Want more news from Southwest and Southside? Sign up for our free daily email newsletter. We now have a weekly weather newsletter, too.
Winning a high school football state championship is a crowning achievement.
Completing an undefeated season with a title is icing on the cake.
But unbeaten teams winning VHSL championships in all six enrollment classifications in a full season? Well, that would be a first.
Except for the 2000 season that was delayed until the spring of 2021 with a limited schedule of games because of COVID-19, there has not been a year in which all six VHSL classes have been won by a team with a perfect record, dating back to 1986 when the six-classification system was installed.
It is possible in 2022.
Nine teams playing in VHSL semifinals Saturday — at least one in each classification — are undefeated. That’s Freedom-Woodbridge and Fairfax (Class 6), Green Run and Highland Springs (Class 5), Dinwiddie and Kettle Run (Class 4), Phoebus (Class 3), Graham (Class 2) and Essex (Class 1).
What are the odds of all six classes putting an unbeaten team into the finals?
Probably depends on how you view the Class 1 semifinal sending Essex (13-0) to Riverheads (10-1). Riverheads has played in seven straight state finals and has won the last six, a VHSL record for any division.
Riverheads’ run to the 2021 title included a 56-12 semifinal victory over Essex. The Trojans will have to figure out a way to turn that around in order to provide Class 1 with an unbeaten finalist.
Stone Bridge and Phoebus are the other two teams looking to hold on to their state titles. Classes 6, 4 and 2 will crown new champions as 2021 winners Oscar Smith, Varina and King William have been eliminated.
WESTERN BRANCH (11-2) at FREEDOM-WOODBRIDGE (13-0)
Freedom already has made VHSL history by breaking the state’s single-season record for total points scored with 835. The Eagles have made one previous trip to a state final in their 18-year history, losing 49-7 to Manchester in the 2018 final.
Freedom outscored three opponents 200-82 to claim the Region 6B championship. The Eagles fell to Battlefield 24-7 in last year’s region final.
Western Branch started its playoff run with a 28-14 first-round victory over Franklin County. The Bruins ended Oscar Smith’s two-year stranglehold on the state title with another 28-14 win in the second round before stopping Manchester 21-14 to win the Region 6A title.
Freedom and Western Branch will play each other for the first time.
JAMES MADISON (10-3) at FAIRFAX (13-0)
Fairfax entered the 2022 season with just three postseason wins in school history. Two of them came in 1994, the only other time the Lions played in a state semifinal.
Fairfax is outscoring its opponents by 33 points per game with the closest a 20-10 victory over James Robinson in Week 10.
Who thought James Madison would contend for a state title after the Warhawks started the season 0-3 with losses to Stone Bridge, Lake Braddock and Yorktown?
The three defeats were by a combined total of seven points, so that might have been reason for optimism for a program that went all the way to the Class 6 final last year before losing 42-17 to Oscar Smith.
The team from Vienna has won 10 games in a row while allowing only two of those opponents to score more than seven points.
Madison holds a 17-16-1 edge over Fairfax in their lifetime series according to fourseasonsfootball.com, the most recent a 41-7 victory by the Warhawks.
This will be the first time the two Northern Virginia schools have met in a playoff game.
James Madison 31, Fairfax 21
Freedom 69, Western Branch 14
Final on Dec. 10: James Madison vs. Freedom
MAURY (9-1) at GREEN RUN (13-0)
Maury is undefeated this year, in Virginia. The Commodores opened their season with a 21-14 loss to New Bern High of North Carolina. No disgrace there. New Bern is playing for its state title Dec. 2.
The team from Norfolk defeated Green Run 35-7 in last year’s state semifinal before falling 27-21 to Stone Bridge in the championship game.
Maury’s football history goes back to 1906. The Commodores lost to Annandale in the 1972 Group AAA final and took their only title in 2019 with a 28-21 win over Stone Bridge.
Green Run is one of 11 public high schools in Virginia Beach. All 10 of the Stallions’ games were against city rivals. Only Kempsville provided a stern test as Green Run won 27-14 in the season opener. The Stallions edged Salem-Virginia Beach 21-13 in the Region 5A semifinals.
This is the second year in a row Green Run has taken a 13-0 record into the semifinal against Maury. The Commodores lead the all-time series 9-7.
STONE BRIDGE (12-1) at HIGHLAND SPRINGS (13-0)
If there is a most-anticipated state semifinal, it’s this one in Sandston on the east side of Richmond.
Stone Bridge and Highland Springs have met in the postseason in five of the previous six years with the Springers knocking off the Bulldogs in three championship games (2015, ’16 and ’18). Stone Bridge returned the favor in the 2020 COVID season in the championship game, and the Loudoun County team edged the Springers 28-26 in last year’s semifinals on the way to their second state title in a row.
Stone Bridge has played two of the Class 6 semifinalists, defeating James Madison 17-16 and giving Freedom-Woodbridge its closest game of the year in a 36-13 setback.
Former Virginia Tech defensive back Loren Johnson has coached Highland Springs to 110 wins and four state titles in the last nine seasons.
Maury 21, Green Run 14
Highland Springs 19, Stone Bridge 14
Final on Dec. 10: Maury vs. Highland Springs
WARWICK (12-1) at DINWIDDIE (13-0)
Warwick has played in just one state final in school history and not when Michael Vick was the quarterback at the Newport News school in the late 1990s.
Getting out of the brutal Peninsula District is always tough. Warwick reached the inaugural Division 5 state final in 1986, losing 7-6 to Thomas Edison, and has played in only one other state semifinal, 1990.
Warwick’s only loss this season was 25-0 to unbeaten Class 3 semifinalist Phoebus. The Raiders have pitched five shutouts. They advanced to the semis with a 31-19 win over King’s Fork in the Region 4A final.
Dinwiddie survived a severe test in the Region 4B final, coming from behind to score a 47-41 overtime win over previously unbeaten King George.
The Generals largely went untested during the regular season, which included a 49-7 win over Class 3 semifinalist Heritage-Lynchburg. Dinwiddie outscored its 10 regular-season opponents 516-73.
KETTLE RUN (13-0) at E.C. GLASS (12-1)
Lynchburg fans will get a doubleheader as Glass and Kettle Run follow the Class 3 semifinal between Heritage and Christiansburg.
Want to see both games? You’ll need a ticket for each.
Glass punched its first ticket to the semifinals since 1995 when the Hilltoppers lost in the Division 5 championship 35-7 to Hampton. Glass also reached state finals in 1988, ’91 and ’92, defeating Huguenot 22-7 in the ’88 game.
Glass’ lone blemish is a 12-0 loss to Heritage in September. The Hilltoppers have won nine games in a row, capped by last week’s 35-21 victory over Salem in the Region 4D final.
Kettle Run opened in 2008 in Fauqier County. The Cougars reached Class 3 semifinals in 2011 and ’12. Kettle Run lost to Tuscarora 48-12 in a first-round game last year.
Kettle Run had the narrowest of victories last week, stopping a late two-point conversion by previously unbeaten Loudoun County to win the Region 4C title.
Kettle Run 30, E.C. Glass 14
Dinwiddie 28, Warwick 0
Final on Dec. 10: Kettle Run vs. Dinwiddie
BRENTSVILLE (12-1) at PHOEBUS (13-0)
Brentsville might have the most daunting task of any VHSL team Saturday, but at least the Tigers know what to expect. They reached the same stage in 2021 before losing to Phoebus 43-0.
Brentsville’s only loss was 38-7 to Prince William County rival and unbeaten Class 4 semifinalist Kettle Run. Otherwise, the Tigers have put up points, averaging 41 points in their 12 wins, eclipsing 50 points three times.
Phoebus football has been synonymous with success. The Phantoms won seven state championships from 2011-11, all in Division 5. The Hampton school has found success in Class 3 harder to come by, losing to Heritage in the 2018 championship game before winning in Lynchburg last December with a 22-14 victory over Liberty Christian.
Phoebus has outscored three playoff opponents 148-23, breaking open a close game to stop Lake Taylor 42-16 in the Region 3A final.
CHRISTIANSBURG (10-3) at HERITAGE-LYNCHBURG (11-2)
No matter what, Christiansburg’s Alex Wilkens has demonstrated the power of perseverance. Five years after suffering through an 0-10 season in Wilkens first season on the job, the Blue Demons are in their first state semifinal since the 2011 team lost to Briar Woods 28-26 in the Class 4 championship game.
The 2011 loss came on the back end of three consecutive state semifinals. Christiansburg had close losses in 2009 (Amherst County, 23-21) and 2010 (Harrisonburg, 28-21, OT).
This game at City Stadium has the earliest kickoff of the 12 state semifinals. E.C. Glass and Kettle Run will take the field in a Class 4 semifinal at 5 p.m.
Christiansburg and Heritage have met twice, both in the postseason, with Heritage winning 34-0 in 1998 and Christiansburg returning the favor 13-12 in 2014.
Heritage has posted at least 11 wins in six of the last 11 seasons under Brad Bradley, whose earlier head coach stops include William Campbell, Patrick Henry-Roanoke and Amelia County.
The Pioneers lost in state finals in 2012 and 2017 before winning the 2018 Class 3 title across town at Liberty University. Former coach Chris Jones took Heritage to the 2002 Division 4 state title.
Phoebus 58, Brentsville 14
Heritage 43, Christiansburg 0
Final on Dec. 10: Phoebus vs. Heritage
POQUOSON (9-4) at CENTRAL-WOODSTOCK (11-2)
Poquoson has four losses, but upon further examination the Bull Islanders are members of the Bay Rivers District with several larger schools. Indeed, Poquoson’s losses were to York (25-13), Warhill (21-14), Lafayette (42-15) and Grafton (14-13).
The Tidewater school survived close encounters with Thomas Jefferson-Richmond (21-17) and 2021 state champion King William (14-7) to win the Region 2A title.
Poquoson has one state title, a 23-17 win over Richlands in the 2010 Class 3 final in Lynchburg.
Central-Woodstock has never made a state final. The VHSL started football playoffs and 1970, and Central did not qualify until 2003. The Falcons came close to the final last year, however, dropping a competitive 38-29 state semifinal loss to King William.
APPOMATTOX COUNTY (10-3) at GRAHAM (13-0)
Anyone forecasting a rematch of the 2021 state semifinal knew something, because Appomattox County started the season 1-3 and barely won road games against Radford (38-33) and Glenvar (38-34) in the Region 2C playoffs.
Of course, picking the Raiders to make the semifinals isn’t exactly risky. Appomattox won five Class 2 state titles in a six-year period from 2015-20, losing during that time only to Radford in the 2018 region final and 42-28 to Graham last year.
Appomattox has won 10 games in a row since losing to Rustburg (27-20), Heritage-Lynchburg (50-14) and Lord Botetourt (35-3) in September.
Graham has a lengthy and impressive history. The G-Men won Division 3 titles in 1989 and 1995 under former coach Glynn Carlock. The 1989 Graham team shut out its first eight opponents before playing at Salem in what is believed to be the largest crowd to see a high school game at Salem Stadium.
Graham lost that game 23-7 but swept Giles, Radford, Rustburg and Southampton in the playoffs.
Graham rolled to the 2021 final before King William pulled away in the second half for a 48-21 win.
Today’s game will be the only 2022 VHSL semifinal played outside the state. Graham shares Mitchell Stadium with city rival Bluefield (W.Va.) and the stadium is on the West Virginia side.
Central 37, Poquoson 10
Graham 36, Appomattox County 20
Final on Dec. 10: Central vs. Graham
ESSEX (13-0) at RIVERHEADS (10-1)
One thing is certain. Riverheads will not win the Class 1 title in 2023. The Gladiators are moving up to Class 2.
Work remains in the VHSL’s smallest enrollment division. Two more victories this year would give Riverheads a seventh consecutive state title, adding to the program’s record.
There is something new at the Augusta County school. Program architect Robert Casto retired as Riverheads’ coach and was replaced by assistant Ray Norcross.
The Gladiators saw their four-year, 52-game win streak end in September at the hands of Class 3 Lord Botetourt, 35-21. Riverheads still has not lost to a Class 1 team since falling 7-6 to Galax in the 2015 state final.
This statistic is mind-boggling: Riverheads has won at least 10 games 14 seasons in a row with a 167-15 overall record since 2009,
Does Essex have the goods this year?
The Trojans have outscored 13 opponents 643-91. That includes a 28-14 win over 2021 Class 2 state champ King William. No other victory margin for Essex was under 36 points.
Todd Jones is in his second stint as Essex’s head coach. The former Pulaski County coach took the Trojans to the 2009 Division 2 state title with a 30-0 win over Radford. Essex also was the 2003 Division 2 runner-up under Jones.
Essex lost in three straight state finals under John Fulks from 2012-14, the last two in Class 1. Essex has played Riverheads in six of the last seven state semifinals, losing all six.
GRUNDY (8-4) at GEORGE WYTHE (9-3)
This game features the two teams with the most combined losses in any state final. When the game is over, one of them will be in the Dec. 10 Class 1 final at Salem Stadium.
This also is the only semifinal that is a rematch of a regular-season game. Grundy defeated visiting George Wythe 28-14 on its home field. This game is in Wytheville.
Grundy has reached four state semifinals. Each time, the Golden Wave lost to the eventual state champion: Giles in 1980, Amherst County in 1995, Salem in 1996 and Liberty-Bedford in 2002.
George Wythe won the Division 2 championship in 2002 with a 26-12 win over Buckingham County at James Madison University. The Maroons took the 2012 Division 1 title, 17-10 over Honaker at Salem Stadium.
George Wythe reached the Class 1 semifinals in 2015 and 2016, losing to Riverheads and Sussex Central, respectively. The Maroons reached the 1983 Group AA championship game, losing 14-7 to Courtland at Pendleton Field.
Brandon Harner is bidding to become the fourth coach to take the Maroons to a state championship game, possibly joining Paul Wheeler, Donnie Pruitt and H.S. Ingo.
Riverheads 21, Essex 8
George Wythe 35, Grundy 12
Finals on Dec. 10: Riverheads vs. George Wythe
Oscar Smith 56, Floyd Kellam 7
Western Branch 28, Franklin County 14
Manchester 56, Cosby 15
Thomas Dale 42, James River-Midlothian 12
Western Branch 28, Oscar Smith 14
Manchester 38, Thomas Dale 35
Western Branch 21, Manchester 14
Freedom-Woodbridge 77, Gar-Field 26
John Champe 44, Forest Park 25
Patriot 49, Unity Reed 20
Colonial Forge 17, Battlefield 13
Freedom-Woodbridge 70, John Champe 35
Patriot 49, Colonial Forge 21
Freedom-Woodbridge 53, Patriot 21
Fairfax 49, Alexandria City 7
Lake Braddock 24, James Robinson 13
West Springfield 29. Hayfield 10
South County 30, Thomas Edison 0
Fairfax 63, Lake Braddock 21
South County 48, West Springfield 28
Fairfax 30, South County 14
James Madison 56, Washington-Liberty 6
Yorktown 21, Langley 14
Westfield 31, Herndon 28, OT
Centreville 57, Chantilly 34
James Madison 21, Yorktown 7
Centreville 35, Westfield 6
James Madison 22, Centreville 7
Green Run 63, Hickory 14
Salem-Virginia Beach 10, Indian River 9
Frank Cox 23, Bayside 15
Kempsville 42, Tallwood 8
Green Run 21, Salem-Virginia Beach 13
Kempsville 39, Frank Cox 12
Green Run 50, Kempsville 8
Menchville 14, Woodside 7
Kecoughtan 7, Norview 0
Maury 37, Menchville 0
Nansemond River 21, Kecoughtan 7
Maury 55, Nansemond River 7
Highland Springs 49, Prince George 0
Douglas Freeman 24, Mills Godwin 10
L.C. Bird 23, Hermitage 15
Glen Allen 29, Midlothian 25
Highland Springs 33, Douglas Freeman 10
L.C. Bird 42, Glen Allen 0
Highland Springs 35, L.C. Bird 0
Stone Bridge 38, William Fleming 7
Riverbend 21, Woodgrove 14
Patrick Henry-Roanoke 28, Briar Woods 14
Mountain View 49, Albemarle 24
Stone Bridge 50, Riverbend 29
Mountain View 45, Patrick Henry-Roanoke 9
Stone Bridge 42, Mountain View 0
Warwick 22, Hampton 12
Churchland 48, Heritage-Newport News 20
Warhill 40, Grafton 7
King’s Fork 24, Deep Creek 14
Warwick 21, Churchland 7
King’s Fork 43, Warhill 8
Warwick 31, King’s Fork 19
Dinwiddie 54, Powhatan 7
Hanover 35, Eastern View 31
Varina 35, Matoaca 0
King George 41, Patrick Henry-Ashland 6
Dinwiddie 49, Hanover 12
King George 31, Varina 14
Dinwiddie 47, King George 41, OT
Loudoun County 42, John Handley 13
Sherando 40, Loudoun Valley 23
Millbrook 14, Tuscarora 13
Kettle Run 38, Heritage-Leesburg 7
Loudoun County 49, Sherando 28
Kettle Run 38, Millbrook 14
Kettle Run 35, Loudoun County 34
E.C. Glass 53, Halifax County 25
Amherst County 40, Orange County 14
Salem 42, Western Albemarle 0
Louisa County 47, Jefferson Forest 13
E.C. Glass 42, Amherst County 14
Salem 54, Louisa County 37
E.C. Glass 35, Salem 21
Phoebus 64, York 7
I.C. Norcom 27, Southampton 14
Lake Taylor 21, Hopewell 12
Lafayette 51, Colonial Heights 20
Phoebus 42, I.C. Norcom 0
Lake Taylor 27, Lafayette 20
Phoebus 42, Lake Taylor 16
Brentsville 56, James Monroe 13
Caroline 16, Armstrong 8, OT
Warren County 21, Culpeper County 13
Goochland 35, Skyline 2
Brentsville 34, Caroline 0
Warren County 21, Goochland 13
Brentsville 35, Warren County 7
Liberty Christian 27, Rustburg 16
Turner Ashby 17, Spotswood 14
Brookville 41, Wilson Memorial 21
Heritage-Lynchburg 35, Staunton 0
Liberty Christian 50, Turner Ashby 19
Heritage-Lynchburg 49, Brookville 21
Heritage-Lynchburg 22, Liberty Christian 17
Lord Botetourt 47, Hidden Valley 7
Bassett 34, Cave Spring 28, 2OT
Christiansburg 35, Abingdon 7
Staunton River 35, Magna Vista 21
Lord Botetourt 41, Bassett 7
Christiansburg 28, Staunton River 0
Christiansburg 34, Lord Botetourt 7
King William 49, Bruton 7
Greensville County 18, Brunswick 13
Poquoson 35, Nandua 0
Thomas Jefferson-Richmond 33, Amelia County 15
King William 40, Greensville County 0
Poquoson 21, Thomas Jefferson-Richmond 17
Poquoson 14, King William 7
Strasburg 42, East Rockingham 0
Stuarts Draft 35, Clarke County 14
Central-Woodstock 17, Buckingham County 12
Luray 52, Madison County 38
Strasburg 28, Stuarts Draft 7
Central-Woodstock 22, Luray 12
Central-Woodstock 34, Strasburg 7
Radford 48, Gretna 26
Appomattox County 40, Alleghany 12
Glenvar 49, Floyd County 14
Martinsville 42, Dan River 39
Appomattox County 38, Radford 33
Glenvar 35, Martinsville 0
Appomattox County 38, Glenvar 34
Graham 41, Central-Wise 13
Gate City 21, Union 15
Virginia High 37, Lee 20
Ridgeview 35, Tazewell 0
Graham 61, Gate City 14
Ridgeview 42, Virginia High 0
Graham 56, Ridgeview 35
Essex 56, Colonial Beach 6
Westmoreland 14, West Point 6
Northumberland 48, Rappahannock 7
King & Queen 50, Northampton 2
Essex 49, Westmoreland 0
King & Queen 28, Northumberland 12
Essex 46, King & Queen 0
Sussex Central 20, Franklin 2
Buffalo Gap 56, William Campbell 36
Riverheads 47, Sussex Central 20
Central-Lunenburg 15, Buffalo Gap 14
Riverheads 42, Central-Lunenburg 13
Galax 49, Bath County 0
Grayson County 35, Giles 7
Narrows 34, Covington 18
George Wythe 41, Parry McCluer 22
Grayson County 21, Galax 14
George Wythe 48, Narrows 28
George Wythe 48, Grayson County 28
Patrick Henry-Glade Spring 49, Hurley 8
Holston 31, Rye Cove 8
Grundy 38, Honaker 20
Lebanon 51, Twin Springs 49
Patrick Henry-Glade Spring 42, Holston 7
Grundy 32, Lebanon 0
Grundy 30, Patrick Henry-Glade Spring 19