We're back! The long wait is over for the start of the 2017 High School Football season. Before we tackle the games in Tidewater, let's review the Predictions from last year with Matthew Hatfield, VHSL-Reference.com and Coach Ed Young below...
Coach Ed Young
Game of the Week - To Chesapeake We Go:
Vero Beach (FL) at Oscar Smith . . . It’s the seventh time since 2009 that the Tigers open against an out-of-state opponent. Many of the returning standouts remember last year’s humbling 42-7 home loss to DeMatha and they will be plenty motivated to ring in the Scott Johnson era on a high note. Vero Beach, which comes in riding a 33-game regular season winning streak, has other ideas. The Fighting Indians finished 11-1 a season ago on their way to reaching the regional title game for the first time since 2003.
On offense, Vero Beach is led by running back Akeem Dixon, a Syracuse commit. Nick Celidonio is the new starter at quarterback. Coach Lenny Jankowksi has no shortage of talent, though, with 6’4” wide receiver Jacob Bell (29Rec. 423Yds. 3TD’s), Georgia State commit Jarvis Jones among four returning starters on the o-line, and a defense featuring talented newcomer David Reese. A linebacker now playing d-end, Reese is committed to Florida.
Perhaps the matchup to watch will be Oscar Smith’s stingy defense that helped them reach the State Championship game for a second straight year in 2016 against a Vero offense that averaged 37.3 points and 414 total yards per game last season while not allowing a sack until their 12th contest. The Tigers have an aggressive and relentless defensive front with All-State LB Keshon Artis and Rutgers commit Kyle Thomas at defensive tackle.
Junior Cam’Ron Kelly, who holds around 30 scholarship offers as a defensive back, is expected to be the starting quarterback for the Tigers, a position with a microscope given some of the past standouts, most recently VHSL record setter Shon Mitchell (now at William & Mary). Western Branch transfer Dominique Brooks also could figure into the QB equation, especially if the Tigers want to use Kelly’s talents at receiver. While there are some unproven, new faces at receiver, Smith has a deep and talented backfield with Deangelo White (over 2000 total yards last year) and Keyon Watson the highlight performers there.
Defensively, Oscar Smith has what it takes to be the best unit in all of Virginia at the Class 6 level with the amount of experience and talent returning. However, the big question is will that be enough to slow down one of Florida's finest programs with speed and athleticism at virtually every position? The Tigers should find their way offensively, but it might not be until around October or early November that they hit their full stride. With that in mind, this will be a very hard to win should the tempo command them scoring above four touchdowns or more in order to prevail.
Matt Says: Vero Beach 31-24
VHSL-Reference.com Says: N/A
Coach Young Says: Vero Beach 23-21
Rest of Friday's Slate (8/25/17):
Bayside vs. Cox [at Kellam HS] . . . After Bayside won six straight meetings from 2009-13, the Falcons have won five in a row in the series, two being of the shutout variety and two others coming in the playoffs (2015 and 2014). Coach Bill Stachelski’s Falcons are coming off their first ever Beach District title in school history, and though they have to replace Coastal Conference 1 Defensive Player of the Year Jordan Williams (now at Clemson), they bring back two of their most explosive playmakers in Tayvion Robinson and Leno Lester.
The Marlins suffered some key graduation losses and transfer departures, but Head Coach Jon White still has a solid foundation in place with senior linebackers Tray Jones, a Naval Academy commit, and Tyree Dozier as well as Nyjael Faulk on the line of scrimmage. There was very little offense in last year’s match and it might be another defensive battle. Whichever team’s quarterback – Naquez Saunders for Bayside and either Zach Zwyna or Kendall Spriggins for Cox – makes fewer mistakes gives his team the best chance to win.
Matt Says: Cox 16-10
VHSL-Reference.com Says: Cox 10-6
Coach Young Says: Cox 21-12
Landstown at Green Run . . . Until Landstown’s 35-16 win over Green Run last year, the Stallions had won three straight in the series. For Green Run, it’ll be the coaching debut of Brandon Williams, a longtime assistant at the school. Meanwhile, Tommy Reamon enters his 32nd year as a Head Coach, tenth at Landstown. His Eagles bring back more firepower with QB Brent Stukes (1929 total yards, 16TD’s) and fellow senior Joseph White (39Rec. 649Yds. 6TD’s), a WR/DB committed to the University of Virginia. If the Stallions can match them with some big strikes through the air via QB Nate Harden and WR Kwantay Anderson, then don’t rule out this one being tight down the stretch.
Matt Says: Landstown 20-6
VHSL-Reference.com Says: Landstown 34-14
Coach Young Says: Landstown 24-8
Kellam at Ocean Lakes . . . The Dolphins won this matchup 34-0 last season to move to 5-1 overall, then dropped their final four games of the regular season to miss the playoffs. Kellam, which hasn’t beaten Ocean Lakes since 2006, believes it is bigger and better up front than they’ve been the past couple years. That’ll be important in blocking Dolphins defensive end Jaevon Becton, a Georgia commit capable of wrecking a game. The Knights also will be trying to notch their first season-opening win since 2012.
Matt Says: Ocean Lakes 28-14
VHSL-Reference.com Says: Ocean Lakes 30-13
Coach Young Says: Ocean Lakes 22-20
Salem-VB at Kempsville . . . It’ll be year two at the helm for Shawn Wilson at Salem, pegged by some to win the Beach District title. A pair of Second Team All-Region defenders for the Sun Devils with DT Duane Platt Jr. and DB Lamarco Williams, plus sophomore tailback Kaelon Black looks primed for a big season running the football on offense after backing up 1000-yard rusher Davonte Williams in 2016. Kempsville comes in trying to turn things around and it won’t be easy. The Chiefs have dropped 36 consecutive games, which is the longest current losing streak in the state. They’ve not scored more than seven points on the Salem defense since 2009, the last time they won in the head-to-head series.
Matt Says: Salem 39-7
VHSL-Reference.com Says: Salem 42-0
Coach Young Says: Salem 35-6
Tallwood at Princess Anne . . . Two years ago, Princess Anne hung 60 points on the board in a surprising running clock victory over Tallwood. The Lions were the surprise story of the Beach District in 2016, going 8-3 overall and reaching the playoffs for the first time in three years. However, they had several close games with five wins by seven points or less, including 25-22 over Princess Anne. With Maryland commit Darryl Jones at receiver and defensive back, the Cavs will have the most dynamic player on the field.
Much like they did a season ago, the Tallwood defense will need to set the tone and limit explosive plays by Jones and others, especially with the offense replacing starting quarterback Adrion Wilson as well as 1300-yard rusher Breon Moseley.
Matt Says: Princess Anne 22-20
VHSL-Reference.com Says: Tallwood 28-17
Coach Young Says: Princess Anne 20-18
Booker T. Washington at Huguenot . . . Both teams missed the playoffs in 2016 with Huguenot going 3-7 and Booker T. Washington finishing 1-9. Booker T. brings back eight starters on offense, led by junior QB Dytorious Fuller (1094Yds. 6-6TD/Int. ratio) and seven on defense. Meanwhile, Huguenot returns 1700-yard passer Merlys Manuel, top receiver Kenneth Cannon (40Rec.) and four-year starting offensive lineman Brennan Thomas, a massive blocker at 6-foot-5, 330 pounds. Only three starters are back on defense for Huguenot, which will break in a brand new secondary.
Matt Says: Huguenot 26-23
VHSL-Reference.com Says: Huguenot 30-18
Coach Young Says: Huguenot 24-6
Kecoughtan at Churchland . . . It’s the coaching debut for Dontrell Leonard at Churchland. Leonard, a former quarterback at Norfolk State, will go to a spread look on offense, where sophomore receiver Kenny Gallop should be a focal point. The Truckers see quite a bit of long-term potential in their 4-2-5 defense as well, but it may not result in an immediate turnaround with a new staff and several players with limited varsity experience. Kecoughtan dipped to 2-8 a season ago, though the Warriors are optimistic with five offensive linemen back that started during the 2016 campaign as well as nine defenders that got significant playing time, including key two-way performer Jonathan Melvin.
Matt Says: Kecoughtan 23-13
VHSL-Reference.com Says: Kecoughtan 27-14
Coach Young Says: Kecoughtan 22-20 (OT)
Warwick at Granby . . . Each of the past two years, Warwick has defeated Granby, doing so rather handily 50-13 in 2016. If you’re looking for two of the more underrated playmakers to watch for on the outside in the Hampton Roads area, then this game has it with Granby’s Shaviaea Williams and Warwick’s Tayshaun Porter, a Howard University commit. Those two checking each other could be worth the price of admission. Another name on the come up for the Raiders is junior RB/LB Dayvon Meade. How Granby contains him and the Warwick running game may dictate who comes out on top.
Matt Says: Warwick 17-13
VHSL-Reference.com Says: Warwick 24-17
Coach Young Says: Granby 21-18
Maury at Bethel . . . Former Maury standout Dyrri McCain makes his coaching debut with his alma mater when the Commodores head across the tunnel to Darling Stadium to take on a Bruins team that’ll be looking to develop some new star power now that Jeremiah Owusu has moved on to Notre Dame. Tailback Kisean Storm is a strong candidate to run for 1000 yards this year on offense for Bethel. Maury counters with a dangerous passing attack engineered by QB Kevin ‘Bam Mills (1537Yds. 12-12TD/Int. ratio). It’ll be interesting to see whether or not Commodores senior running back Latrell Moore plays after getting dinged up in the team’s final scrimmage against John Marshall.
Matt Says: Maury 21-14
VHSL-Reference.com Says: Bethel 13-6
Coach Young Says: Bethel 24-20
Norcom at Hopewell . . . These are two teams with big aspirations this year as Hopewell comes in ranked #5 in the state by VirginiaPreps.com at the Class 3 level after losing in the State Semifinals to Staunton River. Blue Devils running back Ronnie Walker is expected to make his college choice next week, narrowing his list of offers down to Indiana, Michigan State and UVA. Also back is First Team All-Region QB/DB Greg Cuffey from an attack that has averaged 35.8 points per game over the past two seasons.
Meanwhile, Norcom, which made the playoffs after finishing just 1-9 the year before, is ranked #9 at the Class 3 level on VaPreps. The Greyhounds return a big chunk of their 2016 squad and they have their share of next-level prospects, two of which are juniors in LB Taurus ‘T.J.’ Jones and DB/WR CaSaan Dixon, who holds an offer from NC State. A couple of seniors to watch include LB Allen Boykins and lineman Juwan Callines. With Hopewell probably having the more explosive offense and Norcom the stingier defense, don’t be surprised to see special teams decide the outcome.
Matt Says: Hopewell 28-27
VHSL-Reference.com Says: Hopewell 29-13
Coach Young Says: Hopewell 21-17
Northeastern, NC (1-0) at Norview . . . Northeastern already has a game under its belt, having outlasted D.H. Conley in overtime last week 55-49. That game produced over 1000 yards of offense and 15 touchdowns. The Eagles are used to those types of shoot-outs as they came up on the short end of things last year in Norfolk, losing to Lake Taylor 62-41. Although Norview has to replace a ton of production on offense with QB D.J. Mack (UCF), RB Kevin Marks (Buffalo) and WR Anton Ashby (Norfolk St.), there are a lot of talented underclassmen on the roster for Dealton Cotton’s Pilots.
For Norview to win this one at home, they’re going to need the defense to control the line of scrimmage. Up front, d-lineman Derrick Eason, an NC State commit, leads the way for the Pilots. Slowing down Northeastern junior tailback Traveon Freshwater, who ran for 1441 yards and 23 touchdowns last year, will be no easy chore. Freshwater also stars on defense, where he recorded 13 tackles in the opener.
New Norview starting QB Jabari Johnson, a sophomore, can take solace in the fact that Conley’s QB, who’s committed to East Carolina, threw for 353 yards and five touchdowns on the Northeastern defense a week ago. There will be opportunity to make plays down the field and score plenty of points, but they’ll need to protect the football in crunch time and keep Northeastern from piling up lofty totals to prevail.
Matt Says: Northeastern 37-33
VHSL-Reference.com Says: N/A
Coach Young Says: Norview 24-22
King’s Fork at Wilson . . . A total of 17 starters return for King’s Fork in their second season under Head Coach Scottie Littles. That includes 1200-yard QB Justin German, 1200-yard RB Darran Butts and WR Cherrod Joe, who set a school record for receiving yards with 889. Wilson has dropped each of its past four meetings with King’s Fork, the lone victory over the Bulldogs coming in their inaugural season of 2004. Even though 1000-yard rusher Aaron Moore graduated, Coach Ronnie Ratliff’s Presidents have a senior-laden group with QB Desmond Elliott leading the offense and DE Sam Jones (12 sacks) keying the defense.
Matt Says: King’s Fork 41-15
VHSL-Reference.com Says: King’s Fork 34-10
Coach Young Says: King’s Fork 33-7
Denbigh at Dinwiddie . . . This is the first ever meeting between the Generals and Patriots. Dinwiddie is no stranger to success, having made the playoffs ten straight times with an undefeated run in 2013 and State Championship game loss last December. Back is four-star recruit K’Vaughan Pope, a playmaker both at tight end and linebacker. Pope has committed to play his College Football at Ohio State. Denbigh, looking to achieve its first winning season since 2013, will lean heavily on four-year starting DE/LB Alex Holiday as a host of new names join him in the lineup.
Matt Says: Dinwiddie 56-7
VHSL-Reference.com Says: Dinwiddie 52-6
Coach Young Says: Dinwiddie 48-0
Woodside at Gloucester . . . A lot of folks are on the Gloucester bandwagon and why not? Senior QB Isaiah Spencer (6’5”) is a threat with his arm or feet, being recruited by William & Mary to play offense by UVA to play on defense at the next level. Plus, the Dukes got off to a surprising 2-0 start last year that saw them handle Kecoughtan 49-0 in the opener. But Woodside – even with its QB Tyhier Tyler moving on to Army – is a different animal.
The Wolverines haven’t lost to Gloucester since 2000, routing the Dukes 51-0 last year. New full-time starting QB Jordan Knight also led the Wolverines to a couple of wins when Tyler was hurt late last season. Gloucester’s defense, anchored by pass rusher Cameron Walker, will have to put forth a monster effort to spring the upset.
Matt Says: Woodside 28-20
VHSL-Reference.com Says: Woodside 34-17
Coach Young Says: Woodside 33-28
Heritage-NN at Warhill . . . Never before have the Hurricanes and Lions squared off on the football field. While Heritage suffered a substantial number of graduation departures, most notably Jeremiah Boyd to Navy and wideout Amonyae Watson to William & Mary, the Hurricanes do bring back an experienced QB in Darius Price as well as big-play receiving threat Tim Payne. Campbell, Hampton, Morgan State and Virginia Union have all offered Payne. Warhill, which will try to finish above .500 for the first time since 2012, will rely on a pair of three-year starting offensive guards in Bryant Walker and Jack Wright.
Matt Says: Heritage 27-9
VHSL-Reference.com Says: Heritage 35-7
Coach Young Says: Heritage 33-12
Poquoson at Southampton . . . Coach Elliott Duty’s Poquoson Islanders have won ten straight meetings with Southampton, pitching four shutouts of the Indians during that stretch. Arguably Southampton’s best player, offensive tackle Tyran Hunt, graduated and is now at Maryland. As for the Islanders, they return over 1300 yards rushing between fullback Robert Henesey and versatile playmaker Colten Hicks. If Poquoson’s passing game progresses as the season goes along, they could make a real splash in the postseason at the Class 2 level.
Matt Says: Poquoson 36-6
VHSL-Reference.com Says: Poquoson 32-14
Coach Young Says: Poquoson 44-0
BONUS Saturday 8/26/17 - Private School Showdown:
American Heritage (FL) at Bishop Sullivan . . . A year ago, Bishop Sullivan closed out the first season under Chris Scott with a national spotlight game against prep powerhouse IMG Academy. The Crusaders nearly pulled off the upset, leading 6-0 for much of the way before giving up 16 unanswered points over the final 11 minutes. They were plagued by not having a consistent kicking game, and thus going 5-for-11 on fourth down on the evening.
American Heritage may very well be more talented with eight seniors rated three-star or better by Rivals.com. The headliner is Patrick Surtain Jr., the nation’s #3 overall prospect. They also feature Western Kentucky commit Troy Ingle on the offensive line four-star DT Nesta Silvera (Miami FL commit) and Vanderbilt commit Miles Jones. Then their junior class, which has nine projected FBS prospects, features a pair of four-star talents in receiver John Dunmore (Florida commit) and d-end Michael Morris (Florida State commit).
The Crusaders aren't lacking for big-time talent either. Bishop Sullivan boasts the country’s top linebacker in Teradja Mitchell, who’ll be headed to Ohio State next year. Quarterback Tyler DeSue, a Maryland pledge, might very well pass as the best player at his position in the Tidewater area, while Temple commit Dante Burke is a force off the edge from the defensive end spot. They've got a bevy of defensive backs that can make things happen, including young guns Sheridan Jones and Keonte Jenkins to watch out for with a chance to enhance their stock in a spotlight setting such as this.
What might go a long way towards determining the competitiveness of this matchup is how effective Bishop Sullivan can control the clock through its running game. Last year, their offensive line led by Noah Knapp (who’s now at Army) really gave IMG problems, while the mixture of Khalan Laborn (who’s now at Florida State) and Jake Low moved the chains. Low and Bayside transfer Michael Martinez will be counted on for similar success behind an o-line with some unproven parts against a defensive front that is stout to say the least.
Matt Says: American Heritage 42-21
VHSL-Reference.com Says: N/A
Coach Young Says: American Heritage 33-30
Play to WIN - The Picks Contest!
Want to get in on the action and have some fun? Play our FREE Tidewater Predictions Contest at the link below. Be sure to turn in picks every Thursday by 5 PM. Whoever does the best and beats Matt Hatfield as well as Coach Ed Young is eligible for our grand prize at the season's conclusion!
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 every Saturday at 10AM on ESPN Radio 94.1.