Believe it or not, the start of high school football is about a month away, a fact that was made clear by Wednesday’s release of the Virginia master schedule.
As we’ve noted, the 2013 campaign will bring a whole new classification system with six groupings and new regions. I’ll spare you the head-spinning task of making sense of the new format and instead get to the good part — breaking down the best matchups based on my humble, far-sighted opinion.
10. Woodgrove at Tuscarora, Sept. 6, 7 p.m.
Two of the top running backs in Loudoun County will square off in Woodgrove senior Josh Sweet, who gained 1,727 yards last season, and Tuscarora junior Noah Reimers (1,435 yards), who scored the decisive TD, his fifth, in a 35-31 nailbiter last year.
9. Centreville at Robinson, Nov. 8, 7:30 p.m.
Centreville returns almost all of its weapons from a year ago, including junior RB A.J. Turner, junior DB/WR Charles Tutt and senior QB Scott Walter. But Robinson is equally loaded behind the highly productive tailback Joe Wilson and his area-high 2,358 yards and 32 scores. By this matchup, the Rams should be well-acquainted with whatever changes Coach Dan Meier installs in his first season at the helm.
8. Chantilly at Yorktown, Oct. 25, 7:30 p.m.
Yorktown All-Met RB M.J. Stewart is one of the region’s most highly touted recruits, possessing the ability to break open plays as a running back and defensive back. Chantilly graduated its quarterback and utility man Sean Huelskamp but has an imposing backfield in Deandre Harris and Raeshawn Smith.
7. Broad Run at Briar Woods, Oct. 18, 7 p.m.
The classification shuffle has many wondering how Briar Woods will adjust to stiffer competition in the 5A playoffs but before then, the Falcons must face the one team that gave them the most trouble last season. Both Briar Woods QB Trace McSorley and Broad Run QB Brady Reitzel possess dual-threat ability that give fits to opposing defenses.
6. Potomac at Woodbridge, Oct. 25, 7 p.m.
At some point this season, it’s worth your time to check out Woodbridge defensive lineman Da’Shawn Hand, whom some call the nation’s top overall senior recruit. In this matchup, he’ll be in pursuit of Potomac running back Torrey Dixon, who last season scored twice to lead Potomac to its first win against Woodbridge since 2007.
5. Stonewall Jackson at Hylton, Sept. 6, 7:30 p.m.
For the first time since 2011, these two teams will square off for an early-season contest. Stonewall Jackson blazed to a 9-0 start last year before losing its final two games. The return of dual-threat QB Greg Stroman (3,051 total yards, 35 total TDs) should again make the Raiders a contender. For Hylton, the Bulldogs look to build on their first state semifinal appearance since 2005 behind senior QB and Virginia Tech recruit Travon McMillan.
4. Hylton at Battlefield, Oct. 4, 7:30 p.m.
These two have plenty of history to say the least. In 2010 and 2011, Battlefield snapped Hylton’s 10-0 start with a loss in the region playoffs. But Hylton flipped the script last year with a 19-7 win en route to a state semifinal appearance. Back for Hylton is McMillan and wideout Terrin Allen-Neal to go with sophomore transfer and coveted offensive lineman Matthew Burrell Jr. On the other side of the ball, Battlefield looks to reload after losing QB Ryan Swingle and RB Joe Walker to graduation.
3. Westfield at Lake Braddock, Sept. 20, 7 p.m.
This marks the last of three consecutive tough contests for Lake Braddock to open the season. Westfield will be hungry after seeing its undefeated run ended in the postseason for the second straight year. Meantime, UNC committ Caleb Henderson will lead the Bruins, who have surrendered an average of 47 points in blowout losses to Westfield the last two years.
2. Lake Braddock at Stone Bridge, Sept. 6, 7:30 p.m.
For the first time ever, these two teams will meet in what should be a tightly contested matchup. Perennial power Stone Bridge will look to continue its high level success despite the graduation of QB Ryan Burns (Stanford) and DL Jonathan Allen (Alabama). Again, Henderson, the nation’s No. 177th best recruit according to ESPN, will be the focal point for Lake Braddock in his second and final season under center for the Bruins.
1. Stone Bridge at Westfield, Oct. 4, 7:30 p.m.
Both teams share a nickname (Bulldogs) and plenty of recent success, but they’ve only played on two other occasions. Stone Bridge, last year’s AAA Division 5 runner-up, squeaked out wins in 2009 and 2010 and will look to do so again behind offensive weapons Sterling Dailey (1,535 rushing yards) and D’Ante Yarborough (1,070 receiving yards). Meantime, Westfield, last year’s Division 6 favorite, welcomes back a fair share of its experienced players, led by RB Tyler Thrasher-Walker and WR Devon Burns.