High school football practices are still a month away, but excitement is already building after the Virginia High School League released its 2019 master schedule Tuesday morning.
Four Central Virginia high school teams qualified for postseason play last season and there’s plenty of optimism for more heading into fall camps.
The nondistrict schedules are packed with intriguing matchups throughout the area as coaches look to position themselves for postseason play in November.
Here are a few spotlight games to watch for this fall.
Massaponax at Louisa County
» When: Sept. 13, 7:30 p.m.
» Last meeting: Massaponax 42, Louisa County 22 in 2002.
» The skinny: Louisa County football coach Will Patrick vowed to beef up his team’s nondistrict schedule moving forward and he did just that with a showdown with Class 6 foe Massaponax.
The Lions have captured back-to-back Jefferson District titles. Running back Jarett Hunter, wideout Noah Robinson and linebacker Alex Washington headline a unit that is loaded with talent and prepared to bounce back after last year’s loss to Eastern View in the Region 4B semifinals.
This should be a great early season litmus test for programs expected to make long runs in the postseason.
Albemarle at Western Albemarle
» When: Oct. 25, 7 p.m.
» Last season: Western Albemarle 35, Albemarle 10
» The skinny: Western Albemarle snapped a two-game losing skid against their rivals last season with an impressive 35-10 victory in the regular season finale for both teams. The Warriors scored on their first three possessions of the game and the defense yielded just 99 yards of total offense in the win.
Coach Ed Redmond’s team finished second in the Jefferson District last season and should be a title contender again this season with the return of quarterback Carter Shifflett, running back Austin Shifflett and wideout Breaker Mendenhall.
The Patriots are in transition as they look to find replacements from a strong senior class. Coach Brandon Isaiah’s team returns senior running back Mahki Robinson-Washington, senior Aquon Sims and senior defensive end Jake Rombach.
Madison County at William Monroe
» When: Sept. 20. 7 p.m.
» Last season: William Monroe 20, Madison County 14
» The skinny: William Monroe extended its winning streak against Madison County to six in a row last season with a 20-14 victory on the road.
Graduation took a toll on Jon Rocha’s team as the Greene Dragons lost a number of key starters on both sides of the football. Rocha’s team should feature plenty of fresh faces this fall as they look to return to postseason play since 2016.
Speaking of excitement, Jon Rasnick takes over a Mountaineers program looking to end a two-year playoff drought. The former Orange County standout must replace several starters at the skill positions, but returnees such as linebacker Brian Metz, two-way lineman Jacob Sacra and Sam Estes should be key contributors in this cross-town rivalry.
Charlottesville at Monticello
» When: Oct. 25, 7 p.m.
» Last season: Charlottesville 31, Monticello 14
» The skinny: This will be a rematch of the 2018 season finale, where the Black Knights dominated on the ground to secure their first win of the season. Injuries depleted both teams in 2018 as they tried to transition from experienced lineups to a youth movement.
Isaiah Washington and Tamarius Washington spent time at quarterback and running back in Charlottesville coach Eric Sherry’s triple-option attack. They both should return this fall, along with two-way lineman Shaun Barbour, as the Black Knights look to return to postseason play.
Malachi Fields assumed the role as starting quarterback last season and the sophomore turned in a strong season for the Mustangs in what proved to be a transition year for Coach Jeff Lloyd’s team. Devonta Hargrove and Jack Culbreath emerged as leaders on the team last fall and look to lead Monticello back to postseason play.
Nelson County at Fluvanna County
» When: Sept. 13, 7 p.m.
» Last meeting: Fluvanna County 3, Nelson County 0 in 2006.
» The skinny: Mike Morris guided the Flucos to their first playoff appearance since 2000 last fall and they are eager to build off that success. Quarterback Kobe Edmonds was a dual threat in Fluvanna County’s offense and should continue to improve. Linebacker Malachi Hill and offensive tackle Walter Stribling give Morris’ team a strong nucleus to build around.
The Governors won two games last season, including an impressive 43-21 victory over Rappahannock County in their season finale. That win should provide momentum heading into 2019. Quarterback George Brown, Sergio Rodriguez and Brice Wilson played important roles as underclassmen last year and should provide stability coming into 2019.
Orange County at Louisa County
» When: Oct. 4, 7:30 p.m.
» Last season: Louisa County 36, Orange County 12
» The skinny: The Hornets had a three-year playoff run snapped in 2018 after dropping its final six games of the regular season. Running back Jaylen Alexander eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark again and is one of the elite running backs in the Jefferson District.
The Lions have won the past 10 meetings in the Battle for the Gordonsville Tastee Freeze, but as with most rivalry games, records are thrown out the window when these two teams meet on the gridiron.
Other games to watch
» Western Albemarle at Fluvanna County, Oct. 11, 7 p.m.: This is a showdown between two Region 3C playoff competitors from 2018. The Warriors defeated the Flucos 21-7 in 2018.
» Monticello at Albemarle, Oct. 4, 7 p.m.: Considered one of the biggest rivalry games in the Jefferson District for nearly a decade, the two Central Virginia teams always circle this game on their calendars. The two teams have split the past six meetings, including Albemarle’s 36-0 win last fall.
» Orange County at North Stafford, Sept. 6, 7 p.m.: The Hornets, who are moving down from Class 5 to Class 4 this season, face an early test when they take on perennial Class 5 playoff participant North Stafford. The Wolverines have won the previous two encounters by more than 40 points.
» Western Albemarle at Louisa County, Nov. 1, 7:30 p.m.: The “Jungle” should be rocking in November for this game, which could decide the Jefferson District champion. The two teams have split the past four matchups, including Louisa County’s 36-17 win last fall.