Hopewell wins the 2019 Class 3 State Championship (Photo: Brian Knight/recruit757)
Way too early! Hopewell’s a unanimous Power 10 top pick while the rest of the Central Region is a puzzle
by Brandon Mitchell and Byron Jones, recruit804
How frustrating is it right now knowing that some of the simple things in life have been taken away for the time being?
At the moment, children are being home-schooled and parents are beginning to understand that the teachers may not have been the issue.
Lines at Trader Joe’s are longer than a trip across the country as well as lines at Costco and every other grocery chain allowing a set number of consumers to enter at one time.
The 68-team field for Selection Sunday was slated for March 15 and that date has officially come and gone. We’re all still rejoicing over the fact the Virginia Cavaliers are still the reigning NCAA basketball champions.
The 2020 Tokyo Olympics have been postponed until 2021 and if you didn’t get the chance to listen to decorated gold medalist Michael Phelps speak on its impact, I’d urge you to take a listen.
However, reminiscing over the previous high school football season; we’re comforted by some of the accomplishments of many of our student-athletes as well as their respective programs throughout the Central Region.
Hermitage pulling together to knock off Chris Tyree and Thomas Dale during the third week of the season was one of the biggest upsets during that particular part of the year.
Robert Barlow rushed for a cool 1,600 yards last season, but they’re many people out there who feel as though his absence against Patrick Henry could’ve been the difference in a state semi-final appearance.
You’d have to be living under a rock to miss Patrick Henry’s run during the postseason. The Patriots were a two-point conversion away from advancing to the Class 4 state championship game before Malik Newton guessed right blowing up Jordan Allen at the line of scrimmage.
Don’t believe me? Well, we have the video to show it.
How about the job P.J. Adams and his coaching staff has been able to do with Tee Jay football in just three short seasons? The Vikings have accumulated a record of 26-11 and secured three straight playoff appearances including its first region title in school history last year?
Can we talk about Varina knocking off Highland Springs and Manchester in successive weeks to advance to the Class 5 state semi-finals? Because what I don’t want to walk about is Coach Stuart Brown making the decision to walk away from the Blue Devils.
Prospective student-athletes do you miss football yet?
Is it way too early to conjure up a Power 10 based on the information that we have at the moment in conjunction with what programs presented to the table this past season?
Well, fellow recruit804 correspondent Byron Jones and I have done just that. However, slightly disagreeing on the placement of certain programs; we’ve decided to draw up rivaling Power 10 lists. Continue reading to see how the Central Region projects heading into next season so as long as Covid-19 has been contained and controlled.
recruit804 Power 10
Brandon’s ranking, then Byron’s ranking for each position
1. Hopewell Blue Devils (15-0)
1. Hopewell Blue Devils (15-0)
Hopewell has only lost two contests in the last two seasons and none of those losses came in 2019. Trey Henderson was absolutely remarkable and proved why he indeed is the cream of the crop for the 2021 football class. The Blue Devils stand to lose a lot on both sides of the ball including prospects like Kaiveon Cox, Anthony Hale, Keyon Williams, and Ronald Webster among others. However, a refined Joseph Eliades combined with Reggie Ruffin, Khalil Murdock, and Zion Hubbard spells trouble for all of Class 3. Not to mention Eric McDaniels coming over from Henrico to pair up with Henderson and Robert Briggs. (Brandon)
Hopewell being ranked #1 should come as no surprise. After all, the Blue Devils ran the table last season and captured their second state title in three seasons. They also return the #1 running back in the country in TreVeyon Henderson, who accounted for 3,200 all-purpose yards and 53 scores in 2019.
In addition to Henderson, a few key returners from last season include RB Robert Briggs, DE Reggie Ruffin, DB Zion Hubbard, LB Khalil Murdock and OL Landen Baker. Hopewell made headlines earlier this spring when Henrico running back Eric McDaniels announced that he and his family were moving to Hopewell and he would play his senior season for the Blue Devils. With a backfield comprised of Henderson, Briggs, and McDaniels, I see a lot of trouble in the future for opposing defensive coordinators. Hopewell is by far the early season favorite in Division 3. (Byron)
2. Life Christian Academy Eagles (4-6)
2. Highland Springs Springers (11-1)
Here is where it all begins to fall apart between Byron and myself.Life Christian is now entering year three of its existence and once again it definitely won’t be short on talent heading into next season. Saying goodbye to Michael James, Gerrien Christopher, Joe Johnson Delmus Hicks, Khalil Miller, and Antonio Webb among others will be difficult. However, with prospects such as Naquari Rogers, Thailand Baldwin, Miles Posey, and Joshua Miller returning, you’ll be hard pressed to see a drop off in skill level. LCA enjoyed a difficult schedule last season including matching up against St. Frances and IMG Academy. Now if only more VISAA opponents would open up its sched— never mind. (Brandon)
Highland Springs was dethroned by Varina in the second round of the Region 5B playoffs. The loss marked an end to the Springers 40-game winning streak and halted their quest for an unprecedented fifth consecutive state title. The Springers lose big names like Malcom Greene (Clemson), David Laney (ECU), Suirad Ware (ECU), and Daytonie Smith (Marshall), but return Damond Harmon, Jamareeh Jones, Jabari Parker, Michael Hodge, and Kelvin Gilliam who all hold a significant amount of Division I offers.
Highland Springs seemed out of sorts offensively last season and could never find consistency on that side of the ball. Their defense more than made up for offensive shortcomings but in order for the Springers to regain their thrown, they have to figure out who is going to lead them at quarterback.
During their run at four consecutive state titles, Highland Springs had two quarterbacks in Juan “Pootie” Carter (Norfolk State) and D’Vonte Waller (Virginia State) who guided the offense and provided continuity at the position. Last season, the Springers utilized Jamareeh Jones and Juwan Dent at quarterback, with Jones being the primary signal caller. Should the Springers figure out who their true QB1 is during the offseason and give them sole ownership of the position and the unit, I look for them to be back on top of Division 5 football. (Byron)
3. Varina Blue Devils (11-3)
3. Deep Run Wildcats (12-1)
Even Stevie Wonder could’ve seen what Stuart Brown had with Varina last season. If revenge is dish best served cold, then Barry Hill ate straight out of the refrigerator with his bare hands in looking for redemption against both Highland Springs and Manchester during the postseason. Hill will be a major loss this upcoming season along with Isiah Paige, Alonzo Ford, Makei Hamilton, Charles Schwenk, Brysen Ross, and Lorenz Terry among others. However, the toughest blow was losing longtime head coach Stuart Brown. The Blue Devils welcomed Marcus Lewis as its next head coach who was an in-house hire in mid-February. He’ll inherit a lot of new toys including starting quarterback Bobby Dunn. Look for Varina to be back. (Brandon)
Led by Bo Kite, the Wildcats capped off their second perfect regular season in school history in 2019. Deep Run suffered its only loss of the season in the regional semi-finals against Manchester. Kite returns for his senior season after eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark in both passing and rushing in 2019. He also found the endzone 28 times on the ground and threw for an additional 10 touchdowns. Alva Rose, Miles Ellis, Kyle Gensone, and Gabe Henderson will all be back alongside Kite. Short Pump may be the place to be on a Friday night this fall. Not for shopping or dining, but for football. (Byron)
4. Manchester Lancers (11-2)
4. Varina Blue Devils (11-3)
I have zero complaints about how Manchester was able to adjust to life without guys like Brendon Clark, Hakeem Beamon, Kei’Trel Clark, and Will Pritchard.Guys like Roemell Garcia, Isaiah Todd, James Bell, and Christian Williams really stepped up last season. Manchester was able to 11 of 12 contests just ran into a different type of Varina team in the Region 5B finals. Head coach Tom Hall is going to have to go back to the drawing board after losing so much fire power over the last two years. However, the worst thing you could do is doubt him or anyone on the Lancers coaching staff. With Ben Newton coming to town fresh from Blessed Sacrament-Huguenot, expect the energy be —as Fat Joe put it so elegantly— all the way up! (Brandon)
The Blue Devils made a run to the Division 5 state semi-finals where they fell to eventual state champs Maury. They knocked off four-time defending state champs Highland Springs and defending Division 6 state champs Manchester in the process. With the departure of Stu Brown, Varina is now under the direction of Marcus Lewis.
Lewis graduated from Varina in 2001 and has been with the program for the past 12 years. He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to a rich program that has only had three head coaches in the last 30 years. Varina said goodbye to big time playmakers Isaiah Paige (ODU), Alonzo Ford (ODU), Lorenz Terry (Fork Union – UVA), and Barry Hill (West Virginia State), but quarterback Bobby Dunn will be back for his senior season after a breakout junior campaign. Dunn threw for over 2400 yards and 30 TD’s in his first year as the starter. Along with Dunn, Varina returns key contributors Jaiden Carthorn, Jailin Walker, and Jason Hall. (Byron)
5. Highland Springs Springers (11-1)
5. Goochland Bulldogs (11-2)
Last time I dropped the Springers this far down in a Power 10 list it was one of the worst decisions I could’ve ever made. The backlash was ridiculous, but well-deserved especially since Highland Springs went on to win yet another Class 5 state championship that season. The Springers beat everyone last season and I do mean EVERYONE. They blew through Oscar Smith, North Stafford, Colonial Forge, Manchester, and Varina as well as traveled out to Avalon.
A season after losing prospects like A.J. Wells, Tremayne Talbert, Ali Jennings, and Christian White among others, Highland Springs wasn’t supposed to be who they were last season. Credit the Springers coaching staff for their approach to building up their players in-house so they’re always prepared to take the next step effortlessly. The Springers stand to lose a boatload of seniors yet again. However, it’ll be interesting to see how prospects such as Payton Jackson, Kelvin Gilliam, Damond Harmon, and Jamaareh Jones step during their senior campaign. (Brandon)
Coach Alex Fruth and his squad enjoyed a successful first season in Division 3 after bumping up from Division 2. Goochland went pound for pound with eventual state champion Hopewell in the Division 3 state semi-finals, falling 35-28. At one point, Goochland led the Blue Devils by two scores before TreVeyon Henderson and company rallied back to down the Bulldogs. The Bulldogs said goodbye to Devin McCray (Richmond), but return playmakers in CJ Towles and Kameron Holman to name a few. Don’t be surprised to see Goochland back in the thick of things come November. (Byron)
6. Louisa County Lions (11-1)
6. Manchester Lancers (11-2)
The late great Mark Fischer passed the baton to Wil Patrick at the end of the 2017 season following a Class 4 state championship loss to Salem and the Lions haven’t missed a beat since. Over the last two seasons Coach Patrick has led Louisa to a 22-2 record, two undefeated (regular) seasons, and two playoff appearances.
Jarrett Hunter, Austin Sims, and Noah Robinson were three of the major heavy hitters for the Lions last season. Jordan Smith, Robert Morgan, and Kalup Shelton showed flashes of greatness so it’s interesting to see how their maturation will unfold next season. Louisa continues to hold tremendous upside despite losing nine seniors that were either All-District (Jefferson) or All-Region 4B athletes. Their region continues to be rich in talent but expect the Lions to be right back in the thick of things next season. (Brandon)
After it’s run to the Division 6 state title in 2018, Manchester was hit hard by the departures of Brendon Clark (Notre Dame), Hakeem Beamon (Penn State), Will Pritchard (Virginia Tech), and Kei’Trel Clark (Liberty) to name a few. Coach Tom Hall and his staff went back to work in 2019 and advanced to the Region 5B semi-finals behind first year starting quarterback Roemell Garcia and a slew of talented individuals who gained a lot of experience from the previous year.
Graduation will hit Manchester hard once again as Garcia, Isaiah Todd, Andrew Crawley (Wagner), James Bell (Shepard), Patrick Watson, Shamar Figueroa (Shenandoah) won’t be back in the fall. However, Coach Hall still has a healthy mix of talent, depth, and experiencing returning in 2020. Players to keep tabs on include LB Brandon Flippen, WR Deonte Hill, QB Cody Shelton, and LB/WR Ben Newton. Newton announced on Twitter that he will be enrolling at Manchester for his senior season after spending his first three years at Blessed Sacrament Huguenot. (Byron)
7. Benedictine Cadets (10-2)
7. Louisa County Lions (11-1)
Our second private school to enter the way too recruit804 Power 10, Benedictine powered through a difficult schedule to finish the season with its third VISAA Division I state title since 2014. Head coach Greg Lilly was named Coach of the Year and Malik James shared Player of the Year honors with Jeff Moore (St. Christopher’s School).
Nine prospects from Benedictine grabbed All-State honors including Nick Turner, Brian Daughtry, and Christian Dunn. Slated to return next season for the Cadets will be starting quarterback and UVA commit Jay Woolfolk. He’ll be joined by Henry Dolan, Anthony Fisher, Joel Starlings, and Nick Neighbors. If you think the Cadets were solid last season, wait until they come out in August. (Brandon)
Louisa’s 2019 season ended the same way their 2018 season ended… In heartbreak. The Lions held the #1 seed in both years and were stunned in the second round by #4 seeds Eastern View and Patrick Henry. Although the Lions haven’t had much post-season success over the past two seasons, they are a proud program with great athletes and should never be taken lightly.
Quarterback Landon Wilson returns for his sophomore season after suffering a season ending injury late in the season. Wilson possesses a big arm and I expect Coach Patrick to let him show it off this fall. Robert Morgan IV will be the workhorse carrying a majority of the load out of the backfield with the departure of Xavien Hunter (Apprentice School) and Jarett Hunter (Howard). Louisa will also be tasked with replacing Alex Washington (William and Mary) and Noah Robinson (ODU). (Byron)
8. Deep Run Wildcats (12-1)
8. Dinwiddie Generals (7-6)
How masterful was the performance of Deep Run last season? It was good enough to leave them with an undefeated (regular) season and into postseason play. Without a shadow of a doubt, 2019 was the best season head coach Chad Hornik has collected while at Deep Run.
It was just the second time in school history that the Wildcats were able to finish the regular season without a blemish and the second time they’ve at least reached the Region 5B semi-finals. Starting quarterback Bo Kite was sensational after going 61-of-124 for 1,006 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also posted 1,222 yards on the ground and 28 additional touchdowns. Unfortunately, for the rest of the Colonial District he’ll be back for his senior season alongside Alva Rose, Carter Foy, Henry Blankenship, and Gabe Henderson. Prepare for the Wildcats to be a dangerous outing next season. (Brandon)Dinwiddie showed a lot of resolve in 2019. The Generals stumbled out to a 1-3 record before finishing the regular season 5-5, clinching the #7 seed in the Division 4 Region B playoffs.
Dinwiddie upset #2 Monacan and #3 Eastern View before falling to #4 Patrick Henry in the regional finals. Robert Barlow (Bridgewater) and D’Anta Johnson (ECU) are gone but Dinwiddie return play makers in quarterback Brenton Hilton, WR Cedric Drumgoole, and LB’s Zach Weaver and Christopher Parham. (Byron)
9. St. Christopher’s School Saints (10-2)
9. Benedictine Cadets (10-2)
Private schools need love too and St. Christopher’s School was one of the best in all of Virginia last season. After being a “middle of the road” team from 2012 to 2017, head coach Lance Clelland and his coaching staff put the Saints in a position last season to play for a VISAA state title for just the first time since taking over in 2014.
The Saints are preparing to say goodbye to Will Tazewell, Jeb Wickham, Gill Williamson, Walker Wallace, Hank Feiler, Jeff Moore, Hayden Forrest, and Jack Siewers. However, look forward to tracking the progress of Trent Hendrick, Andre Greene, Nikkos Kovanes, Brooks Council, and Mac Grant among others. With the amount of talent coming back for St. Christopher’s next season, look for them to be right back at the top of Division I alongside Benedictine. (Brandon)
The Cadets knocked off St. Christopher 14-6 in VISAA Division I state title game behind the arm and legs of Jay Woolfolk (UVA). Coach Greg Lilly will be tasked with replacing defensive linemen Jack Hall (Delaware), Malik James (West Point), and linebacker Christian Dunn (VMI), but with Woolfolk back in the saddle for one more season, don’t be surprised if the Cadets repeat as champions. (Byron)
10. Goochland Bulldogs (12-2)
10. Thomas Jefferson Vikings (11-3)
I was at Wanner Field at the start of last season to watch Goochland take on Lafayette in what was thought of early to be a possible Class 3 playoff preview. It went wonderful for head coach Andy Linn and the Rams. However, for the Bulldogs, their 33-0 loss was the first time they had been shut out of a regular season game since October 17, 2003. Goochland carried that ball of fire from the pit of its stomach all the way to the Class 3 state semi-finals losing to Hopewell, 35-28.
It was the closest any team got to beating the Blue Devils all of last year and the most points Hopewell had given up all year. Credit Alex Fruth and his coaching staff for not allowing his men to get caught up in the past and reminding them of who they were. Goochland will miss its star defensive back Devin McCray who helped lead the Bulldogs to a 52-5 record while he was there including a 31-1 record at home and three state semi-final appearances. However, expect Kameron Holman, De’Andre Robinson, Will Stratton, and Ayden Doczi among others to help the Bulldogs challenge for Class 3 supremacy. (Brandon)
Thomas Jefferson made history last season, capturing the school’s first regional championship and appeared in its first state semi-final game. The Vikings will rely heavily on the play making abilities of receiver Jaylen Jones, who racked up 1,369 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns. He currently holds offers from the likes of UVA, Duke, Wake Forest, ECU, Pitt, and ODU. (Byron)
On the bubble(Brandon): Patrick Henry (Ashland), Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Dale, and Monacan.
On the bubble (Byron): Monacan, Clover Hill, Patrick Henry (Ashland), Thomas Dale, St. Christopher’s School, and Life Christian Academy.
– Brandon Mitchell