Four county teams begin their quest for postseason glory, and, for each, an elusive State Championship. We know one team's dream will end tonight as two rivals who haven't faced each other in a decade will collide.
5A SOUTH CENTRAL FIRST ROUND:
#8 MEADOWBROOK (5-5) at #1 HIGHLAND SPRINGS (10-0), 7pm: When these two teams met in Week 3 on September 12th at Meadowbrook, Justin Miller rushed for 140 yards for the Monarchs, and Highland Springs sophomore quarterback Juwan Carter, in just his third varsity start, struggled, only completing five passes. Meadowbrook will still rely on the running game, led by Miller, to pull off the upset tonight, but their defense will face a totally different Carter. Two weeks ago, Carter threw for 330 yards and five touchdowns in just the first half of a 65-37 win over Atlee. His passes have become pinpoint accurate, and with the bevy of wideout options he enjoys, it creates matchup nightmares for opposing secondaries.
Head Coach Loren Johnson utilizes all of the weapons at his disposal, so look for plenty of action from Marcus Taylor, K.C. Hinton, D.J. Anderson from and out of the backfield, plus Felton Davis, Greg Dortch and K'Vonn Wallace, using the speed and cutting abilities to run a variety of pass options. Meadowbrook knows what they did wrong in Week 3. They'll be ready this time. The question will be, if Highland Springs plays to their current potential, and not to their level of play from eight weeks ago, can the Monarchs knock off the top seed? The winner faces the winner of Atlee/L.C. Bird next Friday in Round Two.
#6 HENRICO (8-2) at #3 HERMITAGE (10-0), 7pm: When these two teams last met, it was September 24, 2004. Tonight, they meet once more, two schools separated by only 6 1/2 miles, and recent polar opposites in football. While the Warriors are making their first postseason appearance since that 2004 team, the Panthers are almost an annual playoff staple. Hermitage is in the playoffs for the eighth straight season, and are 5-2 in first round games the past seven years.
Rashad Robinson is back, healthy, and ready to lead his offense, featuring stud tailback Johntae Wilson, against, most likely, the best defense they've encountered this year. So, naturally, while everyone is looking at that matchup, we believe how well the Henrico offense and the Hermitage defense performs will go a long way to determining tonight's winner. Henrico has scored less than 20 points just twice (1-1), and more than 40 points four times (4-0). The winner of this game gets the winner of the game below next Friday.
#7 DOUGLAS FREEMAN (7-3) at #2 MANCHESTER (10-0), 7pm: Bad news for Rebels fans. They would have hoped that the Lancers' Hail Mary last-gasp win over L.C. Bird last week to clinch an unbeaten regular season would have zapped Manchester of emotion and energy. But all the Lancers needed for a recharge was a look at the brackets.
Manchester long remembers the feeling of leaving William E. Long Stadium 52 weeks ago, 48-47 losers in a triple overtime thriller against the Rebels. They'll desperately want to avenge for that when, this time, they host a Douglas Freeman team coming off a disappointing Senior Night loss to Patrick Henry 23-21, as a potential game-winning field goal was blocked by the Patriots. The roles are reversed this season, as the Rebels travel, and are the underdog. The key to tonight is the Rebels' ability to stymie Manchester's offense, They've continued to play well even without standout tailback Justin Pendergrass, out for the year with an injury. The winner tonight plays the Hermitage/Henrico winner next week.