Can a team that lost 55-7 to an opponent in the 2021 VHSL football playoffs rebound and score a victory over that same school this year?
The answer will come soon.
That’s the setup for Friday’s Region 4D second-round game pitting third-seeded Salem at No. 2 seed Louisa County in Mineral.
Kickoff time is 7:30 p.m.
The game is a rematch of the 2021 second-round game that Salem won 55-7 en route to its ninth region title in the last 10 years.
So can Louisa turn around that 48-point loss?
Friday’s winner will play next week at No. 1 seed E.C. Glass or play at home against No. 5 Amherst County. Glass and Amherst play Thursday night at Lynchburg’s City Stadium.
Four rounds remain in the VHSL playoffs, culminating in six championship games Dec. 10 with classes 5 and 6 at Old Dominion University, classes 3 and 4 at Liberty University and classes 1 and 2 at Salem Stadium.
Franklin County made the postseason for the ninth time in the last 14 seasons, but the Eagles suffered their fourth first-round loss in a row with a 28-14 setback at Western Branch. Like real estate, it’s all about location, location, location for Franklin County. The Eagles are 3-0 in home playoff games and 1-12 on the road.
Friday’s semifinals feature a rematch with No. 4 Western Branch at No. 1 Oscar Smith, and a resumption of a longtime Richmond rivalry with No. 3 Manchester at No. 2 Thomas Dale.
Oscar Smith and Western Branch slugged it out in Week 10 before the Tigers scored a 2-0 victory, the lowest possible score in a football game. Oscar Smith’s only loss came the following week, a stunning 56-0 drubbing handed out by Class 3 Phoebus. Western Branch’s other loss was 14-7 to Class 4 King’s Fork.
Thomas Dale and Manchester have played each other 66 times dating back to 1946 with Dale holding a 39-25-2 lead, according to fourseasonsfootball.com. Manchester has won both recent games, 41-7 in 2017 and 48-7 in 2018.
Elsewhere in Class 6, all eyes are on Freedom-Woodbridge, a school formed in 2006 that not only is looking for its first state championship but has the single-season state scoring record well within reach.
Highlighted by a 112-16 victory over Charles Colgan on Oct. 8, Freedom has put up 712 points in 11 wins, an average of 64.7 per game. The state record is 819, shared by the 1996 Hampton team and the 2018 Manchester squad. Manchester won the Class 6 championship in 2018 with a 49-7 win over none other than Freedom.
Freedom plays Friday at home against John Champe (8-3).
Fairfax is the only other unbeaten Class 6 team, holding the No. 1 seed in Region 6C.
Reaching the postseason has become an annual expectation during Patrick Henry head coach Alan Fiddler’s tenure in Roanoke. Can the Patriots finally take the next step in Friday’s second-round game at No. 2 seed Mountain View?
PH has reached the region playoffs 11 years in a row, but the last time the school advanced past the first round was in 1985 when the Patriots were coached by Larry Carter.
Patrick Henry (9-2) knows plenty about Mountain View (10-1), losing to the Wildcats in three of the past four seasons including last year’s 42-12 setback in Stafford. PH fell to Mountain View 14-7 at home in the delayed 2020 season and lost 52-20 to the Wildcats in 2018 in Stafford.
Mountain View’s only loss this year was 12-8 to Class 6 Colonial Forge on Oct. 14. PH dropped the season opener to Class 3 Brookville 35-27 and lost a stunning 34-28 decision at Cave Spring in Week 7.
Two-time defending Class 5 state champion Stone Bridge (10-1) plays at home against Riverbend (9-2) in the other Region 5D semifinal. Stone Bridge’s lone loss was 36-13 to Freedom-Woodbridge.
Three of the four remaining coaches in the region — Fiddler, Stone Bridge’s Mickey Thompson and Mountain View’s Lou Sorrentino — have combined to reach 20 state championship games.
Fiddler won six Class A state finals in seven tries at Moorefield (W.Va.). Thompson is 3-8 in state finals at Stone Bridge, while Sorrentino coached Culpeper County (1999) and C.D. Hylton (2002) to VHSL titles.
Elsewhere, Green Run in Region 5A and Highland Springs in Region 5C are the only unbeaten Class 5 squads. Highland Springs, coached by former Virginia Tech defensive back Loren Johnson, won four Class 5 state titles in a row from 2015-18 and lost to Stone Bridge in the 2021 championship.
Lions, ‘Toppers and Lancers, oh my!
That’s who is in Salem’s path: the Louisa County Lions, the E.C. Glass Hilltoppers and the Amherst County Lancers.
Start with Friday’s game at Louisa, which is located east of Charlottesville. Louisa has a unique home-game atmosphere, including a motorcycle leading players onto the field, a jumbotron videoboard and yes, at one time a live lion in a cage just off the playing field.
Salem (9-2) has played Louisa County just twice. The Spartans defeated the Lions 43-22 in the Class 4 state final in Williamsburg in 2017.
Salem’s two losses have been on the road, 40-7 to Martinsburg (W.Va.) in Week 1 and 17-7 to Patrick Henry in Week 11. Louisa’s only game closer than 28 points was a 31-22 win over Class 6 Massaponax in Week 3. The Lions (11-0) are averaging 52.8 points per game. The teams have played one common opponent. Louisa blanked Western Albemarle 56-0 during its Jefferson District schedule. Salem dispatched Western 42-0 last week in the first round.
The other semifinal sending Amherst County against E.C. Glass in City Stadium will kick off at 7 p.m. Thursday because Glass shares the facility with Lynchburg rival Heritage, which plays Friday.
Not only is this a rematch of Seminole District teams but the two head coaches — Glass’ Jeff Woody and Amherst’s Bob Christmas — have won two state titles at other Seminole schools. Woody led Brookville to back-to-back crowns in 2011 and 2012. Christmas coached Jefferson Forest to back-to-back championships in 1992 and 1993.
Glass (10-1) defeated Amherst 24-7 on the road Oct. 7. The Lancers (6-4) ended the regular season with successive losses to Brookville (28-14), Liberty Christian (34-0) and Heritage (45-20).
Four other Class 4 teams besides Louisa are 11-0, setting the stage for possible region finals between unbeaten teams.
Dinwiddie and King George are unbeaten, while Loudoun County and Kettle Run are 11-0 in Region 4C. All four have home games Friday with King George taking on reigning Class 4 state champ Varina.
Three of the four semifinalists are from the Seminole, giving the Lynchburg-area league five teams still in the running in Class 3 and Class 4.
Heritage (9-2) gets a home game against No. 3 Brookville (8-3) after edging the Bees 10-7 at City Stadium on Oct. 7. Top-seeded Liberty Christian (10-1) plays No. 5 Turner Ashby on Saturday night at Liberty University’s Williams Stadium.
Isn’t there another game Saturday at Liberty? Yes. Virginia Tech plays Liberty University at noon. The high school game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. There is a Liberty University men’s basketball game on campus Friday.
Heritage and LCA have combined to win the last six Region 3C titles. LCA fell to Phoebus 22-14 last year in the Class 3 state final.
Speaking of Phoebus, look out. The Phantoms from the east side of Hampton have outscored 11 opponents by a combined 445-27 this year. Next up for Phoebus (11-0) in Region 3A is I.C. Norcom (8-3). The other region semifinal pits two schools familiar with success at the state level — Lake Taylor (10-1) at Lafayette (10-1).
While the four Region 3A semifinalists have a combined 39-4 record, the four teams still playing in Region 3B are a combined 25-21 and two of them have losing records. Good bet the Region 3A final will be closer than the state semifinal.
Hail to the underdogs.
Staunton River rolled into Ridgeway last week with a 5-5 record, but it didn’t stop the Golden Eagles from shutting out No. 2 seed Magna Vista in the second half for a 35-21 first-round win.
That makes Staunton River one of five No. 7 seeds statewide that did not let its seeding determine its ceiling. Colonial Forge (Class 6), Glen Allen (Class 5), Goochland (Class 3) and Lebanon (Class 1) were the others.
It’s fitting Golden Eagles will play at No. 3 Christiansburg (8-3) in a semifinal. How’s this for setting a plan and sticking with it? Christiansburg’s Alex Wilkens and Staunton River’s Shaun Leonard inherited close to rock-bottom situations in 2019. Leonard’s first team won one game. Wilkens’ first team won zero.
Now one will be in the Region 3D final opposite Lord Botetourt or Bassett.
The Cavaliers (10-1) and Bengals (8-3) play in Daleville. These teams have met six times but only twice since 1989. Bassett’s lone win over Botetourt was in 1989 when the Bengals were coached by Jerry Cannaday.
Bassett barely survived Cave Spring at home in the first round before escaping 34-28 in two overtimes.
A new Region 3D champ will be crowned. Abingdon won the title in 2021, but Christiansburg eliminated the Falcons 35-7 last week.
Who is the favorite to win the Class 2 state championship? Ask that question and there might be many answers.
The Region 2C semifinals should be interesting as No. 1 Radford (10-1) plays at home against No. 4 Appomattox County (8-3), while No. 3 Glenvar (8-3) visits No. 2 Martinsville (10-1).
Radford and Martinsville were at the top of the region ratings all season, but Glenvar and Appomattox have finished strong. Glenvar was 0-2 after opening with losses to Galax and Martinsville (21-14). Appomattox has won seven in a row since a 1-3 start with losses to Class 3 members Rustburg (27-20), Heritage (50-14) and Lord Botetourt (35-3).
Martinsville’s win over Glenvar was the Bulldogs’ opener and it was on the Highlanders’ field. Friday’s game is at Dan Greene Stadium in Martinsville, where Glenvar knocked off the Bulldogs 25-7 in 2021.
Friday’s game features two coaches who were once in charge at Roanoke’s two city schools. Glenvar’s Kevin Clifford coached Patrick Henry in 2002, while Martinsville’s Bobby Martin was the head coach at William Fleming from 2013-17. Clifford led Glenvar to the Class 2 state title in 2014.
Radford and Appomattox have a history. The Bobcats and Raiders are meeting for the fourth year in a row in the postseason. Radford won 28-25 in 2018, while Appomattox won the next two including 56-28 last fall. Appomattox’s 2018 loss to Radford in the region final was the only year between 2015-20 that the Raiders did not win the region title.
What about the rest of the state?
Defending champion King William (8-3) is seeded No. 1 in Region 2A, but the Cavaliers lost in the regular season to three teams they defeated last year: Class 1 Essex and Class 3 I.C. Norcom and Lafayette.
Strasburg (10-1) is the No. 1 seed in what appears to be a very balanced Region 2B. Look no further than Strasburg’s close regular-season wins over No. 2 Luray (26-23) and No. 3 Central-Woodstock (22-17).
Graham (11-0) is squarely in the championship hunt. It’s hardly a recent phenomenon. The G-Men’s only loss in the last two years came to King William in last year’s Class 2 final in Salem. In the last seven years, including just a six-game COVID-19 season, Graham has an overall record of 76-10 with a 2018 state championship.
Both region semifinals are Saturday. Graham hosts No. 4 Gate City (8-3), while Virginia High (9-2) goes to Ridgeview (10-1). Virginia High took a tough blow when quarterback Brody Jones was lost for the season in last week’s first-round win over Lee with a broken leg.
Graham and Gate City were both longtime members of the old Group AA Southwest District. Gate City won the first Group AA state championship game contested in 1970. The Blue Devils lead the G-Men 20-15 in the all-time series, but the last time they hooked up, Graham laid a 70-0 beating on the Blue Devils in a 2014 playoff game.
Virginia High is the alma mater of Beattie Feathers, who in 1934 for the Chicago Bears set an NFL record at 8.44 yards per carry that still stands. Virginia High’s recent history isn’t as glowing. The first-round win over Lee was only the Bearcats’ third since 1987.
Ridgeview, which was formed when Clintwood and Haysi high schools consolidated in Dickenson County in 2015, reached its first region final in 2021, losing 49-21 to Graham. The Wolfpack’s only loss was 44-24 to Bluefield (W.Va.) in Week 10.
Is this the year someone other than Galax wins this region? Easier said than done.
Galax has advanced to the state semifinals or beyond in seven successive seasons. Since 2010, the Maroon Tide has won 39 playoff games, including one state championship and four other trips to the finals including the last three seasons.
Galax, which has lost to Riverheads in the last three state finals, has plenty of company this year.
Start with neighborhood rival and No. 4 seed Grayson County (9-2). Galax has beaten Grayson in 10 of their last 11 meetings including a 31-14 win in the regular-season finale two weeks ago.
Then there is No. 2 seed George Wythe (7-3). Wythe lost 20-7 at Galax and, like the Maroon Tide, played one of the toughest schedules in Class 1 with games against Radford and Graham. Some of Galax’s recent success has come at George Wythe’s expense. GW’s last four seasons have ended with playoff losses to Galax.
Narrows (9-1) has the best won-lost record in the region. Why was Narrows’ VHSL rating so low? Point to a nonconference schedule that included two winless teams — Auburn and Chilhowie — along with a Pioneer District slate that did not feature anyone else with a winning record.
Narrows also lost 16-14 to Giles, which in turn lost decisively to Galax, George Wythe and Grayson County,
Region 1D teams have been fond of playing on Saturdays. Not this year.
Both games — No. 5 Holston at No. 1 Patrick Henry-Glade Spring, and No. 7 Lebanon at No. 2 Grundy — are Friday.
No surprise that three Hogoheegee District teams are in the semifinals. Hogoheegee members Holston, Chilhowie and PH-Glade Spring have combined to win the last five Region 1D titles. Now that Lebanon has dropped back down from Class 2, the league is even stronger.
Lebanon’s 51-49 first-round win over Twin Springs was a classic. The Pioneers scored the tying touchdown and winning two-point conversion with 1 minute, 24 seconds to play for their first postseason win since 2009.
Holston and PH played at midseason with the Rebels winning 30-17. Patrick Henry has played all three of the other semifinalists this year, defeating Grundy 28-20 and Lebanon 48-24 in the first two weeks.
The bigger question in Class 1 is can anyone stop Riverheads, where former assistant Ray Norcross has succeeded Robert Casto?
Sure, in September the Gladiators saw their VHSL record-tying win streak snapped at 52 games, but it took Class 3 Lord Botetourt to do it.
Riverheads has won the last six Class 1 state titles, and it would be seven had Galax not stopped a two-point conversion in a 7-6 victory over the Gladiators in the 2015 final.
Who might challenge Riverheads?
Central-Lunenburg (11-0) is the No. 2 seed but the Chargers first have to get past Buffalo Gap, a team that beat Central 44-20 last year in the second round.
Essex (11-0) is the No. 1 seed in Region 1A, but the Trojans lost to Riverheads 58-12 last year in the state semifinals.
So can a team turn around a 46-point loss from a year ago?
Oscar Smith 56, Floyd Kellam 7
Western Branch 28, Franklin County 14
Manchester 56, Cosby 15
Thomas Dale 42, James River-Midlothian 12
No. 4 Western Branch (9-2) at No. 1 Oscar Smith (9-1), Friday, 7 p.m.
No. 3 Manchester (10-1) at No. 2 Thomas Dale (10-1), Friday, 7 p.m.
Freedom-Woodbridge 77, Gar-Field 26
John Champe 44, Forest Park 25
Patriot 49, Unity Reed 20
Colonial Forge 17, Battlefield 13
No. 4 John Champe (8-3) at No. 1 Freedom-Woodbridge (11-0), Friday, 7 p.m.
No. 7 Colonial Forge (6-5) at No. 3 Patriot (10-1), Friday, 7 p.m.
Fairfax 49, Alexandria City 7
Lake Braddock 24, James Robinson 13
West Springfield 29. Hayfield 10
South County 30, Thomas Edison 0
No. 4 Lake Braddock (9-2) at No. 1 Faifax (11-0), Friday, 7 p.m.
No. 3 West Springfield (9-2) at No. 2 South County (10-1), Friday, 7 p.m.
James Madison 56, Washington-Liberty 6
Yorktown 21, Langley 14
Westfield 31, Herndon 28, OT
Centreville 57, Chantilly 34
No. 5 Yorktown (8-3) at No. 1 James Madison (8-3), Friday, 7 p.m.
No. 3 Westfield (7-4) at No. 2 Centreville (9-2), Friday, 7 p.m.
Green Run 63, Hickory 14
Salem-Virginia Beach 10, Indian River 9
Frank Cox 23, Bayside 15
Kempsville 42, Tallwood 8
No. 4 Salem-Virginia Beach (8-3) at No. 1 Green Run (11-0), Friday, 7 p.m.
No. 3 Frank Cox (9-2) at No. 2 Kempsville (10-1), Friday, 7 p.m.
Menchville 14, Woodside 7
Kecoughtan 7, Norview 0
No. 5 Menchville (6-5) at No. 1 Maury (7-1), Friday, 7 p.m.
No. 3 Kecoughtan (8-3) at No. 2 Nansemond River (7-3), Friday, 7 p.m.
Highland Springs 49, Prince George 0
Douglas Freeman 24, Mills Godwin 10
L.C. Bird 23, Hermitage 15
Glen Allen 29, Midlothian 25
No. 4 Douglas Freeman (9-2) at No. 1 Highland Springs (11-0), Friday, 7 p.m.
No. 7 Glen Allen (6-5) at No. 3 L.C. Bird (8-3), Friday, 7 p.m.
Stone Bridge 38, William Fleming 7
Riverbend 21, Woodgrove 14
Patrick Henry-Roanoke 28, Briar Woods 14
Mountain View 49, Albemarle 24
No. 4 Riverbend (9-2) at No. 1 Stone Bridge (10-1), Friday, 7 p.m.
No. 3 Patrick Henry (9-2) at No. 2 Mountain View (10-1), Friday, 7 p.m.
Warwick 22, Hampton 12
Churchland 48, Heritage-Newport News 20
Warhill 40, Grafton 7
King’s Fork 24, Deep Creek 14
No. 4 Churchland (8-3) at No. 1 Warwick (10-1), Friday, 7 p.m.
No. 3 Warhill (8-3) at No. 2 King’s Fork (9-2), Friday, 7 p.m.
Dinwiddie 54, Powhatan 7
Hanover 35, Eastern View 31
Varina 35, Matoaca 0
King George 41, Patrick Henry-Ashland 6
No. 4 Hanover (9-2) at No. 1 Dinwiddie (11-0), Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
No. 3 Varina (10-1) at No. 2 King George (11-0), Friday, 7 p.m.
Loudoun County 42, John Handley 13
Sherando 40, Loudoun Valley 23
Millbrook 14, Tuscarora 13
Kettle Run 38, Heritage-Leesburg 7
Sherando (7-4) at Loudoun County (11-0), Friday, 7 p.m.
Millbrook (6-5) at Kettle Run (11-0), Friday, 7 p.m.
E.C. Glass 53, Halifax County 25
Amherst County 40, Orange County 14
Salem 42, Western Albemarle 0
Louisa County 47, Jefferson Forest 13
No. 5 Amherst County (7-4) at No. 1 E.C. Glass (10-1), Thursday, 7 p.m.
No. 3 Salem (9-2) at No. 2 Louisa County (11-0), Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Phoebus 64, York 7
I.C. Norcom 27, Southampton 14
Lake Taylor 21, Hopewell 12
Lafayette 51, Colonial Heights 20
No. 4 I.C. Norcom (8-3) at No. 1 Phoebus (11-0), Friday, 7 p.m.
No. 3 Lake Taylor (10-1) at No. 2 Lafayette (10-1), Friday, 7 p.m.
Brentsville 56, James Monroe 13
Caroline 16, Armstrong 8, OT
Warren County 21, Culpeper County 13
Goochland 35, Skyline 2
No. 5 Caroline (5-6) at No. 1 Brentsville (10-1), Friday, 7 p.m.
No. 7 Goochland (4-7) at No. 3 Warren County (6-5), Friday, 7 p.m.
Liberty Christian 27, Rustburg 16
Turner Ashby 17, Spotswood 14
Brookville 41, Wilson Memorial 21
Heritage-Lynchburg 35, Staunton 0
No. 5 Turner Ashby (9-2) at No. 1 Liberty Christian (10-1), Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
No. 3 Brookville (8-3) at No. 2 Heritage-Lynchburg (9-2), Friday, 7 p.m.
Lord Botetourt 47, Hidden Valley 7
Bassett 34, Cave Spring 28, 2OT
Christiansburg 35, Abingdon 7
Staunton River 35, Magna Vista 21
No. 4 Bassett (8-3) at No. 1 Lord Botetourt (10-1), Friday, 7 p.m.
No. 7 Staunton River (6-5) at No. 3 Christiansburg (8-3), Friday, 7 p.m.
King William 49, Bruton 7
Greensville County 18, Brunswick 13
Poquoson 35, Nandua 0
Thomas Jefferson-Richmond 33, Amelia County 15
No. 4 Greensville County (9-2) at No. 1 King William (8-3), Friday, 7 p.m.
No. 3 Poquoson (7-4) at No. 2 Thomas Jefferson-Richmond (8-3), Friday, 7 p.m.
Strasburg 42, East Rockingham 0
Stuarts Draft 35, Clarke County 14
Central-Woodstock 17, Buckingham County 12
Luray 52, Madison County 38
No. 5 Stuarts Draft (8-3) at No. 1 Strasburg (10-1), Friday, 7 p.m.
No. 3 Central-Woodstock (9-2) at No. 2 Luray (9-2), Friday, 7 p.m.
Radford 48, Gretna 26
Appomattox County 40, Alleghany 12
Glenvar 49, Floyd County 14
Martinsville 42, Dan River 39
No. 4 Appomattox County (8-3) at No. 1 Radford (10-1), Friday, 7 p.m.
No. 3 Glenvar (8-3) at No. 2 Martinsville (10-1), Friday, 7 p.m.
Graham 41, Central-Wise 13
Gate City 21, Union 15
Virginia High 37, Lee 20
Ridgeview 35, Tazewell 0
No. 4 Gate City (8-3) at No. 1 Graham (11-0), Saturday, 1 p.m.
No. 3 Virginia High (9-2) at No. 2 Ridgeview (10-1), Saturday, 1 p.m.
Essex 56, Colonial Beach 6
Westmoreland 14, West Point 6
Northumberland 48, Rappahannock 7
King & Queen 50, Northampton 2
No. 5 Westmoreland (5-5) at No. 1 Essex (11-0), Saturday, 1 p.m.
No. 3 Northumberland (8-2) at No. 2 King & Queen (9-2), Friday, 7 p.m.
Sussex Central 20, Franklin 2
Buffalo Gap 56, William Campbell 36
No. 4 Sussex Central (7-4) at No. 1 Riverheads (8-1), Friday, 7 p.m.
No. 3 Buffalo Gap (7-4) at No. 2 Central-Lunenburg (10-0), Friday, 7 p.m.
Galax 49, Bath County 0
Grayson County 35, Giles 7
Narrows 34, Covington 18
George Wythe 41, Parry McCluer 22
No. 4 Grayson County (9-2) at No. 1 Galax (7-3), Friday, 7 p.m.
No. 3 Narrows (9-2) at No. 2 George Wythe (7-3), Friday, 7 p.m.
Patrick Henry-Glade Spring 49, Hurley 8
Holston 31, Rye Cove 8
Grundy 38, Honaker 20
Lebanon 51, Twin Springs 49
No. 5 Holston (8-3) vs. No. 1 Patrick Henry-Glade Spring (8-3), at Emory & Henry College, Friday, 7 p.m.
No. 7 Lebanon (7-4) at No. 3 Grundy (6-4), Friday, 7 p.m.