Week 11 Football Preview Capsules
William Monroe at Clarke County
When: Today, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Clarke County’s Wilbur M. Feltner Stadium, Berryville
Records: William Monroe (3-6, 3-3 Bull Run District); Clarke County (9-0, 6-0).
Last week: William Monroe beat Manassas Park 32-28; Clarke County beat George Mason 35-2.
Last year: Clarke County won 61-19.
Preview: There will be plenty on the line when the Eagles take the field against the Dragons tonight.
On the one side William Monroe will be trying to close the regular season with its first two-game winning streak of the year while fighting for one of the last few playoff spots in the Group 3A East power ratings (the Dragons are currently tied for 16th with New Kent and the top 16 teams advance).
On the other side is a Clarke County team gunning for the outright Bull Run District championship, a top-2 seed in the Group 2A East postseason and the seventh perfect 10-0 regular season in school history.
“We’ve been pretty blunt and blatant about what [Friday’s game] means,” said Clarke County coach Chris Parker. “It’s Senior Night and we’ve got some goals we can accomplish. We want to be 10-0, all-out district champions, end the regular season on a winning note, clinch a home playoff game and all of that. There’s a little bit more to this week.”
The Eagles come in riding a nine-game winning streak and have outscored their past two opponents 68-8. But don’t expect them to overlook William Monroe.
The Dragons run a pro-I style offense that relies heavily on bootleg action in the passing game. Parker said they do a good job with the deception with making their fakes and are pretty balanced when it comes to the passing and running game.
“They do some things very well and we have to be ready for,” Parker said. “Their record might not be great, but they’re fighting for a playoff position, so they’ll come out fighting with fire.”
There should be no lack of motivation for the Eagles.
A win not only clinches a 10-0 season and the district title, but it also could propel them into a more favorable playoff seeding. Clarke County is currently ranked third in the Group 2A East, but a victory tonight, along with a couple other wins by past Eagle opponents, could push them into the second spot and guarantee home games for the first three rounds of the playoffs.
“There’s a lot to play for,” Parker said. “I think our guys are focused and know what’s at stake.”
James Wood at Handley
When: Saturday, 1 p.m.
Where: Handley Bowl, Winchester
Records: James Wood (1-8, 1-2 Northwestern District); Handley (6-3, 2-1)
Last week: James Wood had a bye; Handley beat Millbrook 21-7
Last year: Handley won 28-7
Preview: Both these teams definitely feel a lot better about themselves coming into the regular-season finale than they did last year, when neither squad was going to the playoffs. Handley was on a four-game losing streak, while James Wood was on an eight-game skid.
But the Judges won their second straight game last week and with a No. 7 rating in the 4A North Region are looking at a first round home playoff game with a win Saturday. And by beating Millbrook 13-6 two weeks ago, James Wood snapped its 17-game losing streak that dated back to last year’s season opener.
“[The players] know how to win now, and that’s big,” James Wood first-year head coach Mark McHale said.
Though Handley had its struggles last week — the Judges turned the ball over three times and gained 305 yards, 60 below its average — Handley coach Tony Rayburn said it was good to see the defense take control during a year in which Handley’s offense has usually led the way. Every other Judges opponent had scored at least 17 points this year, and Handley had yet to allow fewer than 24 points in any of its wins.
Something else that was big for Handley was the continued development of its wide receivers. Jarett Cestaro had 10 catches for 104 yards and a touchdown after having 17 catches for 215 yards and a touchdown in the first eight games, and Brian Thomas eclipsed his season total for receptions (seven) with eight catches and had 107 yards after managing 159 previously.
“[Quarterback] Will [Dearing]’s getting more comfortable throwing the ball to those guys, and they’re helping us,” Rayburn said.
What’s also helped Handley this year is playing on its home artificial turf, as the Judges are averaging 46.3 points per game at home and 27.8 on the road.
McHale said it was almost as if he was watching two different teams when comparing Handley on the turf against Skyline (a 56-24 Judges win) to the grass at Millbrook, and he said his team will have to be fundamentally sound on defense to be in the game.
“We have to have a good stance, good alignment, know our assignments and play hard,” he said.
The Colonels had some success running the ball against Millbrook, with Landon Rutherford and Tyler Bishop combining for 127 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries. McHale said it’s essential that the Colonels find a way to keep that success going to keep Handley’s offense off the field.
Saturday’s matchup is one both coaches will enjoy because of its history. This will be the 52nd meeting in a series Handley leads 34-16-1.
“They’re playing their best football,” Rayburn said. “We’re looking forward to it.”
— Compiled by Robert Niedzwiecki and Kevin Trudgeon