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High school football playoff picks and previews: 14 area schools enter the fray this weekend. Who will be left standing? (copy)
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High school football playoff picks and previews: 14 area schools enter the fray this weekend. Who will be left standing? (copy)

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The Main Event

VISAA championship: No. 4 Benedictine at No. 3 Trinity Episcopal

Saturday: 1 p.m.

Records: Cadets 8-3, Titans 7-3

About Benedictine: Winners of six straight, the Cadets have found another gear in the second half of the season following a 1-3 start. Linemen TJ Baldwin, Dylan Faniel and Joel Starlings, along with linebacker Gary Seigler, spearhead a hard-nosed defense that sets the tone. Quarterback Tate Plageman has come a long way during the course of the season. He completed 8 of 12 passes for 120 yards and a score while rushing 14 times for 54 yards in the 28-14 semifinal win over previously unbeaten St. Christopher’s. Xavier Mears, Leo Boehling and David Ngendakuriyo form a rugged backfield trio that’s no fun to tackle. And 6-foot-4, 205-pound receiver Leon Haughton is a matchup problem on the outside. He joins Khamari Veney, Khalil Moore and DJ Edmonds to form a deep, physical group of receivers. The Cadets average 30 points and allow 10.5.

About Trinity: A high-powered offense led by dual-threat quarterback Jack Toscano is the Titans’ calling card. He completed 9 of 13 passes for 105 yards and a TD while rushing 17 times for 75 yards and three scores in a 35-14 semifinal victory over St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes. Tre Grant carried 16 times for 81 yards and a TD in that game. He’ll see most of the work out of the backfield. Receiver Trai Ferguson is a big-play threat. He’s joined by AK Key and Brennan Ridley to form an explosive receiving corps. Senior offensive linemen Sam and Chris Singleton are both 6-foot-7 and 300-plus pounds. LJ Jones and Elijah Rainer are four-year starters at linebacker. They lead the defense along with DBs Cam Fleming and Zahir Rainer. The Titans average 30.3 points and allow 18.8.

What’s at stake: This matchup fittingly bookends the season for both programs, as Trinity beat Benedictine 27-13 in the sides’ opener at Henrico High in late August. Much has changed since that meeting, namely the Cadets’ offense and the Titans’ defense. The growth of those units to complement elite upside on the other side of the ball has both teams looking more complete. And they both appear to be playing their best football of the season heading into Saturday’s final at Aycock Stadium for all the marbles.

Tim Pearrell’s pick: Benedictine 21-14

Zach Joachim’s pick: Trinity 35-28

Class 5, Region C semifinals

No. 4 Douglas Freeman at No. 1 Highland Springs, Friday, 7 p.m.: Running back/safety Bradley Perkins, receiver Jahrell Horne and quarterback Owen Fallen are the key guys for a Mavericks (8-2) program that’s averaged 28.8 points and allowed 13. The Springers feature pass rusher Rashaud Pernell, a unanimous first-team all-region pick who had five sacks in the 63-0 quarterfinal win over J.R. Tucker. Fellow lineman Miles Greene, DBs Daquan Giles and Braylon Johnson, receivers Quanye Veney and Mike Hodge, quarterback Khristian Martin and back Aziz Foster-Powell are a few of the key pieces on a deep Highland Springs roster. Tim: Highland Springs 27-14 Zach: Highland Springs 44-21

No. 3 Hermitage at No. 2 Midlothian, Friday, 7 p.m.: The Trojans are coming off their first playoff win in school history. Quarterback Cooper Meads, receiver Drew Kleski and and back Ashby Berry are the primary playmakers for Matt Hutchings’ Midlo outfit. Kicker Maxx Lawton has a huge leg. Linemen Zach Phillips and Gabe Semidey spearhead the defense, while guard Declan Harrington is a force in the trenches. They’ll need to bring what they brought to the table in a 42-35 win over Manchester to secure the second playoff victory in school history, as quarterback Jaylen “Toast” Burton’s Hermitage team has won seven in a row. Back Jeremiah Coney is the region’s offensive player of the year after rumbling for 1,050 yards and 19 TDs during the regular season. Lineman Drew Lee is a first-team all-region honoree on the offensive and defensive lines, and DB Christian Stubbs is another first-teamer for a Panthers program averaging 31.7 points and allowing 12.7. Tim: Hermitage 28-24 Zach: Hermitage 30-24

Class 4, Region B semifinal

No. 5 Patrick Henry at No. 1 Dinwiddie, Friday, 7 p.m.: Quarterback Jordan Allen is the engine of a battle-tested Patriots (9-2) outfit that played one of the tougher schedules around. Ken Wakefield’s PH team is captained by Allen, dynamic playmaker and JMU recruit Jayden Mines, linebacker/TE Camden Byrd and tight end Christian Berry. They can be a threat in the passing game, but PH will first look to establish its dominant ground game led by Allen, freshman back Dashawn Green and junior guard Maddox Radcliffe. The Patriots present perhaps the biggest test of the season for the 9-0 Generals and quarterback Brenton Hilton. Dinwiddie hasn’t played a close game this season, but it wasn’t for lack of competition as it beat good Hopewell (35-20), Matoaca (35-14) and Thomas Dale (35-14) soundly. Backs Tylor Veney and Harry Dalton and receiver Chris Drumgoole all are explosive playmakers. Senior linebacker Benjamin Pfister features for a staunch defense that has held opponents to an average of 9.8 points. Tim: Dinwiddie 35-26 Zach: Patrick Henry 27-26

Records: Zach 31-14, Tim 22-14, Lily 6-3

— Zach Joachim

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