(All rankings based on latest NBC12/WHAN Radio Top 10 Poll...)
JAMES RIVER (5-3) at #3 MANCHESTER (8-0), 7:30pm: Is Zach Hawes the answer now that the Lancers are playing without the injured Justin Pendergrass? Last week's win over George Wythe was a test run, now the running game will face a stiff challenge in the Rapids defense, who has held opponents to 17 points or less in six of their eight contests. Look for Daniel Rose to play a big role if the Lancers are to move to 9-0 ahead of their huge regular season finale at home next week against #4 L.C. Bird. The Rapids are currently 7th in their 6A South Sub-Region, just ahead of Varina. The top eight teams make the postseason. Manchester fell behind the Skyhawks in their 5A South Sub-Region by .375 of a point. Beating a five-win, higher classification opponent tonight could snag the #3 seed right back, depending on other results.
#4 L.C. BIRD (7-1) at CLOVER HILL (2-6), 7:30pm: It should be another walk in the park for the Skyhawks, who put on their most impressive performance of the season in last week's 60-0 dismantling of Cosby. Jalen Elliott has found his groove at quarterback. Adding that to the season-long groove of Stephen Mines at tailback creates nightmares for opposing defensive coordinators. Bird should be 8-1 when they head to Manchester next week, the biggest question is will Manchester be 9-0? Can the Cavaliers play spoilers tonight? If they do, it would be the biggest shocker of a Central Region season already chock full of them...
#6 THOMAS DALE (6-2) at #7 DINWIDDIE (7-1), 7pm: Well, something's gotta give. The Knights have won six straight, the Generals seven, the two combining for 13 wins since September 12th. On top of that, both seem headed to the postseason, but are fighting for playoff position. Thomas Dale enters tonight in 3rd in their 6A South Sub-Region, but within sight of #2 Colonial Forge (29.375 to 29.750). Colonial Forge plays Stafford, a one-win team. A Knights win over a seven-win Generals team, even from a lower classification, could help narrow, or eliminate, that gap. For Dinwiddie, they frustratingly sit at #9 in 4A South, just behind Powhatan (7th) and Hanover (8th). In a 16-team "all-in" format, they would start the playoffs on the road from that seed. The Generals want a win and hope either Hanover loses to Varina or Powhatan falls to Western Albemarle in a battle of 7-1 teams in order to make that top eight with just a week to play.
#9 MONACAN (6-2) at MIDLOTHIAN (2-7), 7:30pm: The regular season closes early on Midlothian, who began before Labor Day and did not have a bye. They'd love to finish 3-1 in their final four, and, at the same time, beat an old rival in the Chiefs, who clinched their first winning season since 2008 last week. But to do that, there's a two-headed backfield monster you must contain, as both Khalik Hamlin and Justin Moody ran for 100+ yards in their win over Clover Hill last week. Monacan will look to pound Midlothian into submission, winning the time of possession battle and the war on the line of scrimmage to get Hamlin and Moody rolling. Monacan, though, is 1-2 in their last three meetings with the Trojans. A win would match their seven-win total of 2008. The last Chiefs team to surpass seven wins? The 2003 edition, who won nine.
PETERSBURG (3-5) at MEADOWBROOK (4-4), 7pm: A win tonight likely puts the Monarchs in the 5A South Central playoffs, a pretty impressive achievement considering they started the season 0-3. But strength of schedule and a late season charge, plus the ability to not panic after those three losses, have put Meadowbrook where they are, three full points ahead of #9 Mills Godwin in the VHSL standings with two games to play. But don't sleep on the Crimson Wave. They are 12th in the 3A East standings, comfortably ahead of Colonial Heights, but could also rise in the rankings with a win tonight, getting them in position for a more favorable first round playoff opponent. Stakes will be high in this one.
HOPEWELL (4-4) at MATOACA (3-5), 7pm: What could have been....for the Warriors, it's been a season of near-misses. There was the eight-point shootout loss at Cosby in Week 2, and back-to-back games where they let leads get away against Petersburg and Dinwiddie. While mathematically alive in 5A South Central in 10th behind Mills Godwin trying to find Meadowbrook, it would take a minor miracle for Matoaca's season to extend beyond next Friday's finale at Thomas Dale. They'd have to start tonight by taking down a Blue Devils' team tied for 5th in 3A East with Poquoson, needing this game themselves to solidify playoff position.
GEORGE WYTHE (0-7) at COSBY (5-3), 7:30pm: The Titans should right the ship tonight after three straight losses put them in a tailspin in the 6A South Sub-Region standings. A month ago, they were #1. Now they are in sixth and holding on against the likes of James River and Varina. Beating a winless 3A East team yields no bonus points, but at this point in their season, a win is a win is a win. But even with a win, if James River upsets Manchester, the Titans could find themselves in seventh place with only a week to go, and a battle with playoff-bound Monacan on the horizon....
OTHER MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
#5 Atlee (7-1) at #1 Highland Springs (8-0) (LIVE at 6:30pm on 102.9 FM WHAN Radio and by CLICKING HERE for coverage from The RVA Sports Network)
John Marshall (1-7) at #2 Hermitage (8-0)
#10 Hanover (5-3) at Varina (4-4)
Colonial Heights (2-6) at Prince George (3-5)
Western Albemarle (7-1) at Powhatan (7-1)
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