The Bay Rivers District advanced five schools to this week's Region I football playoff semifinals and is assured of at least one finalist: the winner of the Poquoson-York game in Division 3. Any other Bay Rivers District team to reach the finals must survive a difficult challenge from a Battlefield District team out of Fredericksburg.
The marquee matchup of the week pits Lafayette at James Monroe in the other Division 3 semifinal on Friday. Both have been ranked in The Associated Press top 10 this season — JM, at No. 4, still is — and are considered talented enough to advance deep in the state playoffs.
"Lafayette is the best team we've seen or have seen on film," JM coach Richard Serbay said. "They're well coached, have good size and move the ball in a variety of ways out of the Wing T.
"They run inside, run outside and can throw. They're like us in that way, except we do those things out of the spread.
Lafayette coach Andy Linn sees one big difference.
"James Monroe is fast," he said. "They have a ton of speed.
"It's going to take a sound effort and ball-control for us to win this one."
Below is a brief look at the four Region I semifinal games. Three are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday, with the Chancellor-Grafton game set for 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Bailey Field.
LAFAYETTE (8-2) VS. JAMES MONROE (10-0)
Both feature an all-regional caliber rusher, although JM's is a speed guy and Lafayette's more a power guy. JM's Ethan Preston has 1,524 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns, while Lafayette fullback Will Capers has 1,381 yards and 15 TDs.
Lafayette, though a Wing-T team, might pass a little more, particularly to Virginia Tech recruit Thomas Smith (36 catches, 879 yards, 13 TDs). But JM will use any number of speedy receivers on sweeps, none more than Adarius Brown (16 carries, 309 yards, eight TDs).
Lafayette is a much better defensive team this year than last. Ditto for a JM team, whose swarming linebackers lead a defense far better than the one that lost to Poquoson in last year's regional final.
"I think we're a much better team overall," said Serbay, who guided JM to the 2008 state title. "We're more experienced and have more ability to break the big play."
Lafayette will be helped by the return of two linemen who start both ways, Peter Hurst and Carlos Coronado, after missing last week's playoff win over Park View with injuries. They'll be needed against a JM team averaging 51 points and allowing 10.
POQUOSON (8-3) AT YORK (10-0)
Poquoson is playing much better football than it was in a turnover-plagued 42-21 loss midway through the season. The defense is vastly improved and the Islanders have dominated possession in some impressive wins, in particular the 27-10 upset of Lafayette.
The ball-control blueprint is one the Islanders' Wing-T will want to use on Friday at York, because the Falcons can make the best of defenses look ordinary. York is averaging 40 points and 391 yards — 221 on the ground and 170 in the air.
CHANCELLOR (7-4) AT GRAFTON (7-3)
Chancellor switched this season from a grind-it-out offense to more wide-open spread and pistol sets. With QB Edwin Jackson at the controls, the Chargers transitioned well enough to make the playoffs.
"Chancellor surprised a lot of us by doing that, but they did it well," Serbay said. "Jackson runs the ball well on the keeper and throws with good accuracy in the 10-to-15-yard range."
Grafton is riding a hot defense, led Bay Rivers Defensive Player of the Year Dylan Stallings (29.5 tackles for loss). The Clippers have allowed just 26 points in their past five games.
WARHILL (7-4) AT COURTLAND (7-3)
Warhill must deal with a Wing-T team similar to Lafayette in that Courtland can pass — QB Nick Zaluzney has thrown for 1,119 yards and nine TDs — and run. Cougars RB Kirk Wilson has rushed for 804 yards and 14 TDs.
Warhill was a run-oriented team throughout the regular season, but turned to the pass in a 21-15 win over Jamestown in the first round of the playoffs. Seth Thompson threw touchdown passes of 52, 41 and 67 yards to explosive Devonte Dedmon in the victory.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun