The VHSL officially announced Central Region playoff pairings on Sunday, as eight region teams hit the field to battle for a championship. Hermitage and Lee-Davis have earned the top seeds, the Panthers in Division 6, the Confederates in Division 5. Below are previews of Friday's match-ups:
(4) L.C. Bird vs. (1) Hermitage: This first round match-up pairs two teams that are a perfect 10-0 in 2012 and a rematch of the 2011 Central Region title game. The Panthers have been the giants of the Central Region. They're riding a 33 game Central Region winning streak and are in search of their third straight Central Region title. Patrick Kane's squad has only given up 74 total points the entire season, while scoring 453. That 453 points scored by the Panthers is the most scored in a season by a Hermitage team since 2007, and that includes playoff games in each of those past seasons. Offensively, quarterback Niko Johnson, running back Derrick Green and wide receiver Brian Brown have been the main weapons for the Panthers.
The Skyhawks may be one of the lone teams that can hang with Hermitage defensively. David Bedwell's defensive unit has only given up 47 points in ten games this year. Offensively, the 12-time defending Dominion District Champions are enjoying Terrence Ervin and the new-found passing attack he has brought to the team. Only three of Bird's games were decided by single digits, compared to Hermitage's one.
(3) Meadowbrook vs. (2) Varina: Two 9-1 teams meet in this game. Varina earned a spot in the postseason with a 20-0 win over Highland Springs in the final game of the regular season. Both the Blue Devils' offense and defense have shown the ability to step up this season. The shutout against Highland Springs has Stu Brown hoping his defensive squad is peaking at the right time, while the offense has put up at least 37 points in five games this season. Quarterback Brandon Wood, wide receivers PT Dixon and Donovan Dowling, along with running back Herb Anderson are the biggest threats at the skill positions, with Tim Harris a solid cornerback on defense.
Last year, 9-1 wasn't good enough to get Meadowbrook in, but 2012 sees the Monarchs dancing. Their lone loss was to Highland Springs in their second game of the year and since then, they've earned their first outright Central District title in school history. Dual threat quarterback Gerard Johnson makes Meadowbrook tick, and Troy Taylor's team has won every district game by double-digits.
(4) Hanover vs. (1) Lee-Davis: Two 7-3 district rivals rematch in this Division 5 playoff game. Defense was on display when these two met in Week 8, where the Confederates took the 10-6 victory. Zac Hayden and his club have been in some close ones this year, topping Hopewell, 21-20, Patrick Henry, 27-20, Hanover by the close four point margin, and falling to Highland Springs by a field goal in triple overtime. LD has out-scored opponents 255-218 so far this year, so the Confederates are battle-tested.
Hanover is defending its region title. Sam Rogers is back and healthy which helps the Hawks efforts, and L.J. Jones has been a consistent solid running back for Josh Just the entire season. Donte Haynesworth has emerged as Hanover's top receiver and has made some big catches during the course of the season. The Hawks' three losses have come by a combined total of eight points, so the difference between Hanover going undefeated and potentially missing the playoffs turned out to be razor-thin.
(3) Hopewell vs. (2) Dinwiddie: These two 7-3 teams played in Week 9, with Dinwiddie holding on for the 28-21 win. The Generals are making their sixth consecutive trip to the playoffs and have won five straight games. Sadarius Williams has been called the best running back in the region by several opposing coaches, but he sat out the regular season finale after suffering a leg injury against Hopewell the week before. Williams is expected back for Friday's region semifinal. Quarterback Ronald Kearney has proven to be dangerous with his arm and his legs, and Rashad Goodwyn has been solid defensively for the Generals.
Hopewell is back in the playoffs for the first time since 2004, the last time the Blue Devils enjoyed a winning season before this year. Reggie Butler has played almost every skill position on the field for Ricky Irby, and Octavious Taylor has been a good weapon at quarterback and wide receiver. Tabyus Taylor has also been a reliable receiver for the Devils, who have lost seven games in a row to Dinwiddie.
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