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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Clover Hill (1-5) at Huguenot (1-6), 7:30pm
The Cavaliers look to build for the future, as their JV team has had a strong season so far. The playoffs may not be in the cards this fall, but getting as many wins down the stretch, and playing good football, are laudable goals for Clover Hill. Huguenot still has a heartbeat in 4A East, so this will not be an easy test for the Cavs.