Highland Springs head coach Loren Johnson (Photo: Joe Barnes/recruit757)
Playoff bids are on the line as Highland Springs faces Varina
by Byron Jones, recruit804
#1 Highland Springs (5-0) vs. #9 Varina (4-1) Friday, 7:00 p.m.
Highland Springs holds a 32-19-1 record over Varina. The 19th loss to the Blue Devils is the one that stings the most. On November 22nd,2019, Highland Springs saw its 40-game winning streak and bid for an unprecedented fifth consecutive state title come to an end at the hands of Varina in the Region 5B semifinals. Today marks 497 days since these two have duked it out.
Tonight’s game has a lot on the line for both programs. Highland Springs wants to avenge their last loss to Varina, lock up a playoff spot, and continue their ascension back up the mountain of Class 5 football. Varina needs a win to get into the playoffs, and they want to prove to the state that their win over the Springers in 2019 wasn’t a fluke. The Blue Devils want to put everyone on notice that they too play football on the other side of Laburnum.
Highland Springs began the season outscoring its first three opponents 133-9. They had a scare from Deep Run in the fourth game of the season but managed to hold on for the 21-15 victory. Offensively, the Springers enter tonight’s contest averaging 38.8 points/game. They’ve utilized a two-quarterback system with time being split between Juwan Dent (18/41 256 yards 4 TD’s 3 INT’s) and Khaliyl Nasir (41/65 493 yards 2 TD’s INT). The team’s leading rusher is Saint Francis University signee Jordan Jackson. Jackson has rushed for 416 yards on 55 carries (7.6 ypc) and 7TD’s.
The Springers have a deep receiving corps led by Quanye Veney. Veney has hauled in 16 receptions for 190 yards and a touchdown. Notable receivers include Michael Hodge (14 receptions 176 yards 2TD’s), Latrell Sutton (9 receptions 132 yards TD), and Christian Robinson (6 receptions 87 yards TD).
On defense, Highland Springs is giving up a mere 4.8 points/game. The teams leading tackler is Victor Wilson. He’s recorded 25 tackles and a sack. Other standout defensive performers include Boston College signee Jamareeh “Bugg” Jones (22 tackles), Oklahoma signees Damon Harmon (7 tackles 2 INT’S) and Kelvin Gilliam (20 tackles, three sacks, two forced fumbles), and Daquan Giles (18 tackles, forced fumble, block, INT).
After being shut out 9-0 against Hermitage in week one, Varina has thrashed everyone in their way. They are averaging 30.6 points/game on offense and everything runs through quarterback Bobby Dunn. Dunn, who was not 100% against Hermitage, has thrown for 471 yards and 5 touchdowns. On the ground, he’s added 209 yards and 2 TDs.
JMU signee Jailin Walker leads the team in rushing. He’s rushed for 596 yards on 56 carries (10.6ypc) and 7TD’s. The Blue Devils’ leading receivers are Isaiah Reid (12 receptions 202 yards TD) and Carlo Thompson (7 receptions 153 yards 3 TD’s).
Defensively, Varina is giving up just 4.6 points/game. They are led by Jalen Murphy who has notched 37.5 tackles, three fumble recoveries, and three pass breakups. Catawba signee Quincy “Q” Jefferson has posted 20.5 tackles, seven pass breakups, and an INT for a touchdown. Other key contributors on defense include BJ Lowery (9.5 tackles, two forced fumbles, six pass breakups, INT), Jaiden Carthorn (13.5 tackles), Leo Peterson (15 tackles, two forced fumbles, sack), and Omarion Robinson (11 tackles).
KEYS TO VICTORY
Highland Springs cannot afford a slow start offensively. With the exception of Godwin, Tucker, and Henrico, the Springers have been shaky on that side of the ball at times. They trailed Glen Allen 9-7 at the half before they erupted for 28 unanswered points. Against Deep Run, they only led 14-8 at half after scoring just once on offense. The other touchdown came from a blocked punt. The talent and weapons on that side of the ball are there. It comes down to execution and that’s something they will have to do if they want to win.
Varina’s offense will have its work cut out for them against the Springer defense. The Blue Devils haven’t played a stout defense like Highland Springs since Hermitage. It will be important for them to control the ball and clock.
My final key to the game is composure. Emotions will be high for both squads due to the nature of the rivalry and what’s at stake. Mistakes will be made by both but whoever can recover from the highs and lows of the game will win.
Kickoff is set for 7:00PM. I will be onsite covering the contest. Be sure to follow recruit804 on Facebook and Twitter for scoring updates. Post-game review to follow.
– Byron Jones