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High school football picks and previews for the weekend's best playoff action

High school football picks and previews for the weekend's best playoff action

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The Main Event

No. 5 Patrick Henry at No. 4 Matoaca

Friday: 7 p.m.

Records: Patriots 8-2, Warriors 9-1

About Patrick Henry: The fifth seed in Region 4B, the Patriots are led by dual-threat QB Jordan Allen and slotback/DB Jayden Mines (JMU recruit), both seniors. Freshman back Dashawn Green has eye-popping elusiveness, he runs behind a line that features imposing junior guard Maddox Raddcliffe (6-foot-1, 275 pounds). Tight end Christian Berry has freakish athleticism, and linebacker Camden Byrd is a DI recruit who recently decommitted from Old Dominion. PH rushed 47 times for 205 yards in an impressive 22-21 victory over Varina (8-1), ranked No. 2 in the Times-Dispatch Top 10, two weeks ago, and Allen had 32 of those attempts for 125 yards. PH averages 31.7 points and 17.1 allowed and is battle tested after playing one of the tougher schedules around, with its two losses coming at No. 9 Hermitage (27-26) and home to No. 3 Highland Springs (41-28).

About Matoaca: The fourth-seeded Warriors specialize in creating turnovers defensively and handing the ball to back Quentin Johnson, who finished the regular season with 1,586 yards and 25 touchdowns on 226 carries. Junior receiver Riley Simmons is the big-play threat for junior dual-threat QB David Field, who’s elusive running the ball in space and has gotten more comfortable throwing downfield as he gains experience under center. Defensively, end Keyshawn Burgos (UVA recruit) is a menace for opposing QBs. Senior tackle Krishaun Harper, linebackers Cam Johnson, Gavin Hall and Michael Shank and DB Paul Lewis are all key pieces for an opportunistic defense. Matoaca averages 34.1 points and 10.6 allowed, with its only loss coming against No. 1 Dinwiddie (35-14) and its best win against No. 7 Thomas Dale (21-14).

What’s at stake: This matchup pits two of the area’s strongest ground games against one another, so establishing the run will be paramount. Protecting the ball will be key as well with two defenses that excel at punching the ball out of runners’ hands and pressuring quarterbacks into hurried decisions. The winner of this game could get a crack at top-seeded Dinwiddie in the 4B semifinals. These programs have met twice before, in 1964 and ‘65. Both games ended in ties, 7-7 and 6-6.

Zach Joachim’s pick: Patrick Henry 22-21

Lily Betts’ pick: Matoaca 14-7


VISAA semifinal

Benedictine at No. 6 St. Christopher’s, Saturday, 12:30 p.m.: Led by standout receiver and Prep League player of the year Andre Greene Jr., the 10-0 Saints have outscored their opponents 383-74, including a 14-7 victory at Benedictine six weeks ago. In addition to Greene and coach of the year Lance Clelland, 11 Saints were honored on the all-Prep League team, including running back Nikkos Kovanes and linebacker Trent Hendrick (JMU recruit). But the Cadets, 6-3 and winners of five straight, are likely the last team St. Chris wanted to draw in the playoffs, as their bitter rivals have long had the Saints’ number prior to this season. A menacing defensive line is Benedictine’s calling card. That unit features 6-foot-4, 295-pound tackle Joel Starlings, a top recruit with Power Five interest, tackle TJ Baldwin (6-1, 285) and end Dylan Faniel (6-2, 255). Back Xavier Mears is a load to tackle out of the Benedictine backfield. The Cadets’ hard-nosed defense should keep things close, and an upset isn’t out of the question if their offense can protect the ball and find a big play or two. Zach: Benedictine 21-14; Lily: St. Christopher’s 28-14

Region 6A quarterfinal

No. 5 James River at No. 4 Thomas Dale, Friday, 7 p.m.: First-year coach Jacob Hodges has revived the Rapids, who went 6-21 while going through three head coaches in the previous three seasons. James River finished 5-4 including two VHSL-imposed forfeits of games they won on the field against Cosby (28-8) and Huguenot (42-0). Quarterback Reece Hamilton, back Griffin Newsome and receiver EJ Seward are the playmakers for a James River side facing a tall task in Kevin Tucker’s always gritty Thomas Dale outfit. The Knights (7-2) have faced more adversity than anyone this season, they’re led by dual-threat QB Ethan Minter, D-lineman Malachi Madison, linebacker Maddax Lee, receiver Kyon Turner and backs Jordan Branch and Brandon Rose. These programs have played once before, a 33-9 Knights home playoff victory in 2016. Zach: Thomas Dale 33-27, Lily: Thomas Dale 35-28

Region 5C quarterfinals

Glen Allen at No. 9 Hermitage, Friday, 7 p.m.: This three-six clash in the 5C bracket is a rematch of a Sept. 24 meeting the Jaguars (4-5) won 13-6. Glen Allen defensive end Zach Chambers is committed to play at Richmond; he’s a menace for opposing o-lines. Quarterback Jaylen “Toast” Burton and running back Jeremiah Coney (1,050 yards and 19 TDs on the ground) are the primary weapons for Hermitage (8-2). The programs first met in 2011 and the Panthers lead the series 5-3. The “Battle for Staples Mill Road” has a touch of animosity built into it this time around. Zach: Hermitage 22-6, Lily: Hermitage 35-17

Mills Godwin at Midlothian, Friday, 7 p.m.: It hasn’t taken long for first-year coach P.J. Adams to get seventh-seeded Godwin (4-6) on the right track. The Eagles are led by quarterback Luke Calveric, who’s committed to play baseball at Radford, and senior receiver Justin Harris. Quarterback Cooper Meads, receiver Drew Kleski and back Ashby Berry feature for a Trojans outfit that started 5-0, including a dramatic comeback win over Manchester, but lost to Powhatan and James River at the end of the season to finish 6-2. Zach: Midlothian 22-21, Lily: Midlothian 42-14

Region 4B quarterfinal

Powhatan at No. 2 Varina, Friday, 7 p.m.: The three-six matchup in 4B has ample momentum to go around — the Indians (7-3) trounced Midlothian 42-7 and Cosby 42-6 to end the regular season, while the Blue Devils downed rival Highland Springs 7-6 on Saturday. Powhatan will lean on the QB-RB combo of Dylan Trevillian and Mitchell Johnson, while Varina will get the ball in the hands of playmakers Anthony Fisher and Carlo Thompson. The programs have met 13 times, with Varina holding an 8-3-2 advantage in the series, but they haven’t played since 1983. Zach: Varina 27-13, Lily: Varina 22-21

Season records: Zach 26-13, Tim Pearrell (on vacation) 22-14, Lily 3-0

NOTE: Team rankings reflect this week’s T-D Top 10, not playoff seedings.

— Zach Joachim


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