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A month of sweat, a summer of dedication and a year of speculation will come to a head when the three county football teams enter the season’s fray this Friday evening.
Jefferson Forest and Staunton River will both be entertaining, while Liberty will hit the road.
The Cavs will host highly- regarded Northside. The Golden Eagles will get a visit from Cave Spring.
The Minutemen will take the two-and-a-half hour trip to face Broadway.
All of the games are highly anticipated, being the first games of the season and all.
The Forest-Northside game looks to be the best matchup of the bunch.
The Vikings are favored to win the Blue Ridge. See a review of Northside in the Preps Preview section of this paper.
They are a team with some seriously fast and seriously large players. In the Northside-Liberty scrimmage last Friday night, at Liberty, the Minutemen held their own against the Vikes, scoring two touchdowns to Northside’s one.
With the exception of two plays, Liberty’s defense held the Vikings’ speed game in check.
Those two plays resulted in one touchdown for Northside and a near-TD on the last play between the starters. (Starters played for a half, and then the second and third strings took over.)
Liberty showed some speed of its own. Quarterback Kody Outhong broke through the two-hole off the option and sprinted 62 yards for a touchdown.
Near the end of play, Derek Anderson scooped up a wayward lateral and blazed 45 yards, inside the 10-yard line.
From there, Tyler Bowyer bulled his way in to the end zone on a quarterback keeper.
The upshot? Liberty seems to have a slew of talent, can move the ball and has a stout defense.
Of course, scrimmage is one thing, the real game is another.
That’s where Northside might break out.
The Vikings should take notice, however, that the Cavs shut out AAA William Fleming last Friday night.
The Colonels could barely muster a threat against a very aggressive and swarming Cav defense.
Meanwhile, the halfback tandem of Rashad Hall and Jeff Brown accounted for both of JF’s touchdowns, each plowing into the end zone.
It’s difficult to call a game a “must win” when it is the first of the season.
A Northside loss would not be devastating for the Vikes. As the team is Division 3, it doesn’t have to rack up as impressive a record as does JF, a Division 4 squad.
A Cav loss would be a huge setback to any aspirations the team has (and trust us, it has fairly large aspirations).
Liberty, meanwhile, will take that I-81 drive to the bright lights of Broadway.
The Minutemen know little about the Gobblers, other than what they’ve gleaned from film and from scouting reports.
The Gobblers seem to like to spread out their offense, as the Minutemen have taken to doing, at times, over the past couple of years.
Last year’s version of Broadway finished 4-6 after opening up with three straight wins.
The Gobblers are a small group, though Liberty isn’t exactly gigantic. Broadway is reputed to have some speed, particularly in halfback Joel Phillips. Liberty has speed to spare.
Even if the Minutemen look better on paper, they need to remember that Broadway kids have a reputation for giving their all and for outplaying expectations.
If you get that team down, you have to keep your foot on its collective neck.
Staunton River looks to get off on a positive note when it hosts Cave Spring.
The good news for the Eagles is that they’ll be playing a team that has gone 2-8 the last three seasons.
The bad news is that the Knights have beaten the Golden Eagles in each of those past three seasons.
Nonetheless, the River Ridge District-resident Knights represent one of the best opportunities (on paper) that the Eagles have had for a win in quite some time.
The game may wind up being a test of how much this Eagle team learned from its heartbreaking, overtime loss to Rustburg in the final contest of the season.
At a minimum, it will serve as a test to see how SRHS’s Head Coach Rick Witt’s enthusiastic and engaged approach is catching on at the school, the coach’s alma mater.