Monday, October 22, 2012

Division 5 Playoff Watch: Week 8 Preview!!

Hanover stays on top, while Hopewell continues a steady climb into home field position in the semis, while John Marshall's hopes take a huge hit and Midlothian treads water.....

DIVISION 5 PLAYOFF STANDINGS: (last week's ranking in parenthesis)

1) Hanover                                    27.286  (#1, up 0.95 points)
2) Hopewell                                   25.714 (#3, up 1.88 points)
3T) Lee-Davis                               24.142 (#2, up 0.142 points)
      Dinwiddie                                24.142 (#6, up 1.142 points)
5) Midlothian                                 23.500 (#4T, up 0.333 points)
6) Atlee                                         23.429 (#7, up 1.596 points)
7) John Marshall                            22.714 (#4T, down 0.452 points)
8) Monacan                                   21.125 (not rated last week)
9) Glen Allen                                 20.667 (#8, down 0.5333 points)
10) Patrick Henry                          20.000 (not rated last week)

**--Please note with this week's standings list we are including the top ten teams, whether they have playoff aspirations or not, in light of Patrick Henry's stronger than expected rider point showing and to keep track of Glen Allen.


DINWIDDIE (4-3): In two short weeks, the Generals, who were expected to compete for home-field in the Division 5 Playoffs in most preseason prognostications, have jumped from #8 to tied for #3, in the playoff top four, raising their VHSL rating points by 3.142, a big accomplishment considering a win over winless Colonial Heights helped them as little as humanly possible.  What does help them are all the victories that teams which dotted their early season schedule continue to get, i.e.--Varina, Highland Springs, Meadowbrook.....the last legitimate bump in the Generals road to Week 11 is a Week 9 trip to Hopewell, a team ahead of them in the current standings.  If Hopewell can defeat them, it should give them a home game on November 16th, while Dinwiddie could compete for one with a win at Hopewell.  The fly in the ointment for both of them looking to grab that #2 seed resides in Mechanicsville....

LEE-DAVIS (4-3): It's a rare feat to lose on the field but win in the "overall scheme of things", but I believe this is the case for Coach Zac Hayden's hard-working crew, who quieted the naysayers by going triple overtime at Highland Springs before falling 19-16, holding the high-powered Springers to 13 points in regulation, and 6 of them came on a punt return.  For the Springers offense, it is most alarming with Varina looming on the horizon.  Although the game goes into the loss column and dropped Lee-Davis from #2 to a tie for #3 in the playoff standings, the accomplishment of slugging toe-to-toe with an unbeaten Highland Springs team on the road through three overtimes must give the CFeds inner confidence for the rest of their schedule, which remains daunting.  It begins Friday when they welcome Hanover to Mechanicsville Turnpike.  Twitter trash talk is already in full swing between the two schools, as personnel questions continue to swirl with the Hawks, while Lee-Davis seems to be healthy, if not banged up from their most recent Friday night battle.


JOHN MARSHALL (4-3): The Justices are in a free fall.  Two weeks ago they were ranked #2 with 24.2 VHSL rider points.  Fast forward to now and they are in the #7 slot, down nearly 1.5 rider points in the past two weeks. Not holding serve at home against Mills Godwin in Week 5 is turning out to be a turning point in their season, as it was followed by the 62-0 pasting they took at the hands of Hermitage, which included some players being ejected and thus ineligible to play this past Friday at Douglas Freeman.  This was a game where John Marshall was ahead by six and by five, and only down once by a point until Freeman's miracle touchdown pass with two seconds remaining to get the 13-12 win and possibly place a dagger in the Justice's hearts.  This has to be an extremely frustrating development for a program that has turned it around, unlike its city brethren, to have a .500 record or better three of the last five seasons, including a 7-3 mark last year that almost secured them a post-season berth.  Sadly now they must win out to match 7-3, and, with better seasons by Midlothian and Hopewell this year, it looks like, again, 7-3 won't get it done.  They finish at Deep Run, at Tucker, then at Thomas Jefferson,

MIDLOTHIAN (4-2): Their loss to Benedictine may sting them personally and help them discover some glaring issues that must be addressed before their final playoff push, but it will never count in the eyes of the VHSL Rider Point kings, and that will probably end up being a blessing in disguise.  The reason for the "losing" declaration, though, is a failed chance in scheduling to at least beat another VHSL opponent to gain some rider points.  How quirky is the Rider Point System?  Midlothian's game didn't count and they STILL GAINED 1/3 of one point thanks to other team results, but they slid out of that 4th place tie for the final berth in the post-season and are now in fifth.....with the #1 offense in the Central Region, Atlee, breathing down their necks.  The Trojans' final three games are not gimmes.  Their Senior Night this Friday against Clover Hill should be a win, but after that are trips to Monacan (who had they not lost their top 2 quarterbacks to injury so early in the year may, too, have had a say in this playoff race) and to Manchester for a Week 10 rivalry game.  Again, the question will loom, would a Lancer victory over Midlothian spoil the Trojans' playoff hopes?  Is that enough motivation for a Manchester team playing out the string, with no hopes of post-season at all?


HANOVER (6-1): The last time a field general kept the condition of his army this close to the vest in Central Virginia was probably in 1864.  No one could get definitive word from Coach Josh Just as to the condition of the shoulder of senior quarterback/punter Andrew Knizner.  He did not play in Friday's 40-0 win over Armstrong, and that was the extent of details coming from Chamberlayne Road.  There's really no way to know whether Knizner will return to action at any point in 2012, and that is probably why the information flow is non-existent.  He could be in a position that if Hanover advances to a certain point in the playoffs, he would be cleared to play....maybe.  But a small setback in rehab and recovery could change it all.  Have we seen the last of #11 on the football field for the Hawks?  We simply don't know.  What we DO know is Travis Barton took the load at QB in the Armstrong game, relying on L.J. Jones' ground game (wouldn't you?) while enjoying the gift of two defensive touchdowns by, who else, Sam Rogers, on interception returns.  The cast over his healing finger on his throwing hand is SO huge, it looked like, on TV, one of his interception returns had a football in his left arm and a swaddling baby in his right....very surreal.

L.J. Jones will be the focal point of Hanover's hopes offensively when they come to Lee-Davis on Friday.  He will have to match the performance of Confederates star tailback Chris Simpson, as field position and time of possession are going to be major, major keys in the game, as well as turnovers.  For Lee-Davis to ensure a playoff berth and have hope for home-field in the semis, they must defeat either Hanover Friday or Atlee in two weeks.  If the Hawks can survive Lee-Davis, they then must travel to Varina, a team that, frankly, pounded them in 2011.  Realistically, the Hawks are hoping for 8-2, the top seed, and a healthy #10 OR #11 available to go under center come playoff time.

ATLEE (4-3):  The Raiders ended their two-game losing streak, as Morris Jackson broke loose again for a six touchdown performance against Glen Allen to give him 25 rushing TD's on the season, and close to 1,500 yards in rushing.  Kenner Berry and Chad Jacob continued to shine, but, again, the Atlee defense disappointed.  They allowed 33 points to a team that only earned seven on their home field against Lee-Davis a week earlier.  Atlee gets Armstrong this Friday at home to help them get to 5-3 with two huge games in early November.  First, they must travel to Highland Springs November 2nd.  Now, in Atlee's favor, the Raiders do have the weapons to score more points on the Springers than either Hanover (21) or Lee-Davis (16) did.  The huge question is, can their defense stop L.J. Johnson and company?  The Springers only scored 24 on Hanover, 19 on Lee-Davis.  If Atlee could at least keep Highland Springs in the 20s, they have a chance.  If the Raiders enter Week 10 at home against Lee-Davis at 5-4, it's a possible "play-in" game scenario, especially if Lee-Davis is also 5-4.  The good news for the Raiders is, in VHSL Rider Points,  they gained 1.596 points with their Glen Allen victory and other factors, bumping their position from #7 to #6.  They are in a position to extend their season, but only if they do it on the field.  If they have to rely on help, they'll likely find little.....


--Hanover (6-1) at Lee-Davis (4-3) (to be heard LIVE on WHAN, 102.9 FM and 1430 AM and on the internet/on smartphones via

--Armstrong (2-5) at Atlee (4-3)
--Matoaca (3-4) at Dinwiddie (4-3)
--John Marshall (4-3) at Deep Run (4-3)
--Clover Hill (1-6) at Midlothian (4-3 (4-2 in VHSL standings)
--Petersburg (3-5) at Hopewell (5-2)

GAME TO WATCH: Hanover/Lee-Davis, without a doubt. Lee-Davis will have home-field advantage, will know they can play with and defeat Hanover, simply by comparing the two teams' performances against Highland Springs.  It will be more than the running game (L-D's Chris Simpson vs. Hanover's L.J. Jones), so other players will have to step up (Hanover's Donte Haynesworth and Lee-Davis' Deshaun Rogers come to mind....).  Turnovers?  Huge.  Special teams scoring?  Could make the difference.

A Hanover win almost guarantees a home regional semifinal and possibly, even if they lost to Varina, the number one seed.  If Lee-Davis can win, they again vault into home-field consideration, setting off a wild scramble in the final two weeks of the regular season in not only WHO makes the playoffs, but WHO plays WHERE come November 16th!

Buckle up, fans.  :)

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