Thursday, September 22, 2016

Friday Football Previews

SCHEDULE (Rankings reflect latest NBC12/RVA Sports Network Big 12 High School Football Poll):

#6 Henrico (3-0) at Patrick Henry (3-0), 7pm

#7 Lee-Davis (3-0) at Varina (1-2), 7pm

Hanover (1-2) at Atlee (1-2), 7pm (LISTEN LIVE HERE)


First, our Game of The Week on WHAN Radio (102.9 FM/1430 AM) and the RVA Sports Network, as Hanover comes to Atlee. Still the hottest rivalry in Hanover County, even if both teams are coming in at 1-2 with losses last Friday, both at home, as the Hawks fell 28-13 to #11 Hopewell, while Atlee saw a 14-0 fourth quarter lead evaporate as #9 Douglas Freeman scored with 6.2 seconds left to stun the Raiders 20-14.

The importance of this game cannot be overstated. Yes, bragging rights are at stake as always, and Hanover remembers well seeing a 25-6 halftime lead disappear a year ago in Atlee's 31-point third quarter en route to a 44-40 win. Many of the main characters from that game are gone, but one who did not factor in that game returns: Hanover quarterback Clayton Cheatham.

Injured last year, Cheatham missed eight regular season games, including this rivalry. Cheatham will be more than ready to finally get back on the field, now for the final time, against Hanover's arch rivals. Atlee will counter with both freshman Tyler Warren and senior Connor Young under center, both bringing their own skill sets to the Raider offense. Atlee counted on Clifton Woody to handle the bulk of the rushing carries last week as Chris Green was sidelined due to injury.

This game will come down to three areas: turnovers, offensive line play, especially in the fourth quarter, and, frankly, positive desperation. Neither team wants to find themselves with a 1-3 record with the likes of Lee-Davis, Henrico and Highland Springs still ahead on their schedule. The road to the playoffs becomes much more difficult with that 1-3 mark as opposed to 2-2, especially in a very competitive 4A East Region this year, where Hanover not only has to worry about Dinwiddie and Monacan, but Louisa, Chancellor, Courtland and Eastern View.

NOTE: We'll go live at 6:30pm Friday with the "On The Sidelines Preview Powered By Sheehy Ford of Ashland" as Rob Witham sits down with Marc Davis of NBC12 to preview all the Central Region action!

Speaking of NBC12, Matt Estreich will be live all evening at Patrick Henry, where, for the second year in a row, the Patriots meet Henrico in a battle of unbeatens. Last year, a trip to Azalea Avenue did not go well for the Patriots, and they will look to use both the momentum whipped up by their amazing 31-point second half in last week's comeback road win at Mills Godwin 31-28, and home field advantage as the Warriors must come to Ashland for the first time since 2002.

The Warriors may have lost Xavier Goodall to graduation and the University of Richmond, but now Patrick Henry must deal with sophomore quarterback Jalon Jones, who has improved with every game and is starting to give the Warriors big-time legitimacy in their offense. Led by Akeem Smith, their defense is already well-known, and will have to contend with Patrick Henry's offense, which after struggling in the first half at Mills Godwin, exploded to lead the comeback. Josh Guerrero, Justin McCowan and company must produce, and spread the wealth, as it were, so Henrico doesn't try to key on how Hunter Hart is utilized offensively.

Watch the kicking game in this matchup, as a missed extra point, or good punting to consistently put the opponent deep in their own territory could make a big difference. Henrico won 26-7 last year. Expect this time to be closer, with either team capable of the victory.

Meanwhile, Lee-Davis goes to Varina looking for back-to-back wins over the Blue Devils, something that hasn't happened in a long time. We'll see which personnel are available for head coach Ryan Turnage and company, as the Confederates, again, face a 1-2 Varina squad, who, like Hanover and Atlee, can ill afford to go to 1-3 and seek an easy path to the playoffs, especially in the 5A South Region.

Lee-Davis, in the same region, sees big opportunity if they can continue to pile up wins, with big guns Hermitage, Highland Springs and LC Bird all no longer in the ranks of the unbeaten. If the Confederates want to really prove they've arrived in the Central Region, a win at Varina begins the pathway. Getting a home game, or two, in postseason play would be huge. But it's still September. The team must focus on only the game at hand, and must avoid lack of composure issues that affected them during their win over Glen Allen a week ago.

A victory puts LD at 4-0 with Armstrong next week, then rival Atlee coming to Route 360 in two weeks. The Confederates must control tempo, and not turn the ball over, and count on their experienced offensive line to pave the way to victory.

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