Tidewater Predictions - Kick-Off 2019
The 2019 High School Football season is finally here! That long wait – which was a week longer than usual this year – has ended . . . and we have some attractive matchups all across the board.
In the Beach District, Cox visits Ocean Lakes in a playoff re-match, while Salem and Landstown tangle in a battle of rivals. Perhaps the Game of the Week comes on Saturday on the Peninsula as Lake Taylor and Phoebus face off again and try to re-create another classic in their recent history of battles. A possible playoff preview takes place at Wanner Stadium in Williamsburg with Lafayette hosting Goochland, two schools new to the Class 3 level.
Indian River welcomes in an out-of-state foe in tradition North Carolina power Northeastern. But wait, there’s more. Several new coaches make their debuts all across the area, and Kempsville tries to snap the state’s longest losing streak as they take on a Princess Anne team with one of the nation’s premier prospects. Let’s crunch it all, and we’ll do it with Predictions.
We welcome back our good buddy and my Saturday morning co-host on ESPN Radio 94.1, Nansemond River Head Hoops Coach Ed Young. He’s a glutton for punishment and we appreciate it as he’s 1-5 against me with the lone victory coming in 2015. However, he tends to do much better in the postseason, where we tied last year, including 13-5 in the State Playoffs as VHSL-Reference.com’s Simulator was a game back at 12-6.
Now to the games . . .
Game of the Week - Phantoms vs. Titans
Lake Taylor at Phoebus . . . The history between these two programs is well-documented. From 2002-12, the Titans and Phantoms squared off six times in the playoffs with Phoebus winning every encounter – three of which were decided by six points or less – until the 54-0 demolition Lake Taylor put on in 2012. They renewed their out-of-district rivalry in 2017, where Phoebus came to Norfolk and won 25-7 thanks to some big plays from Barry Hargraves.
In last year’s defensive struggle, Lake Taylor pulled ahead for good with 17 seconds left on a QB keeper touchdown run from Jeff Foster to pull out a 21-17 win at Darling Stadium, a place that had been a house of horrors previously for Head Coach Hank Sawyer. That will be the site of this matchup here, where both teams have lofty expectations as each came up just a touchdown short of winning the State Championship at Liberty University in Lynchburg last December.
For Jeremy Blunt and the Phantoms, they want to make Foster uncomfortable with their fierce defensive line that features Josiah Silver and Austin Gilliam, a tandem that combined for 27 sacks a season ago. Behind them is the Peninsula District Defensive Player of the Year in Corey Wilson at linebacker, and a host of new faces in the secondary, where one of the key names to know is Hampton transfer Jahden Jackson. First and foremost, the emphasis must be to corral Titans punishing running back Malik Newton, who rushed for 1993 yards and 31 touchdowns as a sophomore.
The Lake Taylor offensive line – featuring Isaiah Thompson, Tyrique Tucker, Tremaine Baker, Patrick McEachin and Devante McBurrows from left to right – looks to be a strong point and allow Newton to be as effective, if not better, in 2019. There are some unknowns to a degree as to who’ll step up for Lake Taylor at receiver and Phoebus in the secondary, though a potential x-factor can be at tight end with Ikeem Wright.
Wright was the Region 4A Defensive Player of the Year at linebacker as a junior and will be one of the main defenders trying to bottle up the Phoebus ground game along with Tucker from his nose guard spot and OLB Dallas Spruill. The Phantoms have two next-level players to hand the football off to in Jaylen White, a Naval Academy commit, and junior Anthony Turner, who has been offered by UVA and showed flashes in the head-to-head meeting last September.
A dual-threat, Phoebus QB Chris Daniels will have to be more accurate than what he was in the last meeting, where he completed only 3 of 21 passes for 76 yards and a score. Without Hargraves, the go-to guy may very well be budding sophomore Kymari Gray, who scored in the State Final back in December. With Javon Harvey now at ODU, Lake Taylor now turns to Raylyn Manley to be the top cover corner and that matchup is another that should be interesting to follow. The Titans have to get penetration because Phoebus has enough athletes to break off a big play or two in one-on-one situations.
Phoebus was on its way to winning until Foster engineered an 11-play, 71-yard drive in under three minutes. Newton was held in check to 91 yards on that night, and it’s hard to ask the Phantoms to duplicate that defensive performance. Then again, Phoebus figures Daniels can have a much more efficient outing this time, and if they win the Time of Possession battle without getting behind on early miscues, the Phantoms should like their chances. At this point, the safer pick seems to be Lake Taylor with a couple fewer question marks to answer entering this opener.
Matt Says: Lake Taylor 20-17
VHSL-Reference.com Says: Lake Taylor 23-21
Coach Young Says: Lake Taylor 21-20 (OT)
Thursday's Action (8/29/19):
Cox at Ocean Lakes . . . Since 2011, Ocean Lakes is 9-1 against Cox, including an exciting second round playoff meeting last November where the Falcons bolted out to a 28-17 half-time lead behind 269 total yards and four touchdowns produced by Tayvion Robinson. The Dolphins rallied with 22 unanswered points in the second half and Robinson, now playing at Virginia Tech, was not as dominant over the final 24 minutes of football.
Even with some of the star power having moved on to the next level – Robinson, Jackson Morgan and Leno Lester gone for Cox; the likes of DB Tank Land (Liberty), QB Xander Jedlick (CNU), Jake Low, Eli Snowden and Cameron Williams departed from Ocean Lakes – this game still has serious intrigue. For one, the winner can make a compelling case it’s in the early driver’s seat in the Beach District title race. Additionally, they notch a win over another playoff-caliber team that will help them when it comes to power points in November.
Cox has three capable options they are considering at quarterback in Kendall Spriggins, Dylan Hauser and Dominic Wilson. Which they go with remains to be seen, and it won’t be stunning if Head Coach Bill Stachelski uses all in some capacity. Junior receiver Nate Evans can be a real threat to test the Ocean Lakes secondary in this one. There are a few experienced tacklers on defense as well, such as junior LB Isi Etute.
Ocean Lakes has new starters at QB and RB with Josh Brown and Kai Hodge, respectively. They’re going to lean on their perimeter playmakers like junior WR Myles Alston and DE/WR Naquan Brown, both of whom have double-digit offers. Their veteran offensive line with James Madison commit Tyler Stephens will help ease in some of the new faces, plus another major help for them to hold up during the third and fourth quarters is they’ll have fewer key contributors go both ways. Cox knows the dangers in falling behind because they’ll not only be battle the Dolphins, but fatigue as well.
Matt Says: Ocean Lakes 21-14
VHSL-Reference.com Says: Ocean Lakes 36-28
Coach Young Says: Ocean Lakes 28-20
Kellam at First Colonial . . . Looking to make it eight straight wins in the series, Kellam hasn’t lost to First Colonial since the Patriots triumphed 23-20 in 2011. Second-year Patriots Head Coach Carlos Martinez is counting on returning starting QB Holden Tatum to bring the momentum they ended last season – on a three-game winning streak – into this 2019 campaign. DE Zach Manoso can pressure the quarterback and leads an FC defense that held six foes below 20 points a year ago.
On the Kellam side of things, Chris DeWitt has a mixture of running backs the Knights can turn to, most notably Sawyer Payne, Carson Ashby, Lincoln Guy and Kobe Copeland. On defense, junior MLB Kemari Copeland will make it tough for the Patriots to sustain much in the ground game up the middle. What may give Kellam the edge is the athleticism of QB/WR Damien Mazil as he’s able to extend plays with his feet, complete play-action passes and is a threat catching the ball at 6-2, 170.
Matt Says: Kellam 24-10
VHSL-Reference.com Says: Kellam 28-17
Coach Young Says: Kellam 20-8
Green Run at Tallwood . . . This is a crucial game for both squads. Tallwood has seen three assistants under Head Coach John Kepple become leaders of other programs. Furthermore, the graduation departures of some valuable three and four-year starters like QB Sebien Stone, DE/OLB Josh Lucas, LB Khairee Abdullah and safety Ricky Harleston has some wondering if it’ll be a re-building type year. However, the presence of hard-nosed running back Gunner White might allow the Lions to find their way among the upper echelon of the Beach District somehow, some way yet again.
For Green Run, third-year Head Coach Brandon Williams knows the importance of getting off to a strong start after missing the playoffs each of the last two seasons. He has the highest rated senior prospect in the city in WR/S Lakeem Rudolph, a Virginia Tech commit that needs to be a focal point of the game-plan on both sides of the ball. Ultimately, the Lions are probably going to be able to get the ball to White more than the Stallions, who’ll have to prove their offensive line can hold up, get it in Rudolph’s hands.
Tallwood has won the past four meetings all by seven points or less, prevailing 22-21 in OT las year and 31-28 in OT the season before.
Matt Says: Tallwood 13-7
VHSL-Reference.com Says: Tallwood 29-17
Coach Young Says: Tallwood 24-20
Princess Anne at Kempsville . . . It’s the debut for each school’s Head Coach; former Tallwood assistant Daryl Cherry at Kempsville and ex-Salem aide James Yeager with Princess Anne. There’s familiarity with the Beach District for both, so there shouldn’t be a whole lot of surprises in this one. For Kempsville, they’re riding a 56-game losing streak that is second longest in state history, only behind George Wythe of Richmond, which dropped 68 consecutive games from 2004-11. Princess Anne hasn’t lost to the Chiefs since 2013 and the Cavs have the top-rated corner in the nation from the Class of 2021 in Tony Grimes, who can pretty much pick whatever college he wants to attend.
As much of a factor as Grimes can be and likewise for sophomore sensation Tychaun Chapman, depth has long been an issue at PA. It has been one of the biggest hurdles for a program seeking its first winning season since 2000. The Cavs better not take Kempsville lightly and forget about recent history. Lake Taylor transfer Raevon Grodon gives them a weapon at wide receiver along with Jovon Mims to test the defense. As for the Chiefs on defense, they showed spirit in their preseason scrimmages and better tackling, giving them a reasonable amount of confidence of springing the upset at home.
Matt Says: Kempsville 20-19 (OT)
VHSL-Reference.com Says: Princess Anne 31-13
Coach Young Says: Princess Anne 26-18
Landstown at Salem-VB . . . The winner of this game could very well go on to capture the Beach District crown. Two seasons ago, Tommy Reamon’s Landstown Eagles had a perfect 10-0 regular season and on their way to it notched a 15-14 victory over Salem, their fourth straight triumph in the head-to-head series. Salem got revenge with a 13-7 win last year, marking the fourth time in five meetings that the final margin was six points or fewer. Another close battle to the end is a strong possibility.
Shawn Wilson’s Sun Devils pose challenges on both sides of the ball with an experienced, hard-hitting linebacking core that features highly recruited junior Zemarion Harrell, fellow D-1 prospect Isaiah Henderson, Anwar Sparrow, Amari Parker and Catholic High transfer Jonah Jones. New d-coordinator Jeff McGowan should utilize their strengths with an aggressive, attacking scheme. On offense, Wilson has one of the premier players with the ball in his hands around in RB Kaelon Black, who had 847 yards and 10TD’s during an injury-plagued junior campaign.
Black rushed for more than 200 yards in Salem’s close regional semifinal loss to Maury last November and there has been talk of him lining up at receiver more frequently to give defenses more to defend. Containing him has to be the top priority for a Landstown defense that was pretty stout in 2018, though begins life without sack master Taeveon Lane. Without him, they’ll count on junior defensive tackle Denzel Lowry, an All-Region candidate, to be a disruptor up front and break down the protection of Salem’s o-line.
Landstown has some new faces on both sides of the ball, including Green Run transfer Jaylen Parham, a running back and safety. Much like Salem is doing with Black, the Eagles plan to move around their dynamic offensive weapon Luqman Haskett, known for his abilities at running back with the speed and shiftiness to cause matchup problems at wide receiver as well. The Eagles have plenty of size up front with Lowry, Jordan Jackson, Isaiah Montgomery, Tyquan Johnson on the o-line – all ranging between 6-0, 256 and 6-3, 285.
This game will simply come down to who takes care of the football better. Both QB’s – newcomer Saquan Miles for Salem and returning starter Chris Price of Landstown – need to manage the game without forcing the issue. Price is more seasoned and may have as many, if not more, pieces around him. Speedy junior RB/DB Carlton Winston is another one to certainly keep an eye on for Landstown. That being said, the Salem defense might be the more opportunistic one in this matchup and better equipped to cause that key turnover in crunch time to swing things in their favor at home.
Matt Says: Salem 16-13
VHSL-Reference.com Says: Salem 14-10
Coach Young Says: Landstown 26-24 (OT)
Booker T. Washington at John Champe . . . Even though Champe sent five seniors to college and have to replace three of their four starting defensive linemen, the Knights ought to feel confident about protecting home turf as the Bookers make the nearly four-year, 198-mile trip up to Aldie. Eight-year Head Coach Jason Dawson of Champe has a game-changer at wide receiver in Tyler Savage to match the stellar junior RB Rodney Hammond possibly big play for big play in this one.
Hammond has accrued more than 3200 yards from scrimmage with 24 touchdowns in two seasons on varsity for the Bookers. Colleges have taken notice and it’s why he has more than a dozen offers heading into his junior season. Savage, a two-sport standout and 6’3” receiver, is committed to East Carolina. The Bookers might depend more on the running game with starting QB Larry Parker Jr. likely sidelined due to injury. Keep an eye on Champe WR/DB Jack Frisoli as an x-factor that can take advantage of the Bookers paying too much attention to Savage on the outside.
Booker T. has not fared well in recent years when facing Northern Virginia competition like Broad Run, whether it’s been at home or on the road. This could be another case of that here if they are without Parker and struggle to get Hammond the ball in space.
Matt Says: John Champe 35-14
VHSL-Reference.com Says: John Champe 22-20
Coach Young Says: John Champe 30-14
Colonial Forge at Grassfield . . . Even though Colonial Forge has pitched shutouts each of the past two years against Grassfield – 42-0 in 2017 and 28-0 in a weather-shortened battle held in Fredericksburg last September – Grizzlies Head Coach Martin Asprey likes the makeup of his Grizzlies squad for 2019. He feels they can get back to their winning ways with a seasoned QB Grant Swanger at the controls of the offense along with a stable of quality backs with the duo of Joseph Bracey and Kadari Cuffee expected to turn heads.
Colonial Forge brings back a dangerous quarterback in Madden Lowe, who completed 153 of 241 passes for 2065 yards and a 26-7 TD/Int. ratio. While two of the main playmakers in Zack Kindel and Josh Sarratt graduated, they do feature some receivers that can make plays after the catch in Elijah Sarratt, Cade Bills, Noel Innocent and DeLyn Palmer. The Eagles head into this season somewhat unsure who their main bellcow running the ball will be, but with returning starters Mason Rega and Chase Harley along with 6-2, 260 junior VJ Bird on the o-line, the concern is not an enormous one.
Grassfield also is going to have to prove they can be balanced offensively against a Colonial Forge defense that has the makings to be one of their stingiest. Getting a couple of the DB’s caught up to speed on their system will probably take some time, yet the front seven ought to be tough to move the ball on with LB’s Josh Johnson, Max Kauthen and Jordan Savoy all sure hitters.
Matt Says: Colonial Forge 28-9
VHSL-Reference.com Says: Colonial Forge 30-3
Coach Young Says: Colonial Forge 24-8
Denbigh at Warwick . . . Some might forget that Warwick jumped out to a 4-0 start a season ago and that did not include their 41-6 rout of Denbigh in the regular season finale. The Patriots were beaten by the Raiders 55-10 the season before as well. It’s the debut of James Stewart as Denbigh’s Head Coach and the plan is to run a Wing-T style offense similar to what they employed at Woodside when he was an assistant there.
In a lot of ways, Warwick is one of the more under-appreciated or forgotten teams around. They made the playoffs in 2018, and though they don’t have star power, there are some speedy defenders to put the Denbigh offense in some unfavorable situations. Corey Hairston’s Raiders will count on returning starters in Ahvyon Boothe at Rover along with d-linemen Israel Wellons, Marlen Wilson and Rayshaun Wilks (6-4, 360) to set the tone.
Matt Says: Warwick 22-6
VHSL-Reference.com Says: Warwick 38-12
Coach Young Says: Warwick 36-13
Kecoughtan at Hampton . . . With a 17-7 breakthrough against the Crabbers last year, Kecoughtan notched its first win over Hampton since 1995 when they beat the Crabbers 12-8 under Curt Newsome, now the Head Coach at Emory & Henry College. Current Warriors Head Coach Alonzo Coley saw 23 seniors depart from a 7-4 squad, so this has the looks of a re-building year at Kecoughtan. One area they will be strong is in the secondary with three-year starter James Mozelle, the hero in their win over Heritage with a big kickoff return, and his younger brother Jakari Mozelle.
Hampton’s coming off its first losing season since 1965 as the distractions off the field with whether Mike Smith – the VHSL’s winningest coach – would be on the sidelines or not due to the Virginia Retirement System lingered into struggles on the gridiron. Smith’s Crabbers won’t necessarily resemble some of their storied title winning teams, but this group can be stout on defense with linemen Samari Smith and Robin Littlejohn setting the pace. The offense figures to improve as the season goes along with QB Max Pietrykowski leading a cast that brings up some players from an unbeaten junior varsity squad.
Matt Says: Hampton 28-7
VHSL-Reference.com Says: Hampton 21-14
Coach Young Says: Hampton 18-7
Heritage-NN at Warhill . . . Earlier this month, Heritage’s George ‘Chubs’ Massenburg abruptly departed as Head Coach to become an Assistant Principal at nearby Warwick High in Newport News. That thrusts offensive coordinator Fabian Davis into the main chair, leading the Hurricanes. He’ll be tasked with figuring out a way to beat a Warhill team that defeated the Canes 34-16 to open 2018 and again 35-13 in the opening round of the playoffs.
As Warhill looks to move to 4-0 all-time against Heritage, they welcome in a new Head Coach of their own in Jerome Rhodes, a former assistant at Woodside. Senior LB Michael Akpan is going to be the linchpin of the defense, while the offense remains run-heavy with seniors Doug McGee and Sam Nixon getting their fair share of carries out of the Wing-T. Conversely, Heritage might be looking to open it up more with QB Jaden Wooten-Ellis firing downfield to talented receivers Jaylen Given and Roderick Webb, who’s also a threat on special teams.
Matt Says: Warhill 21-20
VHSL-Reference.com Says: Warhill 24-14
Coach Young Says: Heritage 22-20
Hopewell at Tabb . . . Just two seasons removed from capturing the Class 3 State Championship, the Hopewell Blue Devils are 4-0 all-time against Tabb, winning by an average score of 47-14. Some around the Hopewell program believe this is the best defense they’ve fielded in about 20 years. The likes of junior DL Reggie Ruffin and senior LB Kaiveon Cox each had double-digit tackles for loss and sacks in 2018. Then there’s D-1 recruit Treveyon Henderson, a supremely gifted weapon that can do damage on offense, defense and special teams.
Tabb sideline boss Matt Lawson has to like the fact that his Tigers ended the regular season on a three-game winning streak for the second year in a row. Problem is this is a major step up in the competition they’ll see in the Bay Rivers District, and if the offensive line doesn’t give junior QB Emmit Marks time in the pocket, it will be a long evening.
Matt Says: Hopewell 34-0
VHSL-Reference.com Says: Hopewell 56-15
Coach Young Says: Hopewell 40-12
Friday's Action (8/30/19):
Churchland at Grafton . . . After three straight losses to Grafton, the Churchland Truckers broke through with a 22-0 shutout of the Clippers last year. Third-year Head Coach Dontrell Leonard has maybe his best offensive line and collection of defensive pieces yet. In fact, nine seniors are projected to start on the defensive side of the ball, including captain and four-year starter Kenny Gallop – a Howard University commit – at safety.
Grafton has just one win since September of 2017 and that came from a forfeit by Bruton. New Head Coach Errold Cobbins doesn’t have many numbers and they’re going to need senior RB’s Isaiah Smith and K.J. Davis to break a couple long runs early to boost confidence.
Matt Says: Churchland 48-6
VHSL-Reference.com Says: Churchland 31-0
Coach Young Says: Churchland 44-6
Menchville at Granby . . . It’s a bit of teacher vs. pupil as Rodney Taylor of Menchville makes his coaching debut and likewise for Larry Archie at Granby. Taylor, previously an assistant at Heritage, played at Bowie State when Archie was coaching there. Archie comes to the Comets after taking Norcom to the Region 3A Championship game last November. Neither squad is stacked with talent and saw key players transfer out; the Naotala brothers to Woodside in Menchville’s case, QB Eric Gibson to Maury and DL Katron Evans to St. Frances in Baltimore departing from Granby. Don’t be surprised to see a freshman steal the show in Granby tailback Charles Fisher, who could break a long run that’s the difference.
Matt Says: Granby 18-12
VHSL-Reference.com Says: Granby 16-14
Coach Young Says: Granby 24-14
Nansemond River at Norview . . . You have to go all the way back to 1999 to find the last time that Nansemond River defeated Norview, which came in a 9-6 defensive slugfest. Since then, Norview has won each of the last three meetings, two of which came in the playoffs with the Pilots eliminating the Warriors 55-32 in 2016 and rallying for a 19-7 victory in the 2015 postseason. Back as the Head Coach for Norview after a one-year hiatus is Dealton Cotton, also the school’s Athletic Director.
Nansemond River, in its second season under Justin Conyers, plans to throw a couple wrinkles at the opposition with new offensive coordinator Lew Johnston. It’ll be a heavy dose of the run game as Deep Creek transfer X’Zavion Evans and Western Branch transfer Brent Stratton. Freshman Nolan James is expected to get the start at QB for the Warriors, and the Norview defense must bottle up the run enough to force him into uncomfortable passing situations, particularly on third down.
On the flip side, Norview has to find a playmaker at running back or receiver to take pressure off their dual-threat junior QB MarQeese Dietz, who’s being recruited by William & Mary others as a wide receiver for the next level. Nansemond River will be without stud linebacker Elijah Askew for a while due to a leg injury, but they have a number of pass rushing threats with OLB Keonte Cobb, lineman Joeziah Autrey and Payton Payne, along with others to keep Dietz running all night.
Matt Says: Nansemond River 21-6
VHSL-Reference.com Says: Nansemond River 34-18
Coach Young Says: Nansemond River 24-18
Wilson at Lakeland . . . It’s the coaching debut for both Anton Cannady at Wilson and Joe Jones of Lakeland. Cannady has coached at the helm of the Presidents before, but took over for Dominic Grooms in the off-season. Meanwhile, Jones comes to Suffolk after developing a winning pedigree as both a player and coach at perennial Southeastern District power Oscar Smith.
Wilson has won three of the past four head-to-head meetings, including doubling up the Cavs 14-7 last year. Freshman running back Damarion Jordan is expected to be a good one for Lakeland, and if he can find running room on the Wilson defense, he’ll give the home fans something to cheer about. The Presidents hope senior LB Jasper Hill and company are up to the task on the road.
Matt Says: Lakeland 15-14
VHSL-Reference.com Says: Wilson 12-7
Coach Young Says: Lakeland 22-16
Deep Creek at Great Bridge . . . Hornets third-year Head Coach Andre Twine faces his alma mater and a Great Bridge team that has dropped three straight meetings with Deep Creek. The last win in the series for the Wildcats came in a 12-10 squeaker in 2015. Deep Creek has some veterans that have been around winning the past two years, most notably WR/DB Antoine Flora and LB Gabe Fuster. Both are getting college looks along with WR/DB Jalen Jones and two-way lineman Jaron Concepcion.
Junior tight end Nathan Boerboom, son of Head Coach Brian Boerboom, is a massive target in the passing game for whoever gets the nod at QB between junior Landon Swanson and sophomore Ale Rivers. When the 6-4, 220 Boerboom is covered up though, they’re going to need to establish a consistent ground game, plus see their defense that gave up 34.8 PPG last year both tackle and cover people better.
Matt Says: Deep Creek 28-14
VHSL-Reference.com Says: Deep Creek 37-10
Coach Young Says: Deep Creek 28-18
Northeastern, NC (1-0) at Indian River . . . It’s a tough opening matchup right off the bat for Braves new Head Coach Marcus Ferebee, previously the program’s offensive coordinator and younger brother of head man Glenwood Ferebee, who left in the spring to become the Head Coach at Vance High School in Charlotte, NC. Northeastern is coming off a 14-1 season that ended in a 31-28 loss to Reidsville on a last-second field goal in the 2A State Championship. Several key parts graduated, but the cupboard is far from bare for a program that has a win under its belt this season, 16-8 triumph over D.H. Conley.
For Northeastern, they will hang their hat on strong defense with a fierce pass rush. Three-star senior DE Adrian Spellman had over 100 tackles and 12 sacks a year ago. He’s sitting on offers from Duke, East Carolina, Liberty and ODU. Spellman was one of three players with double-digit tackles last week. The other two are Rashawn Lister, who had an interception in that contest, and Kaveon Freshwater, a sophomore that recorded 19 sacks during his freshman campaign. What bodes well for Indian River is they bring back three starters along the offensive line, including a potential scholarship player in junior left tackle Stephon Dubose.
No one should feel sorry for Ferebee at all because he inherited a squad with four FBS commits in ATH LaMareon James (UNC), WR/OLB/DE Cameron Hunter (Liberty), DE Lincorey Lucas (Liberty) and ATH Tyrell Spruill (Navy). James brings the ‘wow’ factor and can impact all three phases of the game, yet it’s at corner that the Tar Heels recruited him for the next level. They also added a big-time talent with the addition of Norcom transfer Antwaun Powell-Ryland, a defensive end committed to Florida.
It’s unsure if Powell-Ryland will suit up as he reportedly missed their scrimmages while nursing a shoulder injury. If he does, it’ll really test Northeastern’s offensive line. Indian River will have to do a solid job against the run to win as the Eagles ran for 228 yards a week ago with 115 of them coming from junior Juan Riddick. Keeping things simple for new sophomore starting QB Zakai Minggia will be equally important as they want to avoid third-and-long situations where he could be pressing to make a play.
The Braves have enough talent to take down a Northeastern team with some of its better talent in the sophomore class. Having home-field advantage doesn’t hurt either.
Matt Says: Indian River 20-16
VHSL-Reference.com Says: N/A
Coach Young Says: Indian River 28-26
King’s Fork at Smithfield . . . All four meetings in the history of this series have gone the way of King’s Fork, two of which happened in the playoffs when the Bulldogs won 42-36 in 2015 and 37-14 back in 2017. New Bulldogs Head Coach Kermit Buggs comes to Suffolk with a winning background, having led Surry to a State Championship. He previously coached as an assistant at the college level with Old Dominion.
The headliners for King’s Fork are senior DB Garrett Williams, a Temple commit, and offensive tackle DeVaughn Orr, a large body at 6-5, 240 pounds. Watch out for RB Kaletri Boyd in the backfield to be a breakout name. On the Smithfield side of things, second-year Head Coach Mike Newhall doesn’t have a bevy of experience with 16 senior starters gone, though junior WR Chris Gundy can keep this interesting if it develops into a shoot-out like it has the potential.
Matt Says: King’s Fork 36-20
VHSL-Reference.com Says: King’s Fork 21-13
Coach Young Says: King’s Fork 28-8
Woodside at Gloucester . . . There’s no denying that John Scalf has done a fine job in making Gloucester competitive as the Dukes have made back-to-back playoff appearances, including their first ever win over storied Hampton in 2018. Now beating Woodside for the first time in 19 years would be quite an accomplishment as well. While the Dukes bring back eight total starters, including QB Isaiah Lester, the Wolverines have the talent on both sides of the ball to help them contend for the Peninsula District crown. That includes Player of the Year candidates in QB Tyler Thompson and LB Seth Naotala, a transfer from Menchville.
Matt Says: Woodside 46-17
VHSL-Reference.com Says: Woodside 39-23
Coach Young Says: Woodside 38-21
Jamestown at Huguenot . . . Second-year Jamestown Head Coach Michael Murphy is hoping for better results than what 2018 brought his Eagles, where their only on-field victory was a 21-13 triumph over Grafton. Senior center Drew Wilder, a Navy commit and son of ODU Head Coach Bobby Wilder, leads them up front. They’re also excited about the promise of 6’4” wideout Jamahdia Whitby. Huguenot is expected to start 17 seniors out of their 22 players. Furthermore, the Falcons had 27 takeaways with 19 interceptions last year, so Jamestown must take care of the football to stay competitive.
Matt Says: Huguenot 30-10
VHSL-Reference.com Says: Huguenot 43-14
Coach Young Says: Huguenot 30-16
Goochland at Lafayette . . . The Lafayette Rams have had six straight double-digit win seasons and haven’t suffered a Bay Rivers District loss since Smithfield beat them in September of 2012. Andy Linn’s bunch will be one of the favorites to capture the Class 3 crown this year after dropping down from Class 4. Meanwhile, Goochland, which lost in last December’s State Championship game to Graham, moves up to Class 3 and will have their hands full in this one at Wanner Stadium.
Lafayette will go with a new starter at quarterback in sophomore Luke Hanson, a UVA baseball commit. The Rams are known for keeping it on the ground more times than not, although with the addition of WR Marc Gresham from King William along with two superb tight ends in Mike Green and Harvard commit Tyler Neville, this group could go to the air a few more times a game. Goochland loves to pound the rock as well and with a new starting QB in sophomore C.J. Towles, it’ll allow for Devin McCray to play more frequently at wing-back.
McCray is a scholarship-level talent in the secondary for a Bulldogs defense that returns six regulars. One of the areas of concern for Goochland is on the offensive line, where three starters departed. That should be tested by a Lafayette defense that is firm up front and consistent in pursuit to the ball carrier with Terry Holbert and Loyal Gresham on the line along with Green, Neville and Kristian Wilkerson from the linebacker spots.
Additionally, Lafayette has a very solid offensive line with large tackles in Lawrence Tyler (6-5, 245) and Tommy Gardner (6-4, 315). Goochland’s defense may find it more problematic to get around the edge and stop some of the toss and sweep plays out of the running game for the Rams. That can very well be the difference in this matchup of teams that have a decent chance of running into each other again come December in the State Semifinals.
Matt Says: Lafayette 34-16
VHSL-Reference.com Says: Lafayette 27-21
Coach Young Says: Lafayette 28-26
Poquoson at Southampton . . . You have to go back to 2006 to find the last time that Poquoson lost to Southampton, which fell to the Islanders in both the 2014 and 2011 playoffs. The Indians have a new Head Coach in Travis Parker and he’s going to count on big production from a quartet of seniors – MLB John Johnson, CB Harrison Colvin, RB DeMartin Miles and FB Demonte Holiday. Poquoson, which looks to bring Head Coach Elliott Duty his 100th career win in his 14th season at the helm, will rely on the hard running of senior running back Bailey Green, who finished 27 yards shy of 1000 a season ago.
Matt Says: Poquoson 31-7
VHSL-Reference.com Says: Poquoson 48-18
Coach Young Says: Poquoson 38-8
Saturday's Game 1 of the Double-Dip at Darling (8/31/19):
Maury at Bethel . . . Better days are ahead for the Bruins, who bring in a new Head Coach in Creighton Incorminias that was part of the winning tradition during the Dennis Kozlowski era as an assistant. He also was an assistant to Doug Pereira at York, helping them on many playoff runs. The Bruins return an All-State tight end with junior Isaiah Smith and a junior QB in Caleb Beard that can adequately direct their offense.
Where Bethel likely encounter trouble is stopping all of the playmakers that Maury presents with 1000-yard receivers back in four-star WR KeAndre Lambert and Navy commit Dashaun Peele, plus other scholarship talents at the position with Ahmarian and Ty Granger. We’re not sure who gets the start at QB for the Commodores, but they have a stellar running back in Virginia Tech commit C.J. Beasley that they can ride to a big lead should they want to do that to set up the passing game.
Maury won last year’s meeting 49-15, a much bigger margin than the 19-14 escape of 2014. The matchup to watch closely in this one comes in the trenches with Bruins offensive lineman Jackson Griffiths, a four-year starter, against Maury d-tackle Darian Varner, a Temple commit that enjoyed a breakout junior season.
Matt Says: Maury 42-7
VHSL-Reference.com Says: Maury 51-10
Coach Young Says: Maury 42-14
Matthew Hatfield serves as Publisher for VirginiaPreps.com, part of the Rivals.com Network, and is a regular contributor to the ACC Sports Journal. Check out Hatfield’s Twitter page for more sports related updates, and you can also read his work in the Suffolk News Herald. To contact Matthew, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, and don’t forget to listen to him weeknights from 6-7 PM on The 757 at 6 as well as every Saturday at 10 AM to Noon on ESPN Radio 94.1.