It was just a few yards.
William Fleming’s Devin Johnson saw a hole open Friday in the Staunton River defense, so he went for the end zone.
The Fleming quarterback knew defenders would close the gap, so he had to commit.
It was just a few yards.
But it might have made all the difference for the Colonels’ playoff hopes.
Johnson’s 2-point conversion following a late touchdown gave Fleming a 28-27 victory that kept the Colonels in contention for the eighth and final spot in the VHSL Region 5D playoffs.
Fleming is currently No. 8 in the region, but the Colonels will need some help to qualify for the Nov. 11 first round.
First, they must defeat William Byrd on the road, and No. 9 Independence must lose to No. 1 Stone Bridge.
Other outcomes would benefit the Colonels greatly. Wins by Heritage-Lynchburg, Albemarle and Martinsburg (W.Va.) would then be enough for Fleming to qualify.
It would be a rather amazing finish for a team that began the season 2-5 to surpass a team (Independence) that started 6-0.
Elsewhere, we now know that Franklin County will be on the road in Region 6A, Lord Botetourt will be the No. 1 seed in Region 3D, Radford and Martinsville will be 1-2 in that order in Region 2C and that Salem, E.C. Glass and Louisa County are still fighting for the top spot in Region 4D.
By Friday night and in some cases, Saturday, the smoke will clear.
We will see who is left standing.
Region 6A outlook: Franklin County’s hopes of a first-round game at home disappeared when Lord Botetourt sophomore Dean Webb kicked a 40-yard field goal in the final seconds of a 24-21 victory over the Eagles. That means Franklin County will be the No. 5 seed and travel to Chesapeake for the second year in a row for a Nov. 11 first-round game against No. 4 Western Branch. Monster games dot the top of the standings. No. 1 Oscar Smith plays unbeaten Class 3 Phoebus on Saturday, and No. 2 Thomas Dale faces unbeaten Class 4 Dinwiddie on Friday. Oscar Smith clinches the No. 1 spot with a win. Thomas Dale can move up with a win of its own and an Oscar Smith loss. No. 3 Manchester cannot move up to No. 1, but it could get to No. 2 with a loss by Thomas Dale. The last three spots should go to Cosby, Floyd Kellam and James River. All three could be separated by as little as a tenth of a point on the Rating Scale. Current No. 9 Landstown would need a massive upset of unbeaten Green Run to have a chance to move up.
Region 5D outlook: William Fleming will be scoreboard watching Friday. The Colonels need a win over William Byrd and a loss by Independence to No. 1 Stone Bridge. Coach Jamar Lovelace’s team then will hope for the other dominoes out of its control to fall the right way. Higher up, Patrick Henry’s hopes of a first-round home game require a victory at home Friday over Salem (8-1). If PH defeats Salem, the Patriots could rise to No. 3; if the Patriots lose, they could fall as far as No. 7 in what is a competitive top half of this region. If PH loses to Salem, the Patriots will drop below Briar Woods, and they could be overtaken by No. 7 Woodgrove if Woodgrove defeats Loudoun Valley. Albemarle is holding onto a precarious No. 4 spot. It is possible if not likely that even if Albemarle defeats winless Fluvanna County, it could drop below Briar Woods and Woodgrove. At this point, there is absolutely no clear idea who PH’s first-round opponent will be. About the only certainty is that Stone Bridge will be the top seed.
Region 4D outlook: The season-long, three-way race between Glass, Louisa and Salem will finally end Friday. Glass plays unbeaten Class 3 Liberty Christian while Salem faces Class 5 Patrick Henry (7-2). Louisa meets Goochland (3-6). The Lions will move up if they win and either Salem or Glass loses. If both lose, Louisa could be the No. 1 seed but Glass might still have a say in that. Glass would clinch the No. 1 spot with a win over LCA. Salem’s only path to No. 1 requires a win over PH and a loss by Glass. Orange County, Amherst County and Western Albemarle are battling for spots 4-7. Amherst needs a win over Heritage to avoid the No. 7 spot. Orange County could clinch the No. 4 spot with a win over Western Albemarle. There is a slight chance Western could vault up to No. 4 with a win and an Amherst loss. Pulaski County still has hope for the No. 8 spot. If the Cougars defeat Christiansburg, it would be enough to surpass No. 8 Halifax County, which would not earn many points for a victory over winless Tunstall.
Region 3C outlook: This region is settled at the top. Liberty Christian will be No. 1, and Heritage will be No. 2. Current No. 3 Brookville could be passed by any of Staunton, Spotswood, Turner Ashby or Wilson Memorial but it is very unlikely. If the Bees defeat Rustburg, they will be the No. 3 seed, giving the Seminole District all three top spots. Staunton, which started the season 7-0, can finish at least No. 4 with a win over Wilson Memorial. A loss by Staunton could see the Storm tumble all the way to No. 7 after a 7-0 start. Friday, Spotswood plays Harrisonburg, and Turner Ashby plays Rockbridge County. If Spotswood, TA and Wilson all win Friday, a razor blade couldn’t fit between their three scores. It’s that close. Rustburg has all but locked up the No. 8 spot over Rockbridge County.
Region 3D outlook: Lord Botetourt has clinched the No. 1 spot. Bassett can nail down the No. 2 seed with a win over Martinsville (8-1). However, a loss to Martinsville could open the door for No. 3 Magna Vista or No. 4 Christiansburg to move up. A Magna Vista win over Patrick County (2-7) would likely leave the Warriors no worse than No. 3. It’s a near certainty that Cave Spring will be No. 5. Staunton River and Abingdon are contending for the No. 6 spot. An upset win over Lord Botetourt would give Staunton River the No. 6 spot. The Golden Eagles could still wind up No. 6 if Abingdon loses to Class 2 Lee (6-3). There is a scramble for the last spot. William Byrd needs a win over William Fleming to pass Hidden Valley. Don’t forget Carroll County. If Byrd loses to Fleming and Carroll defeats Floyd County, the Cavaliers likely would pass Hidden Valley and Byrd for the No. 8 spot.
Region 2C outlook: There is no traffic jam here. Radford can lock down the No. 1 spot with a win over James River or a loss by Martinsville to Class 3 Bassett (7-2). Martinsville will be no worse than No. 2. Glenvar can grab the No. 3 spot by beating Giles. Appomattox County will be No. 4 unless Glenvar stumbles. Alleghany is a virtual lock at No. 5. Floyd County likely will be No. 6 with a win over Class 3 Carroll County (2-7), a team the Buffaloes already have beaten 23-14 this season. A loss by Floyd to Carroll would give Dan River a path to the No. 6 spot and leave Floyd at No. 7. Gretna, Chatham and James River still have a shot at No. 8. Gretna can eliminate Chatham by defeating Nelson County (1-8). James River can remain alive with an upset over Radford and some favorable outcomes in other games. The most likely first-round pairings are Gretna at Radford, Dan River at Martinsville, Floyd County at Glenvar, and Alleghany at Appomattox County.
Region 2D outlook: Unbeaten Graham is assured of the No. 1 spot. The winner of Friday’s game between No. 2 Ridgeview and No. 3 Gate City will be the 2nd seed. If Ridgeview wins, No. 4 Virginia High would likely jump over Gate City if the Bearcats defeat Richlands. Union could move into the top four if Virginia High loses. Otherwise, Union is trying to hang on to the No. 5 spot. Lee could grab No. 5 if the Generals can defeat Class 3 Abingdon (4-5). Tazewell should be No. 7, although that’s not set yet in ink. Richlands is in position to be the No. 8 seed. The only way Central-Wise could move up would be a win over Class 1 Grundy (5-3) and a loss by Richlands to VHS.
Region 1C: The cluster at the top will be broken up when No. 3 Grayson County plays at No. 2 Galax in the traditional finale. Galax can pass idle George Wythe for the No. 1 spot with a win. If Grayson wins, then George Wythe would remain No. 1 with Grayson No. 2 and Galax No. 3. A loss by Grayson could be further damaging. No. 4 Narrows could pass the Blue Devils in that case with a win over Bath County. Giles appears ticketed for the No. 5 spot. Bath County is not assured of a berth. If the Chargers lose to Narrows, that opens the door for No. 7 Parry McCluer, No. 8 Covington and even No. 9 Fort Chiswell, which plays at Honaker (6-3). If PM, Covington and Fort Chiswell all win, their separation on the Rating Scale could be microscopic.
Region 1D: Just take 10 pieces of paper, toss them in the air and see where they land. That might be more accurate than trying forecast this region. To begin, there are plenty of potential close games: No. 2 Rye Cove vs. No. 4 Twin Springs, No. 8 Lebanon vs. No. 10 Rural Retreat, No. 6 Honaker vs. Fort Chiswell, No. 8 J.I. Burton vs. No. 12 Thomas Walker, and No. 1 Grundy vs. Central-Wise. Grundy, Rye Cove and No. 3 PH-Glade Spring are safely in the top four with a win. Twin Springs would also stay in the top four by winning. No. 5 Holston could move up to No. 4 if Rye Cove beats Twin Springs. Best bets for the final three spots? Let’s guess Honaker, Hurley and the winner of the Lebanon-Rural Retreat game.
NOTE: VHSL Rating Scale points are used to determine qualification and seeding for region playoffs. Each team’s average determines its position. Eight teams qualify in each of the following regions. Games played against non-VHSL-recognized opponents do not factor into the ratings.