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Johnson County at Sullivan East

Last meeting: Johnson County 7, Sullivan East 6 (Sept. 10, 2021, at Mountain City)

Sullivan East (1-2), which is coming off a four-point loss to Grainger, has scored at least 24 points in three games this season, but stopping the other team has been an issue. Johnson County (0-2) has scored just six points, while allowing 83 in losses to Hampton and Chuckey-Doak. The Longhorns hold a 15-8 advantage against the Patriots, including four of the last five, including last year’s 7-6 victory in Mountain City. Drake Fisher has been much improved at quarterback, while Tyler Cross has made big plays for the Patriots. Sullivan East will surpass last year’s 1-win campaign with a victory tonight.

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Prediction: Sullivan East 32, Johnson County 13.

Tennessee High at Knox Karns

Last meeting: Tennessee High 33, Knox Karns 31 (Sept. 10, 2021, at Bristol)

A bye week after a loss to Dobyns-Bennett proved beneficial to the Vikings (1-1), who defeated Pulaski County 35-28 last week to even their record. Tennessee High managed just three wins last season, but one of them was a 33-31 win in the first-ever meeting with Karns. The Beavers (2-1) scored 35 and 42 points in a pair of wins before falling 42-28 to defending 5A state champion Powell last week. Slowing down Knox News Offensive Player of the Year and Coastal Carolina commit DeSean Bishop will be key for the Vikings. He ran for 253 yards in the loss last year in Bristol.

Prediction: Knox Karns 35, Tennessee High 20.

Castlewood at Thomas Walker

Last meeting: Thomas Walker 36, Castlewood 13 (Sept. 20, 2021 in Castlewood, Va.)

“Bubba Ball” has been a hit so far for the Castlewood Blue Devils as they are averaging 40 points per game with a balanced offensive attack orchestrated by first-year head coach Bubba Edwards. … Castlewood (1-1) fell behind 26-6 last week against Honaker, rallied to take a 31-26 lead and then dropped a 34-31 decision as the Tigers scored with 1:44 remaining to eke out the win. “I am proud of our energy and grit,” Edwards said. “We have been down multiple TDs in both of our games and we have fought back and took the lead in both. We could not keep the lead against Honaker, but that is another part of the game we need to fix and that is learning how to finish.” … Edwards praised Kaden Lasley and Brad Steffey as leaders on and off the field before the season began. The duo have lived up to the billing. …Thomas Walker (0-2) has dealt with injuries to several key players and the Pioneers have allowed 93 points in the season’s first two games. Dylan McCurry has gained 195 rushing yards on 35 carries and scored four TDs in powering the Pioneers on offense. … Thomas Walker added Phelps (Kentucky) to the schedule as a home game on Oct. 14. The Hornets replace Twin Valley, which disbanded its program earlier this week due to a lack of healthy players. …. As for tonight, either Edwards or Thomas Walker rookie boss Tanner Hall will get their first Cumberland District victory. “[Castlewood is] much improved from last year and Coach Edwards is doing a tremendous job,” Hall said. “It looks like their kids believe in what they are doing and it is going to be a dogfight.”

Prediction: Castlewood 38, Thomas Walker 22

Last meeting: Abingdon 63, Gate City 39 (Oct. 12, 2021 in Gate City, Va.)

Gate City has had a rough go of it as the Blue Devils have surrendered 89 points in dropping their first two games. They allowed 353 rushing yards to Dylan Brown of Richlands in Week 1, while getting carved up by Radford quarterback Landen Clark last week to the tune of six touchdown passes and two scoring scampers. … Abingdon (1-1) struggled last Thursday in a 22-13 loss at Christiansburg as the Falcons committed three costly turnovers. … Luke Honaker has showcased his versatility for AHS, rushing for two scores, throwing a TD pass and returning a punt for a touchdown thus far. … Dasean Lucas and Paul Widener on the defensive line and the tandem of Rohn Lee and Will Henley at linebacker have played well for the Falcons. … “Consistency is the biggest thing we need to improve on,” said Abingdon coach Garrett Amburgey. “We are playing a lot of guys that are getting their first varsity snaps. There are times we show flashes of the team we can become with more consistency.” … It won’t get any easier for Gate City’s beleaguered defense tonight.

Prediction: Abingdon 48, Gate City 14

Wise County Central at Ridgeview

Last meeting: Ridgeview 26, Wise County Central 20 (Nov. 19, 2021 in Norton, Va.)

This Mountain 7 District matchup between 2-0 teams is the marquee game on the Southwest Virginia schedule this evening. … Ridgeview has wins over Class 1 opponents J.I. Burton and Grundy, while Central outscored Class 1 Eastside and Class 2 Marion by a combined margin of 90-35. … Ridgeview trailed 14-13 at halftime last week against Grundy before seizing control in the second half. Sophomore quarterback Ryan O’Quinn of the Wolfpack has thrown for 364 yards in two games. … Braeden Church, Brady Sturgill, Aiden Bowman, Dane Elkins, Austin Clevinger and Alec Gent have been reliable for Wise County Central. “We still need experience,” said Warriors coach Jason Mullins. “That is only something that will come with time.” … This has emerged as one of the Mountain 7 District’s most intense rivalries and the teams have met in the regular season and playoffs in 2018, 2019 and 2021. The Wolfpack holds a 6-4 edge in the all-time series. “Ridgeview is loaded with athletes and I’m sure they will be ready for us,” Mullins said. “We’re working hard to be ready for them.”

Prediction: Ridgeview 31, Wise County Central 13

Last meeting: Giles 16, George Wythe 13 (Sept. 13, 2021 in Wytheville, Va.)

This is a game that will likely have some Region 1C postseason implications and don’t be surprised if these teams meet again come playoff time. … George Wythe dominated in the second half of a 36-7 flattening of Fort Chiswell last week, while Giles faltered in the fourth quarter in a 28-14 loss to Galax. … The Spartans (1-1) led 7-0 at halftime against Galax and the contest was tied at 14 in the fourth quarter. However, the Maroon Tide scored two touchdowns in the final 6:05 to prevail. … Luke Jollay has scored four touchdowns this season for GW (1-1), while his twin brother, Ben Jollay, has gained 198 yards on the ground. “Typical GW team,” said Giles coach Jeff Williams. “Fast and athletic with everybody back from last year.” … Last season’s contest between these clubs came down to the wire and don’t be surprised if this one unfolds the same way.

Prediction: Giles 24, George Wythe 23

Last meeting: Graham 35, Richlands 0 (Sept. 10, 2021, at Richlands)

Graham (2-0), which has wins over Bluefield and Tazewell), will play its second straight Southwest District county rival and that isn’t good news for the Blue Tornado. Dylan Brown set a school record with 353 rushing yards in an opening game win over Gate City, but Richlands was flogged last week 42-0 by Union. All that awaits next is the G-Men, who have won six straight against the Blue Tornado after losing 16 of 17 in the series. One week after Cassius Harris ran the Bulldogs all over Virginia High, the G-Men limited him to 42 yards on the ground, while record setting quarterback Connor Creasy managed just 89 yards through the air. Despite the loss of a pair of departed seniors now playing at Virginia Tech, Ty’drez Clements and the G-Men are lethal once again. The last five wins for the G-Men against Richlands have been by at least 20 points and tonight promises much the same.

Prediction: Graham 45, Richlands 8.

Last meeting: Phelps 48, Hurley 6 (Sept. 10, 2021 in Hurley, Va.)

Hurley got back on track with a 43-13 trouncing of Thomas Walker last week at “The Cliff” as Kevin Looney made a plethora of big plays. He intercepted three passes. … Alex Duty leads Hurley in both rushing yards (185) and tackles (18). … Duty, Payton Hurley and Landon Bailey have combined for 356 yards and six touchdowns on the ground. … Phelps (0-3) has lost its three games by scores of 51-0, 42-6 and 50-14. Randy Smith Jr. is back at the helm of the Hornets after previously leading the team from 2013-2015. “Phelps is young, but their kids have a lot of heart,” said Hurley coach John Paul Justus. “Phelps’ first three opponents are 8-0 so far this season, so they have been challenged. Phelps is our neighbor and we have a friendly rivalry with them. Phelps High School is only 20, 25 minutes from Hurley and the kids are either friends or family, so anything can happen and we won’t take them lightly. It should be a hard-fought game.”

Prediction: Hurley 36, Phelps 12

Last meeting: Marion 36, Northwood 14 (Sept. 9, 2021 in Marion, Va.)

These teams probably didn’t have a fun week of practice following last week’s struggles. … After dominating Chilhowie in Week 1, Marion gave up 419 yards of total offense in a 49-28 loss at Wise County Central. … Northwood (0-2) has scored just one touchdown in its first two games and was blanked by Rye Cove, 20-0, last Friday. … Marion holds a 24-8 edge in the all-time series and last lost to the Panthers in 2015. … Brody Taylor has been a bright spot for Marion by gaining 281 rushing yards. The Scarlet Hurricanes can surpass last season’s win total and claim the Smyth County championship.

Prediction: Marion 40, Northwood 8

Virginia High at Patrick Henry

Last meeting: Virginia High 66, Patrick Henry 40 (Sept. 10, 2021 in Bristol, Va.)

Another compelling game on the docket is this clash between former Southwest District and Highlands District rivals. … Patrick Henry (2-0) has impressed in consecutive wins over Grundy and Lebanon. The Rebels are averaging 38 points per game. … J-Kwon McFail (46 carries, 402 yards) has excelled with his explosiveness while running behind a strong offensive line. Bobby Cline has collected 20 tackles and is one of the most consistent linebackers in Southwest Virginia. “We have had several different guys step up and make big plays at key moments during our first two games,” said PH coach Seth Padgett. … Virginia High (1-1) has been balanced as well. Quarterback Brody Jones, who attended the University of Virginia on a recruiting visit last Saturday, has thrown for 393 yards and five touchdowns. Patrick Poku (six catches, 158 yards), Dante Worley (nine receptions, 106 yards) and Conner Davidson (six catches, 66 yards) give Jones plenty of receiving threats, while Alijah Burks has gained 107 hard-earned yards. The line play has gotten better for the Bearcats. … VHS has scored two special-teams touchdowns as well with kicker Owen Dean emerging as a point-scoring threat too. … These teams played one of the area’s most entertaining games during the 2021 season, combining for 104 points, 44 first downs and 1,123 yards of total offense. … This game probably won’t be as high-scoring as last year’s contest, but both offenses are still high-powered. “Patrick Henry is a very good football team,” said Virginia High coach Derrick Patterson. “Coach Padgett always has his kids prepared and they play really hard for him. They are big and physical. The running back, McFail, is really good and can score from anywhere on the field. They also have a couple of other good backs as well. The things they do offensively make them very difficult to stop. Defensively, their linebackers fly to the ball and don’t make a lot of mistakes.”

Prediction: Virginia High 39, Patrick Henry 36

Last meeting: Eastside 34, Lebanon 21 (Sept. 9, 2021 in Lebanon, Va.)

The pigskin will be flying at Carl McConnell Stadium as both of these teams have pass-happy offenses. … Eastside (0-2) has unleashed 34 passes in two games, while Lebanon (1-1) has aired it out frequently. … Jaxsyn Collins is in his second season as the quarterback for the Eastside Spartans, while freshman Mike Reece is the trigger man for the Lebanon Pioneers. “The Reece kid can absolutely sling the football,” said Eastside coach Mike Rhodes. “Can’t remember a freshman QB throwing the ball as well as he does in a long time. He has some weapons in No. 15 [Zach Hertig]; you have to find him when they are on offense. Defensively, No. 70 [Thai Tatum] is at the football every time on film.” … Zach Hertig produced some highlights in Lebanon’s loss to Patrick Henry last week as he returned two kickoffs for touchdowns, caught a touchdown pass and snagged an interception. … Senior Eli McCoy has provided some leadership for the youthful Spartans. “We knew we were inexperienced,” Rhodes said. “We just have to keep getting better every rep, which I think they have been doing.”

Prediction: Lebanon 41, Eastside 16

Last meeting: Chilhowie 32, Narrows 18 (Sept. 10, 2021 in Narrows, Va.)

This will be the first time the Narrows Green Wave have played a football game at Chilhowie as the two previous matchups between these squads was held in Giles County. … Chilhowie (0-2) has committed 11 turnovers in two games and three times have had it 1st-and-Goal and failed to score. Kevin Crewey has spent time at quarterback, wide receiver, running back and linebacker for the Warriors, while Chris George snagged an interception in last week’s loss to J.I. Burton. … The Bland County Bears backed out of last week’s game with Narrows due to safety concerns as not enough healthy players were available. Narrows notched a 51-7 season-opening win over Auburn on Aug. 26. Quarterback Aidan McGlothlin, wide receiver Kolier Pruett, running back Reed Perdue, wide receiver Carson Crigger, linebacker Sam Albert, offensive lineman Chase Smith, defensive end Mason McCroskey and offensive lineman Josh Middleton are names to remember for the Green Wave. “Very talented at the skill positions,” said Chilhowie coach Jeff Robinson. “Very explosive offensively and are dangerous returning kicks on special teams. A well-coached, quality program.” … This could be classified as a must-win for Chilhowie, which hasn’t started a season 0-3 in 22 years.

Prediction: Narrows 21, Chilhowie 16

Rural Retreat at Grayson County

Last meeting: Rural Retreat 15, Grayson County 7 (Sept. 13, 2019 in Rural Retreat, Va.)

Rural Retreat’s defense has been impressive as the Indians have allowed just one touchdown in two games. That included a 39-0 annihilation of Eastern Montgomery last week. … This is one of two games pitting a 2-0 team vs. a 2-0 team on tonight’s far Southwest Virginia schedule with Wise County Central at Ridgeview being the other. … Grayson County has collected wins over Alleghany, North Carolina (20-7) and Carroll County (49-36). … Quarterback Austin Dowell of the Blue Devils rushed for 181 yards last week against Carroll County and Eli Gillespie had a 58-yard TD reception. Tailback/safety Elijah Osborne and tailback/outside linebacker Chase Poole are other leaders for Grayson County. “Rural Retreat is a very good, well-coached football team,” said Grayson County coach Stephen James, a George Wythe graduate. “They have some very good skill guys, their running backs run hard and the QB [Ely Blevins] does a good job running the zone read. They are physical and quick on defense. This will be a good test for us against a good opponent. We will have our work cut out for us on both sides of the ball.” … Rural Retreat hasn’t started a season 3-0 since 2005, so a win tonight would be a big deal for the school from Wythe County.

Prediction: Rural Retreat 21, Grayson County 16

Last meeting: Holston 42, John Battle 7 (Sept. 9, 2021 in Bristol, Va.)

There are more than just Washington County bragging rights on the line in this one with a couple of streaks at stake: Holston’s 17-game regular-season winning streak and John Battle’s 14-game losing skid. … Holston (2-0) was impressive last week in a 42-16 trouncing of Cumberland District preseason favorite Twin Springs. Dustin Bott leads the Cavaliers with 13 tackles, Dillon Bott has 91 receiving yards and Merrick Kestner has 186 rushing yards thus far for a balanced attack. … Another impressive stat: Chris Akers has won 15 of his 16 games as Holston’s head coach. … Battle has suffered consecutive blowout defeats at the hands of Abingdon and Virginia High. Broadie Bailey has scored all three of the Trojans’ touchdowns and has six catches for 117 yards. His brother, Braedyn Bailey, has made 11 tackles. Battle’s gameplan took a hit with an injury to versatile standout Braxton Emerson. … The records point to a blowout, but Akers isn’t taking the school from Exit 7 lightly. “Battle has played one of the toughest schedules of anyone in our area so far,” Akers said. “They are a [Class 2] school in an extremely competitive [Mountain 7 District]. I expect them to be ready and play well on Friday. We will have our hands full”.

Prediction: Holston 28, John Battle 21

Last meeting: Union 50, J.I. Burton 20 (Sept. 10, 2021 in Big Stone Gap, Va.)

Union (2-0) is off and running as the Bears have rushed for 413 yards in each of their first two games. … Reyshawn Anderson, Peyton Honeycutt, Keith Chandler, Johnny Satterfield, Keyshawn Anderson and Aiden Hoffmeister have all had TD runs this season. … J.I. Burton (1-1) won on the road at Chilhowie last week and coach Jacob Caudill likes what he has seen from his Raiders. “We are a tough, resilient bunch that keeps playing hard, even if something bad happens early,” Caudill said. “We aren’t real big, but we are tough.” … Two-way lineman Dauntae Keys and Isaiah Sturgill are leaders. Brayden Dutton, Trey Keys, Ethan Hawk, Landon Reed, Clay Hart and quarterback Noa Godsey have also performed admirably. … Union is 9-0 all-time against Burton and only one of those games has been decided by single digits. All signs point to this being another double-digit beatdown.

Prediction: Union 50, J.I. Burton 13

Last meeting: Bland County 28, Rye Cove 14 (Sept. 10, 2021 in Bastian, Va.)

This is Rye Cove’s third straight home game and expect the stands in Clinchport to be packed as the local folks get a chance to see the Eagles improve to 3-0. … That’s a big deal considering Rye Cove won just 10 games over the previous eight seasons combined. “I love our team’s effort and how they are playing for each other,” said first-year Rye Cove boss Gary Collier. … Collier would like to see his team cut down on the turnovers. … Playmaker Payton Darnell missed last week’s game with a hamstring injury, but the Eagles still notched a 20-0 win over Northwood. Landon Lane is an efficient 15-of-22 passing this year and Logan Barnette runs the ball hard. …Bland County forfeited last week’s game to Narrows due to not having enough healthy players. The Bears are expected to give it a go this week in a battle between two of the VHSL’s smallest football-playing schools.

Prediction: Rye Cove 30, Bland County 6

Last meeting: Twin Springs 28, Unaka 24 (Sept. 10, 2021 in Elizabethton, Tenn.)

Call this the bounceback bowl as the Rangers and Titans both try to rebound from humbling losses a week ago. … Twin Springs was no match for Holston in a 42-16 setback. … Unaka (1-2) opened the season with a 38-12 win over North Greene, but has since lost to Cloudland (46-28) and Harlan, Kentucky (36-0). … A Twin Springs defense led by James Craig will get tested against Unaka quarterback Landon Ramsey. Ramsey has thrown for 544 yards and three touchdowns, while rushing for 132 yards and two scores. “Unaka has one of the best quarterbacks in Northeast Tennessee,” said Twin Springs coach Keith Warner. “He has a strong arm and can throw it down the field. We will have to cover well this Friday and not give up the big play.” … Tennessee High graduate Jake Jones is Unaka’s defensive coordinator. … Twin Springs rallied for a second-half comeback last year against the Rangers in what was a turning point in one of the best seasons in school history. Can the Titans recapture that mojo this evening?

Prediction: Unaka 28, Twin Springs 24

Tazewell at Colonial Heights

Give Tazewell credit, they will play anyone, anywhere. First, Riverheads and now Colonial Heights. While the Bulldogs are 1-1, with a win over Virginia High and loss to Graham, the Colonials are 0-1, falling to New Kent last week 21-14. Football hasn’t been fruitful in recent years for Colonial Heights, having not had a winning season since 2009, including a 27-game losing skid that lasted from 2011 through 2013. Cassius Harris and Carter Creasy were slowed down last week by the G-Men, but will the Colonials be able to do the same? Tazewell will be racking up the miles over the next few weeks, including 91 miles on Saturday morning to Colonial Heights, and nearly 200 miles later this month to Riverheads. This should be an entertaining afternoon of football. Go with the ‘Dawgs.

Prediction: Tazewell 35 Colonial Heights 27.