously, two "Big 12 Poll" showdowns loom large this week, but there are some other games that, in the scheme of the race to the playoffs, could turn out to be season makers or season-breakers, as we break out the jackets and sweatshirts for our first Friday night of action that will be played in actual football weather, as temperatures will fall through the 50's as you enjoy your game!
WHAN Radio/RVA Sports Network Game of The Week: #10 Lee-Davis (5-1) at #5 Highland Springs (5-1), 7pm
(LISTEN LIVE on 102.9 FM/1430 AM, online by clicking HERE, on @TuneIn App on "Radiall")
Last year, when 6-0 and sky high, Lee-Davis welcomed Highland Springs to Mechanicsville, and the Springers rolled to a 42-0 victory. The Confederates learned from the experience, and, when finding themselves going to Kreiter Stadium for the second round of the 5A South playoffs a month later, made the rematch a heavyweight slugfest, matching the Springers score for score before falling short at 41-34. Lee-Davis quarterback Zach Lass steps on Kreiter's field for the first time, but tailback Nate Evans and most of his offensive line do not. They know what it takes to stay with the defending state champions. But Juwan Carter and his latest group of talented skill players are looking to continue their push towards the top of the 5A South Central playoff race. Look for Aaron Motley, Tavien Blackwell, and the Springer front seven on defense to decide this one. They want to stop Evans and force Lass to the passing game.
NBC12 Game of The Week: #1 Manchester (6-0) at #4 Hermitage (5-1), 7pm
First, kudos to both Manchester head coach Tom Hall and Hermitage head coach Patrick Kane and their respective schools for agreeing to this regular season series, made available when the Virginia High School League (VHSL) allowed schools within districts two or more classifications apart to cease playing each other if it were in the best interests of both schools. After 2014, Hermitage dropped Thomas Jefferson, and were able to add Manchester, whom they defeated in the 2014 5A South Central playoffs, ending Manchester's perfect season two years ago. The Panthers also won the first regular season meeting in the series last year. Woody Winborn leads Hermitage, improving with each game at quarterback. In fact, those eighteen new starters, as a unit, are much better than they were opening night. But so is Manchester, who fought off a pesky Midlothian squad last week, pulling away for a 54-26 victory. If the Lancers really want to show they are serious contenders for a 6A State Championship, the way to do it is go to Chester Fritz Stadium and win. Bryce Hall, Frank Boyd and company will look to do just that. This game could be everything from a shootout to a 14-13 grinder. Turnovers will be critical. Limit them, and you'll likely win.
Matoaca (3-3) at Meadowbrook (3-3), 7pm
Neither team is ranked, but this game is huge when it comes to the playoff race in 5A South Central. Matoaca's win over Petersburg vaulted the Warriors over Mills Godwin and into the eighth and final postseason spot, while Meadowbrook's shutout loss at Hopewell last week sent the Monarchs tumbling from sixth to tenth place. This Central District battle is simple: win and you take a step closer to the playoffs, lose and the hill to climb to the playoffs becomes a mountain, especially if Varina and Mills Godwin also win this week. Meadowbrook must keep the football, something they couldn't do at Merner Field last Friday. Terrance Whitfield needs to see the ball for Matoaca, as he can change the complexion of a game on a single play.
Mills Godwin (4-2) at Deep Run (3-3), 7pm
This is another huge 5A South Central matchup, as well as a good ol' fashioned West End rivalry. The 2006 Region Championship team will come home for recognition, and a new generation of Wildcats will look to make them proud, as Deep Run, though entering the game 12th in 5A South Central, could vault into the playoff discussion with a victory. The formula is simple: stop the Mills Godwin rushing attack, specifically, Wesley Dugger, who is approaching 1,300 yards of rushing offense going into his seventh game. Note, last week, even though Dugger rushed for 200 plus yards at home against J.R. Tucker, the Tigers held the Eagles to just 13 points. Bend but not break should be the Wildcat defensive mantra, keeping the game between the 20's when on defense. For Mills Godwin, a win is necessary because of the weakness of the Colonial District when compared to other 5A South Central teams who play in districts with better strength of schedules, like Lee-Davis and Varina in the Capital, Matoaca, Meadowbrook, and Prince George in the Central.
#2 Dinwiddie (6-0) at Prince George (3-3), 7:30pm
The Generals begin life without Joseph Tyree, out for the year with an injury suffered in the Generals' hard-fought 28-19 win over #8 Thomas Dale last week. Bryce Witt is playing the best football of his tenure as Dinwiddie quarterback, and will need to continue to perform at a high level. An opportunistic defense will want to force turnovers for the Generals, while, for the Royals, they must play close to a perfect game if they want to pull off a massive upset, and, by doing so, send the 5A South Central playoff race into a tizzy. Prince George is, too, on the outside looking in like Mills Godwin, Meadowbrook, and Deep Run, but a win over a 6-0 Generals team changes everything.
Cosby (4-2) at #3 L.C. Bird (6-1), 7:30pm
The Titans try, again, for that elusive win over the Skyhawks, but even more important for Cosby is trying to solidify their positioning in the 6A South Region playoffs. In Conferences 3/4, the Titans enter the game in sixth place in an eight-team race at 26.0 points, with C.D. Hylton (25.714) and James River (25.0) nipping at their heels. A loss in Chester makes the rivalry game next week at home against the Rapids monumental in 6A South. Meanwhile, the Skyhawks have first place in the rugged 5A South Central sub-region, and do not want to let it go. They know how crucial it is to be hosting on frigid Friday nights in November, and another loss would likely eliminate that possibility. So, expect plenty of Shedrick McCall with the ball, and a stingy Bird defense making life tough for Joe Hunt and the Titans. The Titans' offensive line must win the war to give Hunt holes, and Cosby a chance.
#6 Douglas Freeman (6-0) at J.R. Tucker (0-6), 7pm
The Rebels won't take the Tigers lightly. Tucker should have a home win over Hanover, but let it slip away back in early September. They almost pulled the shocker at Mills Godwin's homecoming last Friday. They'd love nothing more than give Douglas Freeman their first loss. Look for Tanner Dobrucky, who isn't getting nearly the press and recognition that he deserves, to be a key for the Rebels. Ball control, long drives, and cashing in with Dobrucky and company whenever you're in the red zone. That's the key to moving the Rebels to 7-0 and closer to their eventual showdowns with arch rival Mills Godwin in two weeks and Hermitage in the regular season finale. They're rooting for Cosby to shock L.C. Bird, too, so they could return to the top seed in 5A South Central.
George Wythe (1-5) at #7 Monacan (6-1), 7:30pm
Monacan bounced back from their loss at L.C. Bird by dismantling James River, which was a surprising result given the recent success of the Rapids. The Chiefs reminded everyone that they will have much to say about the results of the upcoming 4A East Region playoffs, where they are currently seeded fourth behind three unbeatens: Louisa, Dinwiddie, and Eastern View. The Chiefs should have no problem at home Friday. Their biggest concerns are continuing to execute crisper and avoid injuries.
Petersburg (2-4) at #8 Thomas Dale (4-2), 7pm
The Knights have lost to two of the top three teams in our poll: Dinwiddie and L.C. Bird. Remember, the Knights were the last team from RVA playing in 6A South, making it to the state semifinals a year ago, and they have the talent to do that again, as a matchup between Thomas Dale and Manchester would be fascinating. But, first things first, the Knights need to start a new winning streak by holding serve at home against a Petersburg team that, while they are still in the 3A East playoffs if they were to start today, has lost four straight games, and need a win mentally more than anything else. A win over Thomas Dale would also give them the significant bonus points in the VHSL standings needed to be in the discussion for at least one home playoff game.
#9 Henrico (5-1) at Atlee (2-4), 7pm
Henrico wants this game, as they are in a dogfight for a top four seed, and thus, a home game in the first round of the 5A South playoffs, but Atlee needs this game. Having lost two straight, the Raiders celebrate homecoming with an air of desperation, really needing to go 3-1 in their last four games to make a run at a 5A North playoff berth. After this game, Atlee goes to Patrick Henry, then faces Varina before ending with winless Armstrong. This is the toughest of the contests, but if Atlee's defense can contain Henrico QB Jalon Jones, and if their freshman QB Tyler Warren can be more accurate in the passing game, that will force Henrico to defend the whole field, and not try to simply bottle up the Atlee running game. Turnovers will loom large here, too. A quick note for Raider fans, Reid Childers' 35 yard field goal against Lee-Davis last week was important. He can be an option with the game on the line as long as you make the red zone.
#11 Louisa (6-0) at Western Albemarle (2-4), 7:30pm
The Lions get the big win at Powhatan last week, stay unbeaten, but have Dinwiddie catch them in the VHSL standings in 4A East, Conferences 19/20. Wins by both teams tonight and Dinwiddie will surpass them in next week's standings, thanks to the Generals playing a higher classification team (Prince George in 5A) with three wins instead of the two Western Albemarle holds. Western is in a fight for the playoffs in 3A, so an upset at home over an unbeaten Lion squad could save their season. Louisa must make sure this doesn't become one of those "trap" games after a big victory.
#12 Goochland (7-0) at Nottoway (1-5), 7pm
The Bulldogs are rolling, but can't seem to shake Stuarts Draft to get that top seed in 2A East. They'll try again this week at a Nottoway squad who is struggling through their James River District schedule.
Armstrong (0-6) at Patrick Henry (5-1), 7pm
Homecoming is tonight in Ashland, and the Patriots can work on a new winning streak and trying to keep themselves in the top eight in 5A North as they face the winless Wildcats. This is a game where you want to take care of business early, allow your starters to come out, avoiding injury, enjoy a running clock in the second half, and get out with a win, unscathed, so you can start to focus on the homestretch, hosting Atlee, going to Highland Springs, then hosting Lee-Davis in The 58th Tomato Bowl.
Glen Allen (0-6) at John Marshall (1-5), 4pm
The Justices have been in ninth place in 3A East, Conferences 26/28 for three weeks now. They need a win to draw closer to a playoff bid. This is their best chance. It can also be argued, however, that this is Glen Allen's best remaining chance to get their first win of the season, though big rival J.R. Tucker remains ahead as well.
Varina (3-3) at Hanover (1-5), 7pm
It's homecoming at Hanover, too, but it's also been a difficult season for the Hawks, who likely will miss the postseason for the first time in eleven years barring a surprising late-season run. Now, a win at home over Varina could jump start it all, and Hanover does get WR Kirk Shaffner back from injury. Shaffner was their second leading receiver in 2015, and has been on the bench all year, along with leading returning receiver Jack Chenault, due to injury. Clayton Cheatham needs more weapons, and gets one back. But will it be enough if Hanover's defense can't stop the dual threat of C.J. Jones and R.J. Coles for Varina, who is playing to keep their current playoff position in 5A South Central?
Midlothian (2-5) at James River (3-3), 7:30pm
This is a HUGE game! The Swamp will be rocking with a game rife with playoff implications. Jack Dash and company need a win to keep ahead of Forest Park for the eighth and final postseason spot in 6A South, while, with a win over a 6A, three-win team, Midlothian could finally catch Courtland for the eighth and final playoff spot in 4A East, Conferences 19/20. Add in the rivalry factor, and this could be the game with the most raucous, most tense atmosphere of the night, especially if the game hangs in the balance in the final minutes.
Hopewell (4-2) at Colonial Heights (0-6), 7pm
Powhatan (5-1) at Charlottesville (4-2), 7pm
King William (3-3) at Mathews (3-3), 7pm
New Kent (3-3) at Smithfield (4-2), 7pm
Clover Hill (1-5) at Huguenot (1-6), 7:30pm
Richmond Christian at Roanoke Catholic, 7pm
St. Christopher's at Paul VI, 7pm
Collegiate at St. John Paul the Great, 7pm
Benedictine at Bishop Ireton, 2pm
Woodberry Forest at Trinity Episcopal, 2pm