In just two short weeks, we will know who's in and who's out in high school football. Here's a preview of all the games across the Central Region Friday and how they can affect the postseason race.
Colonial Heights at #1 Dinwiddie, 7pm: The Generals play their first game as the top team in the NBC12/RVA Sports Network Big 12 High School Football Poll, their second without standout Joseph Tyree. But there is more than enough firepower for Dinwiddie to move to 8-0, and keep their standing atop their 4A East eight-team subregion in Conferences 19 and 20....except for one thing. Eastern View, just behind Dinwiddie and also 7-0, will pick up eight extra VHSL rider points with a win over 4-4 Fauquier. Since they begin tonight eight points behind the Generals, it will be up to how other opponents of both Dinwiddie and Eastern View perform as to who will be number one with two weeks to go.
#2 Hermitage at Mills Godwin, 7pm: The road to the playoffs has hit a bumpy stretch for the homestanding Eagles, who now must finish the season without standout running back Wesley Dugger. Mills Godwin begins play in ninth place in 5A South Central, a point behind #8 Lee-Davis in VHSL rider point average. The Panthers, coming off perhaps their best performance of the year in the victory over Manchester, begin play two points behind top-seed L.C. Bird in 5A South Central. They can close the gap with a victory, while the Eagles are in must-win mode, as Deep Run, Meadowbrook, and Prince George are just behind Mills Godwin, all in must-win mode trying to break into the top eight.
George Wythe at #3 L.C. Bird, 7:30pm: The Skyhawks have a simple formula for this week: win and avoid any injuries. This mode will stay in effect next week against Huguenot before they travel to James River in two weeks for a game that could mean in or out in the postseason in 6A South for the Rapids. L.C. Bird knows that, even with a win tonight, victories by Hermitage, Highland Springs and Douglas Freeman will pull them even closer to the top in 5A South Central. The #1 seed is up for grabs, and four different teams could take it. This is when the weaker part of their Dominion District begins to hurt the Skyhawks.
#4 Highland Springs at #12 Henrico, 7pm: The lone battle of Big 12 Poll teams takes place on Azalea Avenue as teacher meets pupil again. Warriors head coach Gerald Glasco continues to seek his first win over his former boss, Highland Springs head coach Loren Johnson. But that is a sidebar to this game, which is rife with 5A South Central playoff implications. The Springers, at 6-1 and just behind Hermitage in 3rd place in the sub-region, are, again, trying to claim the top seed with one loss, just like last year. Henrico hoped to be 6-1 coming in, but a secondary breakdown on a fourth down at Atlee last week cost them the game. At 5-2 the Warriors suddenly are fighting with Varina, whom they've beaten, Matoaca, and Lee-Davis, who they play next Friday, for a 5A South Central playoff bid. The Warriors really hoped this season would be the year for them to host a first round game. They need to win tonight to rekindle those hopes. If they lose, next week's battle in Mechanicsville on our Game of The Week broadcast will be vital.
#5 Manchester at Clover Hill, 7:30pm: The Lancers look to bounce back after their first loss, and are favored on the road. But this is a perfect "trap" game if Manchester doesn't come in prepared. They struggled to beat James River when favored, and there's a huge battle with Monacan looming next Friday. The Cavaliers would love nothing better than a late season signature win to help build their program for 2017 and beyond, and give the Clover Hill faithful a night to remember. Coach Tom Hall will do everything possible to avoid that. We expect this one to have plenty of offensive fireworks.
Deep Run at #6 Douglas Freeman, 7pm: NBC12 will be live at William E. Long Stadium as the Rebels look for back-to-back 8-0 starts, but this year, the Wildcats don't come in disheartened and defeated, they come in fiery after their win over another rival, Mills Godwin, last week to put Deep Run square into the 5A South Central playoff talk. The Wildcats begin tonight 1.250 points behind #8 Lee-Davis, tenth in their sub-region, and a win over a seven-win Rebel squad propels them further into playoff contention, especially with Lee-Davis facing a one-win team and Varina playing winless Armstrong. But Tanner Dobrucky may be the best football player in the Central Region you haven't heard of. All he does, like they used to say on ESPN about the great Cris Carter, is score touchdowns. Whether on the ground, in the air, or on special teams, Dobrucky has done it all as the blue-collar Rebels continue to take care of everywhere in their way. They hope to continue it tonight, as Douglas Freeman harbors hopes of a 10-0 season, the Colonial District mythical title (which returns next year), and the #1 seed in 5A South Central.
#7 Thomas Dale at Meadowbrook, 7pm: This is one of three, count them, three big Central District games tonight which will help make, or break, teams' postseason hopes. The visiting Knights are in nice shape in their sub-region in 6A South, but nothing is clinched. Last week, they watched Riverbend knock off Freedom-Prince William, seeing the winner move past them, the loser fall below them, in the VHSL standings. The teams ahead of Thomas Dale: Colonial Forge, Manchester and now Riverbend, all will be favored tonight. The Knights need to take care of business, but it won't be easy. Meadowbrook begins tonight in 11th in 5A South Central, and with a win, they vault right back into the race. With a loss, and a date with Dinwiddie down the road, the hill to climb to the playoffs becomes a mountain. The Monarchs will undoubtedly give the Knights their absolute best shot. But will we see the Meadowbrook who upset Highland Springs or the Meadowbrook who committed five turnovers in a shutout loss against Hopewell?
Midlothian at #8 Monacan, 7:30pm: The next to last game for the 7-1 Chiefs, who finish their season next week with Manchester. They begin play in sixth place in 4A East, and will likely need a pair of wins to guarantee a home game in the first round of the playoffs. Caroline likely won't upset Chancellor, but Powhatan will have their hands full with Albemarle. A Patriot win helps Monacan get closer to the top four. But first things first, Midlothian has improved as the season has gone on, and know that tonight's game is their last best chance to finally find a way to catch Courtland for the eighth and final playoff bid in 4A East (Conferences 19/20). They need #6 King George to beat #7 Courtland, as well as the upset of the Chiefs. That will be difficult, since Monacan, even at 7-1, has much work to do. If Monacan had a home game in the first round already clinched, maybe you catch them on an off night. Now, you have to hope you do. Also hurting Midlothian is Courtland having a game in hand.
Central-Lunenburg at #9 Goochland, 7pm: The Bulldogs are on a roll, plain and simple, but can't seem to wrestle the top seed in 2A East from Stuarts Draft, entering tonight in second place. Remember, Goochland's final numbers will be divided by nine games, not ten, as their game against Fork Union early on doesn't count in the VHSL standings. Tonight, a 6-1 Lunenburg squad comes calling, themselves in a dogfight in 1A East, currently in fourth place. A great test for Goochland as the playoffs approach. We'll be watching this one closely.
GAME OF THE WEEK: Atlee at #10 Patrick Henry, 7pm (Airtime 6:30pm on WHAN, 102.9 FM/1430 AM, online by CLICKING HERE, and on TuneIn Radio App on "Radiall"): This game has so many implications in the 5A North Region. First, for the visitors. Atlee, in all likelihood, saved their season with the comeback win over Henrico last week at Homecoming. They moved from 19th to 14th place in 5A North, where the top sixteen make the playoffs regardless of conference affiliation. But they need more, including a victory tonight. Just behind them are Stafford and Potomac, both playing upper echelon teams in the region in #1 Brooke Point and #6 North Stafford respectively. Upset wins by either, or both, coupled with an Atlee loss, and the Raiders could be back on the outside looking in with just Varina and winless Armstrong left on the schedule. We believe 6-4 would get Atlee in the postseason, barring major upsets elsewhere. But Patrick Henry has no interest in that; in fact, tonight they look to beat Atlee for the first time since 2008, which, by the way, was the last time the Patriots won at least seven games, going 8-2. In the Raiders' seven-game win streak, last year's 34-20 loss was the closest game in the series during that time. But Patrick Henry needs wins to not only clinch a playoff bid, but they still harbor hopes of hosting a first round game, something the Patriots haven't done in 15 years. Defense and special teams are key for both teams in what should be an excellent game.
#11 Benedictine at Woodberry Forest, Saturday, 2pm: This will be the Cadets' toughest remaining test of the regular season, as Woodberry Forest enters this game on a roll. They don't play, however, in the VISAA postseason, so the Cadets, who enter the game tied for first with Flint Hill in Division I, can take a loss and still be comfortable with upcoming postseason positioning. A Benedictine win would help them draw a lot closer to home field advantage in their state championship quest.
James River at Cosby, 7:30pm: Again, this rivalry matchup has major, major 6A South Region postseason implications. Two years ago, the Rapids went to Cosby and won 13-6. Last year, Cosby returned the favor in The Swamp by a 20-2 count. Tonight, James River enters play 6th in the eight-team sub-region of Conferences 3 and 4, only .571 of a point ahead of #7 Cosby. The winner takes a major step towards the postseason, while the loser suddenly is fighting with idle #8 CD Hylton for the final berth, and, if Forest Park can upset Freedom-Prince William, suddeny, it's three teams for two berths. A Forest Park loss tonight, and both teams here can breathe. A bit. Both have major tests in two weeks as James River hosts L.C. Bird, while Cosby has a trip to Manchester.
Varina at Armstrong, 7pm: The Blue Devils are significantly behind the top four teams in 5A South Central, and won't make much hay with a win over a winless Wildcats squad. But a win tonight does draw them closer to their first playoff bid since 2013, and, right now, that's all Stu Brown and company care about. Get a win, keep everyone healthy, and get ready for Atlee, and then, incoming Highland Springs in two weeks.
Hopewell at Matoaca, 7pm: How many times have we used the terms "big" or "huge". This is the second of three major Central District affairs, as Hopewell is fighting for the #1 seed in their eight-team bracket in 3A East, as the homestanding Warriors enter tonight in the 5A South Central top eight, just a point out of fifth place (Varina). If Matoaca wins tonight, Highland Springs beats Henrico, and Varina wins, Matoaca could suddenly find themselves in 5th place with two games to play. Another MVP candidate this year in the Central Region is, no doubt, Terrance Whitfield. He simply makes big plays, and will need to do so again tonight. When it comes to making the postseason, plain and simple, Matoaca needs this win a lot more than Hopewell. Hopewell is playing for seeding, and home field, while the Warriors are playing to stay in, and improve their position in, their race.
Hanover at Lee-Davis, 7pm: The Confederates play from outside of our Big 12 Poll for the first time, facing a rival who has had absolutely nothing seemingly go right this season, save a fourth quarter comeback win in Game #2 at J.R. Tucker. Now, the Hawks, at 1-6, have to finish the season without all-everything quarterback Clayton Cheatham, out for the season after being injured last week against Varina. It's time for the Hawks to plan for the future. Lee-Davis will look to restart the running game, shut down last week by Highland Springs. A healthy dose of Nate Evans and ball control is the formula Lee-Davis needs, and the Confederates need this win. One upset victory tonight by Mills Godwin, Deep Run, or Meadowbrook, and Lee-Davis may find themselves 6-2 and out of the top eight in 5A South Central with Henrico and the 58th Tomato Bowl at Patrick Henry still to come.
Prince George at Petersburg, 7:30pm: Prince George must win to keep its slim playoff hopes alive in 5A South Central, and they need no upsets, no Deep Run, Meadowbrook, or Mills Godwin victories. The Royals need things to hold to form, and a win, or hopes may die. For Petersburg, after a 2-0 start, they need a win for confidence as the playoffs approach. It's possible the Wave could end 2-8 and still grab a bid in 3A East, but each loss brings them closer to the bottom of the eight-team sub-region race. The Royals are desperate, the Wave are in great need. Not much difference.
Thomas Jefferson at Glen Allen, 7pm: The Jaguars got their first win last week, now look for a winning streak as the Vikings come calling, but TJ has SO much to play for. A win tonight could draw Thomas Jefferson not only into the 3A East Playoffs (Conferences 26/28), but they could be playing for a HOME game in the first round of the postseason. We're honestly not sure the last time Thomas Jefferson hosted a playoff game, most likely it happened during the "consolidation" era back in the 1980's when they played as "Jefferson-Huguenot-Wythe". Jaguar fans need to understand this is not your typical Thomas Jefferson team. They will be ready, for they have much to play for. Glen Allen, much like Clover Hill above, are playing to build for 2017 and beyond.
J.R. Tucker at John Marshall, Saturday, 1pm: Two teams, 0-7 and 1-6, just needing a win for a positive push towards the end of the season, though the Justices still hold out hope, yes, for a playoff berth in 3A East. They're rooting for Prince George to beat Petersburg, L.C. Bird to win, and a Culpeper County loss all on Friday night.
Albemarle at Powhatan, 7:30pm
Louisa at Monticello, 7:30pm
Collegiate at Fork Union, 7:30pm
Bishop Ireton at St. Christopher's, 3pm Saturday
King and Queen Central at Charles City, 7pm
New Kent at Warhill, 7pm