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scrımmageplay THE CENTRAL VIRGINIA SPORTS AUTHORITY

VOL 13. ISSUE 1 :: AUGUST 25, 2021

Back in Session The 2021 Football Preview


CENTRAL VIRGINIA PRESEASON POWER POLL presented by

scrımmageplay NO. 1 LOUISA COUNTY (5 first place votes) 47 NO. 2 GOOCHLAND (2) 32

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NO. 3 WESTERN ALBEMARLE 31 NO. 4 ALBEMARLE 21 NO. 5 WOODBERRY FOREST 20 NO. 6 BUCKINGHAM COUNTY 10 NO. 7 ORANGE 9 ALSO RECEIVING VOTES: Fluvanna County, Blue Ridge, William Monroe, Monticello, FUMA


ANYONE KNOCK 04 CAN OFF LOUISA?

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The Lions look to keep an impressive district win streak alive

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A HUGE GROUP OF DOGS If you’re not amped about football being back, this column will get you there

2021 FOOTBALL 12 SP’S PREVIEW

A preview of every single local team

VOL 13 . ISSUE 1 :: AUGUST 25, 2021

x’s and o’s S TAF F Bart Isley, Creative Director Bob Isley, Infrastructure Director Ryan Yemen, Creative Editor O N THE COVE R From Louisa: Stephen Dean, Qwenton Spellman, Jordan Smith, Landon Wilson, Eli Brooks Bottom Photo: Kobe Edmonds, Eb McCarthy, Carson Tujague, C.J. Towles, Landon Ellis M I S S I O N S TATE M E N T Local sports are a cultural touchstone for every community in America, and we’re here to reach beyond the basics and give compelling accounts about Central Virginia athletes to our readers. CO N TAC T U S [ e ] info@scrimmageplay.com [ p ] 434-202-0553

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t h e s g n ki in

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e l ng


L

ouisa county’S CHEMISTRY ISN’T YOUR RUN OF THE MILL,

we-grew-up-together chemistry. Make no mistake, a lot of the Lions who are a part of the team set to carry the Louisa banner into this fall, they’ve known each other since they could first strap on a helmet. But it goes deeper than that. There’s this deep respect for each other’s gifts, talents and personalities. Jordan Smith and Stephen Dean want to be a little quieter as they go about the business of playing first team All-Jefferson District caliber football? No problem. Qwenton Spellman and Eli Brooks want to play a little louder? Have some fun with it in the trenches? No problem. “Every weekend we’re at somebody’s house, we even ask the coaches to come out and eat with us and of course they say no but it’s just funny to ask them,” said Louisa quarterback Landon Wilson. “We’re just a tight family.” The Lions take each other for who they are, come together and then play a phenomenally successful brand of football every Friday night. That kind of chemistry — and some incredible talent over the last four years — is how the Lions have rung up an absurd Jefferson District win streak of 26 straight victories and four straight district titles. Now they’ll put that streak to the test in 2021, with the added challenge of Goochland’s entrance into the JD after running up their own gaudy win streak of 36 straight games in the James River District. Plus the Lions know they have unfinished business after an early exit from last season’s condensed playoffs against King George. They’re hungry and ready to attack this fall.

Portraits by John Berry Creative Direction by Ryan Yemen Words by Bart Isley www.scrimmageplay.com :: 5


elijah brooks junior

WHEN A DEFENSIVE END looks up and Elijah Brooks is pulling around the center and building a head of steam, it has to be a disheartening sight. Brooks is a 6-foot-1, 230 pound wrecking ball who moves a lot faster than he maybe should, and his footwork is excellent when he gets out in front of whoever is carrying the ball for the Lions at that moment. “It gives me a lot of confidence — I just know when I drop back to pass I’m going to have a few seconds to make a read,” said Louisa quarterback Landon Wilson of having Brooks blocking for the Lions. “Running the ball too, I just trust him a lot.”

As good as Brooks is at offense, he’s also pretty darn good at defense. Like, first team All-Jefferson District on both sides of the ball as a sophomore good. He stacked up 43 tackles including eight for a loss this spring. Brooks is two great players rolled into one. For all those positives though, it’s a negative experience that’s got the Lions motivated headed into this fall — a loss to King George in the opening round of the region playoffs that ended the Lions’ spring season. “That’s fueling everything, we are very upset with how the season ended last year,” Brooks said. “We’ve got something to prove.”

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qwenton n a m l l spe junior

IT’S HARD TO TALK ABOUT Qwenton Spellman without talking about Elijah Brooks. They’re both juniors, they’re both linemen and they’re both absolutely top-notch athletes. All those shared characteristics mean they’re likely always going to be linked and that’s just fine with those two stars. “Eli is like a brother to me, since our freshman year we knew we were going to do something great,” Spellman said. “People are still underestimating us. We show people every single year that we’re that team to beat.” It’s hard to think anyone is underestimating Spellman at this point. The junior defensive end

earned first team All-Jefferson District honors and was in the conversation for district defensive player of the year after he piled up four sacks, 34 tackles and six tackles for a loss, numbers that were impressive, but undersold the 6-foot-2, 277-pound monster’s impact. He creates so much pressure and havoc with an array of pass rush moves and sheer brute force that a lot of offensive lines have been reduced to either double teaming him or holding on for dear life. He’s a rare combination of strength, speed and savvy. That’s why he already has an offer from Old Dominion and that might just be the first of many. www.scrimmageplay.com :: 7


stephen dean Senior

STEPHEN DEAN HAS TO BE accounted for by an opposing offense on every single play or he’s going to wreck whatever plan the offense put together. But even if he’s accounted for? There’s a good chance he’s going to wreck those plans anyway based on his breakout season this spring. “I feel like the opportunity was there and I just took advantage of it,” Dean said. “I did what I could for my team.” Dean piled up 66 tackles, six tackles for a loss and three sacks in just seven games of action this spring. While 66 tackles speaks for itself, it’s important to put that number

in perspective. He’s not amassing those up as one of the few tacklers. There were six players with at least 26 tackles on the Lions’ defense in that shortened season. You’ve got to earn the right to make a tackle for Louisa’s defense by pursuing and rallying to the ball and Dean earned 66 of them. “You’ve got to get back there fast — when you see it you’ve just got to go,” Dean said. Dean’s quiet leadership helps set the tone for the Lions. “He leads by example — in practice he’s always going hard,” said Landon Wilson. “I’m glad I’ve seen him develop into a great player.”

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landon n o s l i w junior

LANDON WILSON JUST keeps getting better. The Lions’ signal-caller has a knack for lasering in on his perceived weaknesses and turning it into a strength. “Everything anyone says about me, I just try and add it to my game,” Wilson said. “Even if they don’t know that I heard them. All I heard my freshman year was he can’t run the ball, so I made it a point to get faster.” The results? Wilson rushed for nearly as much as he threw for this spring, sprinting for 448 yards and six touchdowns while throwing for another 466 yards and six scores. That immediately gave the Lions’

offense another dimension that they’ve grown pretty accustomed to over the years, as running is a necessity for quarterbacks in the single wing that’s still at the core of the Lions’ DNA. While Louisa will have to replace key figures like leading rusher Kalup Shelton, the presence of Wilson, now a firmly established dual threat, will make things particularly challenging for opposing defenses no matter who is lining up beside him in the backfield. With another year, a little added confidence? The Lions’ junior is set to have an explosive year. www.scrimmageplay.com :: 9


jordan smith

Senior

IT WOULD BE HARD TO ARGUE that anyone had more of a breakout spring on the football field than Jordan Smith. Smith became the Lions’ shutdown cornerback, marking opponents’ top pass catching threat each week . He allowed just four catches all season. Then when Kalup Shelton got banged up, Smith flourished on offense too, averaging 7.9 yards per touch while accounting for eight total touchdowns and 402 rushing yards. He’s wickedly fast and creative with the ball in his hands while playing so technically sound on defense. It’s an impressive, diverse skillset. But Smith has been going to work on the intangibles too, sharpening his approach in all aspects of the game, not just what happens in between the lines, but how he conducts himself in every team activity.

“I’ve been talking to coach (Will) Patrick a lot, asking him for guidance on how to be a leader,” Smith said. “He’s been giving me great advice and my teammates have been supportive and that makes the job a lot easier.” That’s typical for most of Louisa’s players and maybe part of the secret sauce — they’re all-in, interested not just developing individually but developing with an eye toward helping the team be as successful as it possibly can be on a weekin, week-out basis. Sure, getting faster is better, but what if you’re getting faster and learning how to communicate with teammates better? That’s how you turn a King George loss into a catalyst for future success. That’s how you win 26 games in the Jefferson in a row. That’s how you become not just kings of the jungle, but kings in The Jungle. ✖

www.scrimmageplay.com :: 10


Playbook

A pack of dogs Fall football is back and a bunch of dogs are ready

I

f you haven’t seen the clip of the high school player being interviewed ahead of the season and hyping up every single member of his team’s running back position group, I highly suggest you watch it. Once you’ve done that, swing back here because we’ve got some local guys that you may not have heard of that deserve similar treatment. Woodberry’s Donovan Baker got one game last fall to show what he was capable of and he delivered with 277 yards and four touchdowns on 18 touches. This year he’s going to be trying to help power the Tigers to contend for another Prep League title. Dog. Western Albemarle’s Ross Bassett checks in at 5-foot-11, 210 pounds and he plays both ways for the Warriors at two of the game’s most physical spots, guard on the offensive line and middle linebacker on defense. Guy rarely misses plays and while Austin Shifflett and Carson Tujague may have been the higher profile linebackers for the Warriors, there’s no doubt they couldn’t have done a lot of what they did this spring without Bassett’s contributions as a blocker and gap stuffer. He’s a dog. There’s also Louisa County’s Austin Libby. Libby is the Lions’ “other” guard alongside junior Eli Brooks who fast became arguably the area’s top offensive lineman this spring with a big-time sophomore campaign. Libby, meanwhile is doing the dirty work of making sure that opposing defenses can’t try and key off Brooks pulling and load up on the frontside or overpursue. They’ve got to respect Libby which means he’s got to be about as devastating when he pulls himself going the other way. This spring, he was up to the task, helping power a ground attack that piled up 2000 rushing yards in seven games. Dog. Noah Grevious and Isaiah Grevious are emerging as some of the area’s highest impact players for Albemarle’s squad. Isaiah is a potential force, flying around all over the place during the Patriots’ scrimmage with Brookville in August. Noah hauled in a deep ball from Patriots quarterback Amaje Parker in that scrimmage on a beautifully executed seam route down the middle. Dogs. Two of them. Blue Ridge’s Tanner Rocha is one of the lone holdovers for the Barons from their 2019 state runner-up squad where he was a key component as a sophomore. He’s stuck with the plan and now he’s going to be a critical part of the mix for the Barons as they return

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to playing a schedule for the first time in two years. It takes a lot of fortitude to stick with it when things aren’t going to plan. Dog. Orange’s Paul Poirier? Ruggedly tough, constantly finding ways to keep the Hornets in games. He’s a dog too. Goochland’s De’Andre Robinson? Somehow stays underrated, can do everything you want from a defensive end whether it’s creating pressure on a deep drop or squeezing down the line to stuff the run. Absolute dog. Madison’s Wade Fox? Continues to stick with the Mountaineers who are in a battle to turn the program around, a rugged, tough signal-caller. Also a dog. STAB’s Nolan Bruton? Back at quarterback for the Saints with a roster full of youth and unknown entities and potential as STAB returns to 11-man. Nolan Bruton is a dog. Like everyone else, we’re so happy that fall football appears to be back. And that a bunch of absolute dogs are waiting to take the field Bart Isley, this fall. ✖ C RE AT IV E DIR ECTOR

back talk »

Are you super ready for football’s return? Email us: bart@scrimmageplay.com


CARSON TUJAGUE WEST ERN ALBEMARLE

BAC K TO SC PORTRAITS BY JOHN BERRY CREATIVE DIRECTION BY RYAN YEMEN WORDS BY BART ISLEY ACTION PHOTOS BY KRISTI ELLIS, BRIAN MELLOTT, JOHN BERRY, TOM PAJEWSKI, BOB KENWARD

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LANDON ELLIS

WOODB E R RY F OR EST

EBENEZER MCCARTHY ALBEMARLE

WITH THE STATE’S FIRST EVER SPRING SEASON ONLY SLIGHTLY IN THE REARVIEW MIRROR, FIVE LOCAL PLAYERS ARE READY TO GET BACK TO WORK ON FRIDAYS THIS FALL

H O OL KOBE EDMONDS F LU VA NNA C O U NTY

C.J. TOWLES GOO C H LA N D

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ALBEMARLE

PATRIOTS

Defense set to power Patriots

Just a few months removed from a 3-3 spring, it’s clear that Albemarle is going to hang its hat on a single identity this season: A fast, swarming defense that’s got a lot of young and unique talent ready to clamp down on opposing offenses and create some serious havoc. The Patriots’ front seven is deep and athletic with at least six players who can start and play key roles, with Kaleb Bertram, Malakye Hicks and TaeVeon Wilson all at defensive end. In the middle, there’s Jahmir Banks at nose, Koran Mosby and Khaleb Pannell at defensive tackle. That’s a lot of quickness, size and athleticism in a defensive front that should give most offensive lines in the Jefferson District serious problems. Even if the offensive line can manage that group, they’ll have to contend with a linebacking corps anchored by Adam Schantz and Alex Fiere with Hicks possibly in the mix as well. Behind that group, senior cornerbacks Malik Washington (12 pass breakups this spring) and Jacob Terry (four interceptions this spring) join safety Christian Humes to form a strong secondary. But the key piece might be the versatile Isaiah Grevious at a rover/strong safety type spot. Grievous can make an impact at every level, wreaking havoc against the run and the pass — he had four forced fumbles and 40 tackles in six games this spring. The key is going to be building an offense that can take advantage of that defense’s

THE BREAKDOWN WHO’S GONE: NOLAN PITSENBERGER (FS), JAYMARI LINDSAY-THOMAS (DL) WHO’S BACK: EBENEZER MCCARTHY (RB), DALTON TATE (OL), NOAH GREVIOUS (WR), ISAIAH GREVIOUS (ROVER), JAKE KING (WR), ADAM SCHANTZ (LB) AND ALEX FREIRE (LB), PICTURED WHO’S NEW: AMAJE PARKER (QB) 14 :: @scrimmageplay

efforts and Albemarle is headed in the right direction there as well. Eb McCarthy will be the bell cow running back once again after the first team All-Jefferson District pick rushed for more than 800 yards in six games this spring. He’ll get spelled by Noah Grevious, a talented sophomore who is an excellent complementary piece in the backfield. Jake King, who has been the Patriots’ main quarterback the last couple of years, shifts outside as a slot wide receiver, opening the door for the Amaje Parker era to really begin in earnest after the two split time this spring. Parker is a slick, talented sophomore lefthander who gives the Patriots a potentially dangerous runner at the quarterback spot. Putting King on the edge adds to an already solid receiving corps led by Humes and versatile Noah Grevious when he’s not at running back. Bertram doubles as a tight end for the Patriots, giving Parker another option in the passing attack. The offensive line has second team All-JD pick Dalton Tate back to anchor the line along with newcomer Banks. If that offense starts clicking or the defense lives up to its potential, the Patriots should find themselves back in the playoff mix again after missing out on the condensed format in spring. If both happen at the same time? The Patriots could be looking at a particularly special season. ✖


EB MCCARTHY ALBE MA R L E

WHEN ALBEMARLE’S EBENEZER McCarthy is running this year, he’s going to be packing a little more punch. A little more weight. A little more muscle. “I’ve always been a tall, skinny kid who’s fast but this year I put on a little bit of weight to help me become the power back people keep saying I can be,” McCarthy said. “I can definitely feel it and it’s definitely benefiting me. I feel a lot stronger.” McCarthy was intent this summer on adding some more power to his game to go with the speed that has made him such a dangerous threat the past two seasons for the Patriots. He rushed for more than 800 yards, including three games where he surpassed the 150-yard mark, and he did it against teams that were loaded up against the run. That might be much harder to do this year as teams will have to respect an improved Albemarle receiving corps and the arm of sophomore Amaje Parker, who’s already shown in spot play last spring and scrimmages that he’s capable of taking the top off the defense. When Parker gets things rolling, McCarthy will have more running room than usual, and with his added strength, that could be real trouble for defenders when he gets loose on the second level.


BLUE RIDGE

BARONS

Barons make long-awaited return

It has been nearly two years since a Blue Ridge football team hit the field for a competitive game, when they finished as the runner-up in the VISAA Division 2 state championship game to North Cross. That’s slated to change in September when the Barons open up against Nansemond Suffolk Academy with an almost entirely new look roster. Without the advantage of having played either this spring or last fall, Blue Ridge faces a unique challenge, in some ways like restarting a program completely. But Blue Ridge is also uniquely positioned to handle that process, managing turnover and getting creative every year. A few familiar faces are back though, and finding where to fit them into the mix is going to be a huge part of the equation. The secondary has the potential to be a strength right out of the gate, with senior safety Tanner Rocha and classmate Fort Carden lining up at cornerback. Camden Brewer and Robby Matos should also be in the mix in the secondary. At linebacker, Logan Rhoades, Tank Grant, Jackson Lindsay, Nate Jaramillo and Adam Rudolph should make up the core of that spot while Reuben Walbrook will anchor the defensive front. On offense, Brewer and Rhoades are the top

THE BREAKDOWN WHO’S GONE: RYAN WILLS, LUKE WIGHTMAN, KAYLEN DANOS WHO’S BACK: TANNER ROCHA (RB/DB, PICTURED RIGHT), JACKSON LINDSAY (TE/ LB), NATE JARAMILLO (RB/LB), FORT CARDEN (DB) WHO’S NEW: ROBBY MATOS (DB/WR), TANK GRANT (LB/RB)

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options at quarterback, and both should bring some serious athleticism to the mix at the signal-caller spot. They’ll have some dynamic potential weapons around them too with Grant and Jaramillo at running back as well as Carden and Rocha options at running back and slot while Matos has the potential to be a significant threat at wideout. Lindsey will likely line up at tight end. Rudolph and Walbrook will form the core of the offensive line. Blue Ridge has generally done an excellent job of adapting to the talent they’ve got on campus, building schemes and plays around their strengths. That adaptiveness and ingenuity should come in handy in a big way in this unique season where they’ll have to essentially remake the lineup and team from scratch. Like every season, the Barons will also face a tight timeline in trying to pull the squad together, but head coach Jimmy Wills knows that routine now and knows how to get that job done. Nansemond Suffolk is a tough opener on the road and the rest of the month features two more road trips. If the Barons can play well in that stint, business will pick up with North Cross early in October before heading down the home stretch. ✖


BUCKINGHAM COUNTY

KNIGHTS

Knights finally back at it

Buckingham County didn’t get a chance to play in fall or spring last year, throwing off the rhythm of a program that had turned things around under Seth Wilkerson since he was hired in 2018, going 5-5 in 2018 before advancing to the second round of the playoffs and posting a 10-2 record in 2019. Now the Knights have two years without a single game and you can bet that whoever makes their way to Buckingham this season is going to find a resilient, motivated football team waiting for them. Dillwyn was already an exceedingly difficult place to play, at this point it might just be a lions’ den. Future opponents should take note of what happened this spring when a Buckingham baseball team that hadn’t been much of a factor for years came out of the two-year layoff with its best season in decades, winning a region playoff game for the first time since the 1990s. The Knights almost surely didn’t fall apart during this layoff and there’s a chance they got stronger. Three key players who’d contributed from their ninth grade to junior seasons didn’t get a chance to lace it up for the Knights last year — quarterback Tae Toney, running back Xavien Gough and defensive back Demetrius Davis. Replacing that trio won’t be an easy task The Knights will build around two-way lineman Dontrell Gough. On offense he was a nightmare as a pulling guard for opposing

defenders and on defense he was much more than a space eater in the interior, knifing into gaps and putting sometimes immediate pressure on the opposing quarterback. The Knights always want to run the ball and right now senior Dalante Woodson and K.J. Williams are set to do the bulk of the running. Woodson is a power back who checks in at 230 pounds and will be a major challenge for defenses to bring down, the rare running back who also doubles as a defensive lineman. Williams, a defensive back, will offer some lightning to Woodson’s thunder. Andrew Dragovich will be a key part of the offensive mix at tight end, a crucial blocker in the Knights’ system in years past, and he’ll also be a foundational part of the linebacking corps. Newcomer Kymeir Lockett gives the Knights some speed at wideout and as a defensive back, joining Williams in the secondary. The Knights will face a new-look James River District after Goochland moved to the Jefferson, ending one of the most anticipated rivalry clashes each fall at least for now. Instead the Knights are slated to face their usual challenging out-of-district schedule, including Appomattox, before jumping headlong into a district slate full of unknowns as most James River squads opted out of condensed spring. In a season filled with unknowns, you can expect that Buckingham will find a way to compete and battle. They always do. ✖

THE BREAKDOWN WHO’S GONE: TAE TONEY, XAVIAN GOUGH, DEMETRIUS DAVIS WHO’S BACK: DONTRELL GOUGH (OL/DL), DALANTE WOODSON (TB/DL), K.J. WILLIAMS (TB/DB) WHO’S NEW: KYMEIR LOCKETT (WR/DB)

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CHARLOTTESVILLE

BLACK KNIGHTS

CHS looks to get back on track

In the win column, Charlottesville football has run aground, with the Black Knights’ last victory coming back in their season finale in the fall of 2018, the lone victory of that year. But those losses don’t tell the entire story. Charlottesville has been snakebitten at times by rashes of injuries and this spring they were just seven points or so away from going 2-4 rather than 0-6, falling by one score to both Monticello and Fluvanna County. With a bunch of key returners at the skill positions, there’s reason for optimism for the Black Knights too. Essentially the entire skill group on offense is back, with Polo Hill and Eddison Duolo leading the way at running back, giving the Black Knights a significant dose of speed. Hill is a tough runner and Duolo has shown flashes of greatness, like his 200plus yard, three-touchdown effort against Monticello in the spring. With that wealth of potential ball carriers, expect a return to the Black Knights’ triple option identity that has served them well in the past, but Charlottesville can force defenses to defend the entire field with players like Semaj Dennis and Nasir Lindsay, who give the squad an added dimension. Those ball-carriers have to produce consistently though, and the blocking has some holes to plug with the graduation of Devin Shifflett at center and without the versatile

THE BREAKDOWN WHO’S GONE: JALEOM ADAMS-MALLORY (DL/OL) WHO’S BACK: EDDISON DUOLO (RB PICTURED), POLO HILL (RB), EH NAY SOE (LB), SEMAJ DENNIS (RB), NASIR LINDSAY (WR), JORY CARDOZA (QB), CALDWELL BOYLES (QB) WHO’S NEW: BISHOP PAIGE (CB) 18 :: @scrimmageplay

presence of Jaleom Adams-Mallory, who has cleared the way as a fullback and as a lineman over the past few years. Two quarterbacks who saw significant playing time last year, Jory Cardoza and Caldwell Boyles, return to the mix, and they’ll need to distribute well and make their chances in the passing game count for Charlottesville to be particularly successful. Defensively, each of those skill players should play some role especially with the Black Knights facing depth issues that are all too common in 2021. Eh Nay Soe will play a significant role at linebacker while Jason Romero should have an impact at safety. Sophomore cornerback Bishop Paige will likely factor in the mix in the secondary too, giving the Black Knights another building block on the back end of the defense. A return to in person education should help the Black Knights rebuild some numbers and increase their depth, but there are a ton of programs facing similar challenges. That makes staying healthy a critical component for the Black Knights and several other programs throughout the district. A challenging first half of the season will test the Black Knights’ will, but if they can improve and stay healthy, the back half of the schedule looks potentially promising and could help spark the turnaround the Black Knights need in 2021. ✖


COVENANT

EAGLES

Covenant returns in 8-man

COVENANT FOOTBALL DIDN’T play in the 20202021 school year, and if they had they would’ve likely fielded solely a junior varsity squad. But the Eagles have a strong core of young players now and they’re ready to compete in the VISFL’s 8-man football league again this fall. Technically, the Eagles are the VISFL’s defending champions, having won the 2019 title, the last time it was contested. But that was an almost entirely different roster with just a handful of holdovers who were freshmen on that squad and are now juniors. Eight-man allows for some wide open play and the Eagles have produce some bigtime statistics during their stretch in the format with quarterbacks Luke Sorenson and Jonas Sanker, now at UVa. They’ve got some of the tools to keep that string rolling with some junior pass catchers who can stretch the field like Carter Brown and Mason Lunn at wideout and Chase Campbell at tight end. Sophomore Lukas Sanker, the latest in the Sanker brothers line, will likely slot in as a wideout and potentially at running back. It’s absolutely critical to have dynamic athletes on the edge in 8-man because there’s so much space to work with. If that group can develop and take advantage of the opportunity to step into the spotlight, it’ll give the offense a huge lift coming out of the gate with a new starter at quarterback. That new starter tasked with distributing the ball to those new potential weapons is

signal caller Stephen Burton. The 6-foot-2 junior will take snaps behind an offensive line anchored by Ayden Wyant. You don’t need a ton of linemen to get going in 8-man, but the Eagles will be developing some key parts of that position group. On defense, most of the skill position players will play both ways and Wyant will likely anchor the defensive line as well. Brown, Burton and Sanker will all line up at corner while Lunn will likely play on the defensive line. Campbell and Zach Pirtle will be key linebackers. The Eagles’ defense in 8-man has been suffocating (within the confines of the high-scoring format) up until this point and that’s been a huge difference-maker for Covenant in winning back-to-back VISFL championships. The Eagles are likely to get challenged right out of the gate against Blessed Sacrament-Huguenot at home and then back-toback road trips to Southampton Academy and Randolph-Macon Academy before a stretch of three home games starting in mid-September. With STAB shifting back to 11-man, the Eagles have lost the geographic rival it played twice in VISFL title games, so they’ll have to learn to win on the road and against teams they’ve got less familiarity with than usual. Still, they’re in position to continue to be in the VISFL title mix and the road to a title in that league still likely goes right through the Eagles. ✖

THE BREAKDOWN WHO’S GONE: JONAS SANKER (WR/DB/QB) WHO’S BACK: CARTER BROWN (WR/DB, PICTURED), CHASE CAMPBELL (TE/LB), STEVEN BURTON (QB/DB), AIDEN WYANT (OL/ DL) WHO’S NEW: LUKAS SANKER (WR/RB/DB), MASON LUNN (WR/DL), ZACH PIRTLE (RB/LB) 19 :: @scrimmageplay


FLUVANNA COUNTY

FLYIN’ FLUCOS

Flucos look to flip spring script

Things didn’t exactly go to plan for Fluvanna County this spring. After two straight playoff appearances in 2018 and 2019, the first of which ended a nearly 20-year postseason drought, the Flucos stumbled to a 1-5 spring record. More worrisome, the Flucos surrendered 49 points per game over the final three games of the season to Louisa, Orange and Monticello. That means Fluvanna has some significant work to do to keep its streak of playoff appearances in normal seasons alive. In the modern game, you’ve got to be able to score points, and the Flucos will turn to a pair of dual threat playmakers at quarterback to get that done. Kobe Edmonds and Owen Leydig are set to split time behind center with Edmonds also likely to step in at wing and running back too when Leydig is taking snaps. Getting Edmonds out from behind center could make the Flucos more dynamic and they’ll need that punch. As usual, the Flucos will look to spread the ball on offense within a multi-set offense that includes a heavy dose of Wing-T action. Returners Chase Paschall, Jacob Seymore and Tristan Chisholm are in the mix as well as newcomers Addison Pachett, Keynon Smith, Eisryell Johnson and Clayton Cannady all capable of seeing touches. That seems like a lot of players in the mix and it is, but if Fluvanna can shake out some reliable options on the ground, it’ll open things up for

THE BREAKDOWN WHO’S GONE: XAVIER COPELAND (ATH), JADEN FERGUSON (WR/DB) WHO’S BACK: OWEN LEYDIG (QB/DB PICTURED), KOBE EDMONDS (QB/RB/DB), GRANT BROWN (OL/DL), SCOTT FULTON (OL/DL), CHASE PASCHALL (FB/LB) WHO’S NEW: ADDISON PACHETT (WR/FS/P/K), KENYON SMITH (RB/WR/DB) 20 :: @scrimmageplay

Edmonds and Leydig to take the top off the defense with whoever ends up being the best options in the passing attack. That Wing-T DNA means that defenses will have to defend Fluvanna from every angle. Whoever ends up splitting the load will run behind an offensive line built around Grant Brown, Scott Fulton and Jared Morris. That gives the Flucos a strong foundation that should be able to open holes. Shoring up the defense that got shelled late in the year is critical, especially since they’ll face two of those offenses with a lot back (including their starting quarterbacks) during the regular season. The Flucos will be fast on that side of the ball, with speed at all three levels, but their tackling has to be more sound and they’ve got to sort out stopping the run. They start with some excellent building blocks up front, with Brown, Jacob Morris, Jared Morris and Austin Moore among the candidates on the defensive line and that pack of skill players will double as defensive backs and linebackers. Pachett will take over punting and kicking duties and should give the Flucos a shot in the arm there. If the Flucos can get back on track and rediscover the identity they’ve established in the last few years under coach Mike Morris, they’ve got the tools and depth to play well and get back in the playoff mix. ✖


KOBE EDMONDS FLUVA N N A C O U N TY

FLUVANNA COUNTY’S KOBE Edmonds was presented with a unique opportunity this spring, an opening not many players get when they’ve been a foundational player for several years at quarterback — the chance to play other positions that he projects to at the next level. The emergence of Owen Leydig has allowed Edmonds to become an X-factor for the Flucos. Sure, he’ll play some quarterback like he’s done since he was a freshman. But Edmonds could line up anywhere at this point and it wouldn’t be a surprise — running back, wing back, slot wideout, outside wide receiver, cornerback, safety, rover — wherever there’s a play to be made, the Flucos could put the senior in that spot. That worked nicely this spring when the Flucos expanded his role to become a regular on the defensive side of the ball and he had 19 solo stops in just five games of action as a defensive back. “I’m getting ready to play all over the field at any position — I’ve been playing in the offense for four years now so I’m ready to branch out my game, blocking, running, catching a pass or running. Whatever coach needs me to do.”


GOOCHLAND

BULLDOGS

Bulldogs back in the Jefferson

A shortened season and a condensed playoff field this spring couldn’t stop Goochland from its typical playoff appearance, with the Bulldogs’ run ending in the Region 3B final against Independence. Now Goochland will jump headlong back into the Jefferson District for the first time in a decade after departing in 2011 following a twoyear stint in JD. They won’t be doing it with an empty cupboard either. The Bulldogs, as is their annual tradition, graduated a large crop of key contributors, but also as usual, there are pieces back and another group ready to step up and keep Goochland rolling. Any time you’ve got a seasoned, steady hand at quarterback like C.J. Towles back in the fold, that’s a huge step in the right direction. When that quarterback doubles as a defensive back with a UVa offer, it’s like returning two excellent players. Towles is a dangerous dual threat quarterback and he simply makes everyone around him better. He’ll need to dig into that well with a complete retooling of the Bulldogs’ running back corps and the graduation of Towles’ favorite target the last two years, Kam Holman. Jason Woodson, Jamason Pryor and Derek Pierce are poised to carry the load on the ground along with Towles. In the passing attack, seniors Zion Stoltz and Eyan Pace have the potential to be huge factors at wideout. Up front, the Bulldogs have to replace

THE BREAKDOWN WHO’S GONE: KAM HOLMAN (WR/DB), AYDEN DOCZI (OL/ DL), WHO’S BACK: JASON WOODSON (RB/LB, PICTURED BELOW), CJ. TOWLES (QB/ DB), JOSH USURY (OL), DE’ANDRE ROBINSON (DL) WHO’S NEW: NIK COTNER (LB), JAMASON PRYOR (RB) 22 :: @scrimmageplay

center Ayden Doczi, but Josh Usury, Jahran Tucker, Hayden Raley and Alex Rosenbaum are back and if that group has developed in the short months since spring, their continuity could be a difference maker for the Bulldogs. On defense, the Bulldogs have impact players in Towles, linebacker Omarion Quarles, senior defensive ends De’Andre Robinson and Enrique Alvarez and nose guard Kia Burton. Robinson is particularly intriguing as he demands a ton of attention from opposing offensive lines and remains an under-the-radar recruit who projects well at the next level. That quintet gives the Bulldogs a lot to build around, and Pierce and Pace should solidify things at cornerback. Nik Cotner, Dylan Myers and Corey Mullins will need to step up at linebacker next to Quarles. Aiden Allen and J.D. Mills should also be in the mix in the secondary. As usual, Goochland has solid players in the special teams game, with Tyler Black leading the way as the returning starter at kicker and punter. The Bulldogs got a taste of the upgraded schedule they’re facing in spring by playing Albemarle, Orange and Liberty-Bealeton and that’ll likely help ease the transition. There have been years where only a few teams (namely Buckingham and Fork Union) have really pushed Goochland. That won’t be the case this year, but lucky for the Bulldogs, they’ve got personnel and the mentality to handle it. ✖


C.J. TOWLES GO OC HLA N D

GOOCHLAND’S C.J. TOWLES isn’t always going to put up the flashiest of numbers at quarterback. The Bulldogs offense isn’t designed to just light up the scoreboard and race up and down the field — even if at times with Towles they can’t help it like his fourtouchdown explosion against Central Lunenburg. But he’s going to be extremely efficient. He completed 62.7 percent of his passes this spring while throwing for 629 yards and eight touchdowns in just seven games for the Region 3B finalists. Towles, who holds a UVa offer and could be one of the Cavaliers’ next diamonds in the rough on the defensive side of the ball, joins a long line of Goochland quarterbacks who have gotten a chance to play at the next level, most recently Reid Chenault and Devin McCray, the player Towles took over for. That legacy can motivate a player or it can wear a player down. Not surprisingly, Towles has met the challenge and been inspired by that lineage. “It really drives you — it makes you want to get better every day. And it makes you appreciate Goochland football and appreciate the guys who came before you. Having some time under my belt, it’s easier for me to be in control out there.”


FORK UNION

BLUE DEVILS

Fork Union powering ahead

Fork Union was committed to making football happen last fall and the Blue Devils managed to pull it off, playing seven games, more than any other program in the area. The Blue Devils managed a win in the opener but some close losses and some extremely challenging opponents led to a 1-6 record in Mark Shuman’s second year at the helm. Persevering through everything to play last fall and make sure players like V’Jon Hampton — now in the Blue Devils’ postgraduate program — got a chance to put together tape was an impressive show of dedication to the program’s players as Shuman continues to reshape and restore the culture of the program. Now the Blue Devils get to work building around a strong senior class of skill position players led by Dominic and Dominique Julius, a dynamic tandem of 6-foot-2 senior wideouts. Both brothers showed flashes of brilliance last year and a season in the system should give them a serious leg up going into this year. Jackson Bolduc gives the Blue Devils another returning receiving option and newcomer Isaiah Burel should boost that corps as well. Tasked with finding those weapons in the passing game is senior quarterback Keiran Meyer. Meyer split time with Alex Williams last year and is a dual threat who has a lot of the tools to be a dangerous force for the Blue Devils. A year of experience should help him make sharper decisions as he continues to develop.

THE BREAKDOWN WHO’S GONE: V’JON HAMPTON (RB/LB), GREGORY HYSON (LB) WHO’S BACK: DOMINIC JULIUS (WR/LB, PICTURED), DOMINIQUE JULIUS (WR/DB), CAMERON WALLACE (DE), JACKSON BOLDUC (WR/DB), KIERAN MEYER (QB) WHO’S NEW: ISAIAH BUREL (WR/FS), CHRIS JONES (OL/ DL), LANCE GOWANS (LB/RB/ QB) 24 :: @scrimmageplay

Replacing Hampton is perhaps the most challenging task for Fork Union and Lance Gowans and Thomas Manganiello are the early candidates to carry the backfield load. They’ll get the benefit of running behind an offensive line anchored by tackles Elijah Munoz and Oliver Hall that’ll also get an injection of talent from freshman Chris Jones. The Julius brothers will also likely play a critical role on defense, where Dominic plays outside linebacker and Dominique plays defensive back. Hampton was a huge part of the defense and the Blue Devils graduated Greg Hyson, a stalwart middle linebacker. But they bring back defensive end Cameron Wallace who has serious size, speed and length and can play with his hand in the dirt or standing up. All those pieces are huge, but bringing them together on the short timeline every boarding school faces will be the crucial part of the puzzle for the Blue Devils. They’ll face a challenging schedule but it won’t feature some of the powerhouse non-Prep League programs that have dotted the slate in the past like Georgetown Prep or Goochland. Opening with STAB and following with St. Michael the Archangel gives Fork Union a chance to start off on the right foot. If the Blue Devils can get some early momentum going and ride it into the more challenging back half of the schedule, 2021 could be a huge step forward for the Blue Devils’ program. ✖


LOUISA COUNTY

LIONS

Lions looking to keep streak alive

There are a lot of years where top-to-bottom Louisa County looks like the preseason favorite in the Jefferson District — or at the very least the co-favorites. They have, after all, won 26 straight Jefferson District games and four straight district titles, with three of them coming since Will Patrick took the helm. This year is no different, with the Lions sporting returning starters at a ton of different positions. In fact, the reigning Jefferson District defensive player of the year, Stephen Dean, is arguably not even the most high-profile name on his side of the ball. But he’s an excellent place to start on a defense that should be a nightmare for opposing offensive coordinators. Dean had 66 tackles while earning the district’s top defensive honor, including six tackles for a loss and three sacks. He’ll line up behind bookend defensive ends Elijah Brooks and Qwenton Spellman, an absurd junior tandem that had a breakout spring season where they racked up 77 tackles between them with Spellman making four sacks and Brooks making two while Brooks had eight tackles for a loss and Spellman had six. Spellman has emerged as a potential high profile recruit and Brooks almost surely isn’t far behind him in that process, while also emerging as one of the area’s best offensive linemen. Replacing Lowell Johnson at nose guard won’t be easy, but the Lions are deep up front. In the secondary, senior Jordan Smith returns

to the mix after a complete, lockdown effort in the spring where almost nobody managed to have success against the then-junior. He locked up the opposing team’s best receiver week-in and week-out. Louisa also brings back interception machine Chase Miller. Miller had three picks against Albemarle and broke up eight passes on the year. Miller can also be an impact player in the box. Louisa’s depth is underscored by the fact that it isn’t unreasonable to get this far into talking about the Lions and not have mentioned Landon Wilson yet. Wilson enters his third year as a starter at quarterback and the signal-caller has grown by leaps and bounds in just two years. He threw for 446 yards and ran for another 448 yards, accounting for 12 total touchdowns. Replacing Kalup Shelton won’t be easy, but Smith ran the ball well last year and he’ll be running behind a line anchored by Austin Libby, a 245-pound wrecking ball Patrick has called the epitome of a Louisa lineman. Brooks will play the other guard spot which means either way Louisa pulls, there’s likely a path of destruction about to develop in Libby and Brooks’ wake. Hunter Atkinson also returns up front to a unit that didn’t allow a sack all last year and powered the Lions to rush for over 2000 yards. The Lions are arguably the favorite again this year. They’ve got talent all over the field. The question really becomes, how far can this edition of the Lions go? ✖

THE BREAKDOWN WHO’S GONE: KALUP SHELTON (RB), LOGAN MCGHEE (DB), LOWELL JOHNSON (DL) WHO’S BACK: LANDON WILSON (QB), QWENTON SPELLMAN (DL/TE), ELI BROOKS (OL/DL), CHASE MILLER (DB), JORDAN SMITH (RB/WR/DB), STEPHEN DEAN (LB) WHO’S NEW: ADAM MILLS (RB/LB) 25 :: @scrimmageplay


M A D I S O N CO U N T Y

MOUNTAINEERS

Mountaineers continue rebuild

Madison County knows what stage of the process the program is in – coach Larry Helmick in particular knows the kind of complete rebuild that Madison is in the midst of undertaking. The Mountaineers are trying to re-tool the program’s entire culture that has led to a string of frustration with the Mountaineers’ last winning season coming in 2010 (they went .500 in 2016 and made the playoffs). While the scoreboard didn’t show much progress in the spring, that’s not the measuring stick right now. Not with only a handful of upperclassmen in the mix. Senior wideout Kris Dobyns is one of the lone departures, and Madison should benefit from a summer of workouts that wasn’t possible a year ago. Madison will continue to build the offense around junior dual threat quarterback Wade Fox, a fierce competitor who has shown an ability to extend plays and attack defenses vertically. If the 6-foot0 junior can string together more crisp throws and make sound decisions it’ll go a long way toward getting the Mountaineers’ offense going. To do that, Fox needs protection because he was running to survive at times over the last two years. Madison has three excellent building blocks up front in seniors Andrew Hall and

THE BREAKDOWN WHO’S GONE: KRIS DOBYNS (WR/DB) WHO’S BACK: WADE FOX (QB/DB, PICTURED RIGHT), ANDREW HALL (OL/DL), ZACH POLLINA (OL/DL), MATTHEW SACRA (ATH) WHO’S NEW: WESLEY WOODWARD (RB), BILLY ACTON (ATH), JAYDEN JENKINS (SO), COREY HELMICK (ATH)

26 :: @scrimmageplay

Zach Pollina. They also have one of the area’s most intriguing pieces, sophomore Matthew Sacra, who may get used in an expanded role because he’s a big, rangy athlete at 6-foot-3, 190 pounds. His older brother Jacob, who now plays at St. Frances recently committed to East Carolina, and the younger Sacra has the potential for a breakout season this fall. Fox will also get help with an injection of athleticism from a group of talented newcomers like sophomore running back Wesley Woodward, athlete Billy Acton and senior Corey Helmick. Defensively, expect a lot of two-way football with Hall and Pollina on the defensive line and Sacra finding a spot somewhere in the front seven. Fox has played some linebacker and sophomore Jayden Jenkins should be in the mix in the linebacking corps too. The Mountaineers have a few things now working in their favor that they didn’t have last year — continuity and experience. Madison has at least a partial year of experience in Helmick’s system and most players are back in similar roles while there’s also been an injection of fresh talent, plus some offseason workouts. This is a multi-year process, but the Mountaineers certainly have the pieces in place to take that next step forward this fall. ✖


MONTICELLO

MUSTANGS

Mustangs underoging overhaul

Monticello football was possibly just an Albemarle win away from making the condensed playoffs in the spring which, and being on the doorstep there (and certainly in the playoffs in a normal season) is an impressive year considering all the unique challenges COVID-19 presented while the Mustangs were also in the first year of Matt Hicks’s tenure as head coach. Now, the true build begins as Monticello graduated 17 seniors, many of whom filled all but five starting roles that return for the Mustangs. Chief among those seniors that need to be replaced is current UVa wideout and former Monticello quarterback Malachi Fields. This spring, Fields did a little bit of everything for the Mustangs, leading Monticello in rushing and passing as well as playing defense and special teams. It’ll take, at the very least, a couple of players to fill Fields’ role. This will be a significant youth movement, with only five seniors back in the fold, led by tight end and strong safety Miles Frazier. Frazier didn’t have a huge impact offensively last year, but Kai Gaines was a key part of the offense at tight end. Frazier’s role will likely expand and he’ll also be a critical building block for the secondary. Monticello’s legacy at running back drove a lot of the program’s most successful stints, and the Mustangs will likely turn to juniors Logan Clark and Eli Fields to carry the load there. Clark was the squad’s second-leading

rusher behind Malachi Fields last year and can help power the Mustangs in a variety of ways as he’s a solid pass catcher out of the backfield. Fields showed flashes of explosion in early scrimmage action and has the potential to break out in a big way this year. Senior Victor Valovalo could also be a factor there and will almost certainly find a spot somewhere in the offense as a playmaker. At quarterback, junior Matt Dixon and senior Kaegan Costa are in the mix. Fields will be a tough act to follow, but Hicks showed a knack for developing quarterbacks at Nelson with the emergence of George Brown and Brice Wilson’s steady improvement before that. Sophomore Christian Proffitt and Jaylen Hughes could be factors on both sides of the line and Tanner Ardinger appears ready for a significantly expanded role as well up front. Defensively, Frazier in the secondary and Clark and Ardinger in the front seven give the Mustangs some building blocks. The Mustangs have to figure out how — with a ton of new faces — they’re going to improve on last year’s rushing defense that surrendered 1,358 yards in just six games, more than 220 yards per contest. This year is where the tone will truly get set for the Matt Hicks era with an essentially complete offseason and a full slate of games this fall. If the Mustangs’ young talent can grow up fast, they’ll be a tough out for teams in the Jefferson District. ✖

THE BREAKDOWN WHO’S GONE: MALACHI FIELDS (QB/DB), WILL TRENT (WR/DB), CHASE HUMMEL (WR/DB/K), GIACOMO WILSON (OL/DL) WHO’S BACK: LOGAN CLARK (RB/LB, PICTURED), MILES FRAZIER (TE/LB) WHO’S NEW: VICTOR VALOVALO (RB/DB), ELI FIELDS (RB), TANNER ARDINGER (OL/EDGE) 27 :: @scrimmageplay


NELSON COUNTY

GOVERNORS

Nelson starting fresh in 2021

Nelson County football got its share of games in this spring, but with essentially no offseason development to be done due to the pandemic, like a lot of teams, the Governors were left in year one of the Darrin McKenzie era to try and make the best of a bad situation. The Governors picked up one win and they’ll now have to replace quarterback George Brown, Nelson’s longtime starter as well as a host of other graduated seniors including twoway linemen Kavin Carter and Koby Mays and playmaker Jamal Rose. Despite those losses though, the Governors have a lot of reasons to be positive about the first full year with McKenzie at the helm. Senior Johnny Oneida is back at running back and linebacker, and Oneida showed some shiftiness and ability to run hard in between the tackles. If he can bring an assertive style to the ground attack, it’ll help whoever takes over as the Governors’ new quarterback settle in. The Governors also have a foundational building block in the trenches as sophomore lineman Carson Becerra returns after making an impact as a freshman on both sides of the ball. With Mays and Carter graduating, Becerra

THE BREAKDOWN WHO’S GONE: GEORGE BROWN (QB/DB), KAVIN CARTER (OL/DL), KOBY MAYS (OL/ DL) WHO’S BACK: CARSON BECERRA (OL/DL, PICTURED), JOHNNY ONEIDA (RB/LB), ADONIJAH HUBBARD (RB/LB) WHO’S NEW: TRE TERRY (WR/DB), HUNTER GARRETT (RB/LB) 28 :: @scrimmageplay

will play an even more pivotal role for the Governors on both sides of the ball. Oneida will get some help in the linebacking corps from junior Adonijah Hubbard and sophomore Hunter Garrett and both Garrett and Hubbard could see time carrying the ball. Throw in sophomore Tre Terry, a newcomer at wideout and defensive back, and there are some key players in key spots that are capable of making an impact. Bringing that new talent together will take some time, As is usually the case with Nelson, one of the main challenges lies in the Governors’ schedule. They recently shifted back into the Dogwood District after a run as an independent, an effort to rebuild the program. But the Dogwood is often a gauntlet and the toughest of that slate awaits in the second half of the year. If the Governors can get off on the right foot while facing Page and a trio of James River District foes, it’ll go a long way toward helping them weather the challenges that await in October. A fast start is undoubtedly critical for Nelson, and that means a lot of new faces will have to grow up quickly. ✖


ORANGE COUNTY

HORNETS

Orange looks to put it together

Orange County was a roller coaster to watch this spring, one of the area’s most intriguing, talented teams that faced a challenging outof-district schedule in addition to the usual Jefferson District gauntlet. That led to a 2-4 record that felt like it way undersold the Hornets’ ability and performance, at least partially due to some struggles late in games. The Hornets will have to replace a lot of key pieces that have been stalwarts in the lineup for a long time, but they’ve got one central piece back in the mix that gives them a leg up on several teams — senior quarterback Paul Poirier. Poirier emerged last year as a dangerous dual threat, rushing and passing for a combined 1,500 yards of offense in just five games of action. Poirier was seen more as a good athlete playing quarterback going into the year but became the second team All-Jefferson District quarterback. He enters this year alongside Louisa’s Landon Wilson as one of the district’s top returning quarterbacks. The challenge Poirier faces is that he lost top targets Doug Newsome and Donald Brooks to graduation with Newsome lining up for Charlotte after a tenure as perhaps the district’s fastest skill position player during his four years. Poirier will turn to Will Lewis as an option in the passing game, the lone returning wideout with any catches on varsity. Lewis is an important part of the cultural mix for the Hor-

nets, constantly looking to help teammates learn and develop. Junior Bryant Chiles will shift to running back and take up what quickly became his usual spot as a game-changing linebacker over the last couple of years. The first team All-Jefferson District linebacker will need to step up and do even more on both sides of the ball than the spring when he played nearly every single play. An experienced, large offensive line will lead the way for the Hornets with 6-foot-5, 265pound junior Chase Rollins, 280-pound senior Thomas Pierce, 250-pound senior Chris Heiston and 265-pound junior Trey Clatterbuck anchoring that unit. All four are returning starters. Freshman Sheldon Robinson, a defensive back and wideout as well as versatile sophomore Darius Holmes, a defensive back, quarterback and wideout could step into critical roles this year and bolster a secondary that appears strong despite losing Newsome and Brooks. The Hornets face an interesting first four games in September that includes a couple of out-of-district playoff teams. Still, they have the opportunity to build some momentum during that month before back-to-back weeks against Albemarle and Louisa truly push Orange to the brink and test them. If the Hornets have a rhythm going into that stretch it’ll be a big boost as they try and navigate a particularly challenging back half of the schedule. ✖

THE BREAKDOWN WHO’S GONE: DOUG NEWSOME (WR/DB), DONALD BROOKS (WR/DB) WHO’S BACK: PAUL POIRIER (QB/DB, PICTURED), BRYANT CHILES (LB/RB), WILL LEWIS (WR/DB), CHASE ROLLINS (OL/ DL), THOMAS PIERCE (OL/DL) WHO’S NEW: SHELDON ROBINSON (WR/DB), DARIUS HOLMES (DB/QB/WR) 29 :: @scrimmageplay


WESTERN ALBEMARLE

WARRIORS

Western brings back strong core

Western Albemarle has undergone a personality shift the last few years. It used to be that the Warriors were intent on running around or throwing over opposing defenses. Now Western appears intent on running right through them. The Warriors return 17 of 22 starters this fall including five critical starters up front on the offensive line, who also double as members of the defense’s front seven. That kind of experienced core in the trenches is absolutely invaluable to any football team, especially when that group paved the way for now graduated Austin Shifflett to average more than seven yards per carry this spring. That unit of Xander Smith, Kanian Miller, Ross Bassett, Spencer Burnette and Spencer Franklin should be a major strength. The Warriors shifted to more formations that employed a tight end this spring — in fact the position had essentially been extinct in Crozet for at least a decade until last fall. Some of that is building around personnel and some of that is the outgrowth of Ed Redmond’s natural tendency to want to run the ball and control the clock like he did for years while coaching in New York. The personnel it’s built around is senior Carson Tujague a 6-foot-3, 217-pound force who’s a capable pass catcher and an excellent blocker. His emergence in spring gave the Warriors a needed second dimension outside Shifflett while breaking in Nathan Simon as a

THE BREAKDOWN WHO’S GONE: AUSTIN SHIFFLETT (RB/LB) WHO’S BACK: JOEY BURCH (WR/DB, PICTURED), CARSON TUJAGUE (LB/ TE), DAKOTA HOWELL (FB/ LB), XANDER SMITH (OL/ DL), ROSS BASSETT (OL/LB), NATHAN SIMON (QB/DB) WHO’S NEW: BUBBA SHIFFLETT (RB) 30 :: @scrimmageplay

new starting quarterback. Simon, who stepped into the quarterback role after an injury last season, is the unquestioned starter of the group and he’ll have options in the passing attack in Tujague (16 catches for 258 yards in six games in spring) and Joey Burch (7 catches, 120 yards). Replacing Shifflett is a significant concern. He’s been the primary back since he was a freshman. But Simon will hand off to Kaden Morrow (who gave Western a spark against Charlottesville in the spring) and Bubba Shifflett as well as Dakota Howell at fullback. Will Ferguson and Kyle Keyton could also be in the mix in skill spots on offense. The defense gets a boost from a loaded linebacking core of Bassett and Howell in the middle and Tujague on the edge while Simon plays corner. That front seven or eight depending on the formation should make running the ball a true challenge against the Warriors. It’s possible that Western was an overtime loss away from making the condensed playoffs in the spring, and in a normal year they’d have definitely been in the postseason mix for the region tournament. That bodes well for a team that was breaking in so many young, inexperienced players a few months ago. Now the Warriors get to see if that youth movement can bear fruit over a full season — a lot of the tools are there and if Western stays healthy, it could be an exciting fall in Crozet. ✖


CARSON TUJAGUE WESTE R N A L B E M A R L E WESTERN ALBEMARLE SENIOR

Carson Tujague’s personal resurrection of the tight end position this spring only slightly overshadowed his All-Jefferson District level linebacker play for the Warriors. Tujague had a breakout spring season, stacking up 25 solo stops and 8.5 tackles for a loss in just six games while also hauling in 16 catches for 258 yards and four touchdowns. He’s not just a pass-catcher at tight end either, Tujague is an excellent blocker who helped clear the way for an offense that racked up 5.8 yards per carry. “It was really exciting — I love to block a lot and so receiver was not really necessarily the positon for me,” Tujague said. “Coach (Ed) Redmond always tells us to be as physical as possible on the field — to engage and do your job.” If Tujague’s trajectory continues, he’s got a chance to be one of the area’s biggest impact players on both sides of the ball this fall. He’s capable of snuffing out drives almost single handedly from his spot attacking on the edge and then turning around and snagging in a touchdown pass from Nathan Simon to finish off a team on offense. That’s a one-two punch that not too many other players in the area can lay claim to being capable of bringing to the table.


WOODBERRY FOREST

TIGERS

Woodberry locked in for big year

Woodberry Forest only got to play a single game last fall, a road matchup with Fork Union. But things really haven’t gone to plan for two years for the Tigers, who are two years removed from a 2-7 record against an admittedly brutal schedule that was filled with one score losses — five of them to be exact. In some ways, that’s ancient history as the current seniors were sophomores then, but enough Tigers played on that squad and went through last year’s tumultuousness that Woodberry’s roster really can be summed up in one word — hungry. Donovan Baker returns at running back, an Army commitment who exploded in that single game against FUMA for 285 yards and three touchdowns. He’ll likely feature as the centerpiece of an offense that has to replace Ben Locklear, a three-year starter at quarterback who walked on at Virginia Tech. They’ll also have Caleb Hodges and, eventually, Landon Ellis at wideout who can serve as critical playmakers. Ellis is nursing a collarbone injury and should return early in the season. Jaden Ferguson also joins the mix this year and could make an impact at several skill positions, particularly as a deep threat coming off his 200-meter state championship run while he was at Fluvanna this spring. Baseball standout Tank Yaghoubi could also factor into the mix as a running back alongside Baker.

THE BREAKDOWN WHO’S GONE: BEN LOCKLEAR (QB), JIANNI WOODSON-BROOKS (LB) WHO’S BACK: DONOVAN BAKER (RB, PICTURED), CALEB HODGES (WR/DB), CONNOR LESSANE (DB), GAVIN GUZEK (OL), LANDON ELLIS (WR) WHO’S NEW: ANTHONY LIO (QB) 32 :: @scrimmageplay

There’s an open competition for the starting quarterback spot, but Anthony Lio, a Canadian import, is a talented 5-foot-10 sophomore dual threat who could be the next in a line of impressive signal-callers for the Tigers. Up front, the Tigers are rebuilding. They’re young outside of senior Gavin Guzek at that spot and will need to develop quickly considering the schedule Woodberry is facing. As is often the case at Woodberry, the secondary could be the team’s most obvious strength right out of the gate. Navy commitment Connor Lessane, Hodges and Asa McManamy are all returning starters while Yaghoubi will also be in the mix. In the front seven, Rodney Lora is a budding star, a junior who checks in at 6-foot-3, 255 pounds and is also a standout in shotput and discus during track season. Returning starter Gabe Smith gives the Tigers a building block at linebacker. On special teams, Lucas Osada returns at kicker and punter, giving Woodberry an reliable leg they may need to turn around some of those close calls from two years ago. Woodberry’s entire roster has waited a long time for its chance to play a full season and execute as a team. If that anticipation pays off and the Tigers have made significant strides in development during that essentially two-year break, Woodberry could end up taking out a lot of that pent up energy on the rest of the Prep League. ✖


LANDON ELLIS

WOODB E R RY F OREST WOODBERRY FOREST’S LANDON Ellis, along with the rest of the Tigers’ roster, has been waiting. The Tigers didn’t get a chance to play last fall except for a single game against Fork Union. They didn’t play in the spring. So it has been nearly two years since a football team played a game at Johnson Stadium. The return of the game means a lot of things, and in particular for Ellis, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound wideout who has shown flashes of excellence and seemed primed for a breakout sophomore season before COVID hit. The Orange County native has the potential to be a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses, He got loose behind the defense for a big catch in that single game against Fork Union and showed good awareness as he shifted back to an underthrown ball. He’s also a solid blocker on the edge which could help spring Donavan Baker for some huge gains. “The brotherhood at Woodberry is really strong, especially on the football team,” Ellis said. “We love each other, we just stay bonded.” A preseason clavicle injury will have Ellis waiting a little longer, keeping him out of the lineup in the very early going, but once he’s back in the mix, he has a chance to be an explosive force for the Tigers this fall. ✖


ST. ANNE ’S -BELFIELD

SAINTS

STAB gets back in the 11-man mix

St. Anne’s-Belfield’s football team has been through an interesting few years, but the Saints are back where they belong with the first full 11-man season since 2017 for STAB as John Blake wraps up his first quarter century at the helm of STAB football in his 25th season. The Saints were slated to return to 11-man last fall after a two-year stint in 8-man football before the COVID-19 pandemic prevented the Saints (and many other teams) from playing a full season. STAB sent a group of 12 seniors out with a single spring game against St. Christopher’s and now they’ll look to build on the legacy that group — led by Gabe Decker, Amani Woods, Elijah Johnson, Jackson Harry and Luke Antesberger — left in a time of transition and uncertainty. They’ll start with one key spot essentially figured out as senior Nolan Bruton is slated to start at quarterback for the third year. Bruton is an athletic dual threat and gives the Saints an added dimension as they shift to a more wide open spread offense from the program’s traditional I-formation approach. STAB has shown a lot of spread elements in recent years and the 8-man experience they gained should aid in figuring out how to play in space. Bruton’s skillset is a good fit for the approach that demands solid decision-making from the quarterback on the fly. He’ll need help at the skill spots with Decker and Woods

THE BREAKDOWN WHO’S GONE: GABE DECKER (RB/LB), LUKE ANTESBERGER (OL), AMANI WOODS (RB) WHO’S BACK: NOLAN BRUTON (QB, PICTURED), PHARAOH HARRIS (WR/DB), MAX BUFORD (OL/DL) WHO’S NEW: MATTHEW MCKINNEY (LB/TE), BRADEN WHITE (WR/DB), HUDSON TOLL (RB/LB) 34 :: @scrimmageplay

gone in particular. That tandem has been the vast majority of STAB’s offensive production the last couple of years. But seniors Pharaoh Harris and Isayah Johnson are potentially dangerous pass-catching options and the Saints will also get a boost from junior tight end Matthew McKinney, sophomore wideout Braden White and sophomore running back Hudson Toll. The offensive and defensive lines will get a rebuild as well, with Antesberger and the absurdly versatile Harry graduating. Junior Max Buford will be a key component to that effort and the main rock that the Saints will be building around on both sides of the line. Defensively, linebacker has the potential to be a strength with Isayah Johnson, Toll and McKinney stepping in there. The linebackers will have to be active as the rebuilt front four settles in and develops. The Saints don’t have a ton of size in the front seven, so they’ll rely on quickness and toughness from that group. The defensive backs will have some talent to work around with Harris and White in the mix. Bruton will also likely serve as the kicker. STAB starts its campaign with three straight home games so it’s got the potential to get off on the right foot in the return to 11-man, and with so many young players gaining experience, the Saints should get better and better as the season progresses.✖


WILLIAM MONROE

GREENE DRAGONS

Dragons begin Morris era

Through a combination of forces, William Monroe football is going to look a lot different than it did this spring even after just a handful of months between games. New head coach. Mostly new staff. New philosophies and culture. A ton of new players in key positions. The most critical and saddest difference is the tragic death of running back Josh Johnson while on a family trip. It’s an unimaginable loss that will surely drive and motivate the Dragons this year. But it’s far from the only upheaval. Jon Rocha stepped down after seven seasons, giving way for his offensive coordinator Mitchell Morris to take over as the head coach. Like Rocha, Morris is a Dragon through and through, having quarterbacked Monroe back in the late 2000s, Morris knows the school, the culture and the families as well as anyone. He’ll start his tenure with a new staff including the addition of his brother Jack Morris, another former Monroe quarterback who went on to play baseball at Liberty. He’ll also start his tenure with a roster that’s going to put a lot of new faces in key spots after the graduation of a strong group of seniors led by offensive linemen Jack Gareis and Trevor Myers, quarterback Blaise VanDyke,

wideout Logan Barbour and running back/ linebacker Alex Hoffman. There are pieces to be excited about though right out of the gate, especially on defense. Shea Jeffers returns at wideout and defensive back along with Isaiah Taylor, who has shown the potential to be a sack machine at defensive end. Troy Jones is a versatile presence at the offensive skill spots and as a defensive back. Bryce Hoffman returns as an option at running back and linebacker. Thomas Mack should be an impact player at tight end and defensive line and Daelan Powell-Jackson could get touches on offense while playing outside linebacker on defense. Senior Kameron Ward, a soccer standout for the Dragons, will step in as a linebacker, tight end and kicker while sophomores Larry Smith (at wideout) and Davien Griffith (quarterback) should be big parts of the skill mix too. If the Dragons can push the ball to the playmakers on the edge and build up the squad’s capacity in an entirely new defensive system, they have the potential to be tough to beat. But they’re also pretty young overall, with a strong group on junior varsity and among the sophomores on varsity, so there’s going to have to be some quick growth. Look for the Dragons to get that going in a big way and improve significantly as the season goes on. ✖

THE BREAKDOWN WHO’S GONE: LOGAN BARBOUR (WR/DB), BLAISE VANDYKE (QB) WHO’S BACK: TROY JONES (RB/WR/DB, PICTURED), SHEA JEFFERS (WR/DB), ISAIAH TAYLOR (DE/OL), BRYCE HOFFMAN (RB/LB), THOMAS MACK (DL/TE) WHO’S NEW: KAMERON WARD (LB/TE/K), LARRY SMITH (WR/DB) 35 :: @scrimmageplay


See a photograph you like? Defensive stand Warriors goalie has more than one trick | By Ryan Yemen

At Scrimmage Play we pride our selves on offering the best possible graphics Twowe years ago the Albemarle boys to Shin,our who doubles as a Junior National Judo can getWestern our hands on, in both soccer team was fueled by its underclassmen medalist, but has developed into one of the magazine asfreshman well as at our atversatile goalkeepers. with sophomores and bearing the website area’s most The netminder has shown he’s capable of www.scrimmageplay.com making big saves, particularly in the team’s

brunt of the work load. Now two years later, forwards Aaron Myers and Alex Nolet, as well as senior defender Tom Rogers are all in their senior seasons and looking to earn a Region II bid, something that Orange County snatched away from them in the Jefferson District semifinals last season. After the first month of play, the Warriors seem to have the defensive side of the equation figured out and junior goalkeeper Kai Shin is a big part of that. Before Western went on its spring break, none of its four opponents were able to score more than once, a testament to the team’s play in the middle of the field, but also a nod

two ties. In the first game of the season, Shin endured wave after wave of Albemarle attack, but stood tall and showed no rust in the 1-1- tie. But while Shin’s on the field because he can make stops, his strong leg has also been of great use as he’s able to easily clear the zone but also spark fast breaks all by himself. The Warriors averaged a little over two goals per contest before the break, but if that average starts to increase, don’t be surprised if it’s because of Shin’s ability to contribute to the transition game. ✖

We want to make sure that our readers have the same opportunity to have these photos. If something catches your eye in either the magazine or on the web, you can order the photograph for yourself.

Whether it’s a 4x6 glossy print or a 13x11 mounted photo, we’ve got a full range of possibilities for you to choose from. Simply visit our smugmug website at

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Western Albemarle’s Kai Shin hauls in a shot during his team’s 1-1 tie with Albemarle that kicked off the soccer season for both squads. (Frank Crocker)

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2021 Football Preview  

Preview of Central Virginia High School Football for Fall 2021

2021 Football Preview  

Preview of Central Virginia High School Football for Fall 2021

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