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Cumberland District

Twin Springs at Castlewood

Last meeting: Castlewood 14, Twin Springs 8 (Oct. 5, 2018 in Nickelsville, Va.)

Few folks in the preseason probably counted on these two teams having a winning record entering this contest and whoever is victorious in this matchup will receive a major boost to their playoff hopes. … Twin Springs (4-2) has quadrupled its win total from a season ago, while Castlewood (3-2) has matched its victory count from 2018. … Castlewood’s relentless rushing attack is piling up 222.8 yards per game and the Blue Devils have attempted just 44 passes all season. … Corbin Kilgore (678 rushing yards, nine touchdowns), Mason Elliott (320 passing yards, six TD passes) and Conner Gilmer (32 tackles) are among the statistical leaders for Twin Springs. Six of wide receiver Christian Hinkle’s receptions have resulted in touchdowns. … The task for the Titans will be to slow down Castlewood’s running backs. “We will have to be focused and stay at home on defense,” said Twin Springs coach Keith Warner. “They want to run the ball right at ya, mixed with some misdirection. We will prepare and be ready to read our keys on defense. It’s a big game for both programs, so both teams are going to come out fighting hard.”

Prediction: Castlewood 24, Twin Springs 16

Rye Cove at Eastside

Last meeting: Eastside 47, Rye Cove 6 (Oct. 5, 2018 in Coeburn, Va.)

It’s been a long year for both these squads as injuries and the inability to consistently get stops on defense have plagued the Eagles and Spartans. … Opponents have put up 41.8 points per game on Rye Cove, while scoring at a 47 point-per-game clip against Eastside. … Evan Bellmay leads Eastside with 85 tackles through five games. Will Stansberry, Nick Raymond and Grayson Whited have provided a spark on the offensive side of the ball for the crew from Coeburn. … “Eastside is very well-coached and they mix things up on both sides of the ball. They probably have the hardest non-district schedule in Region D,” said Rye Cove coach Cheyenne Osborne. “They have a great linebacker in [Evan] Bellamy. We will need to know where he is all night.”

Prediction: Eastside 44, Rye Cove 22

Northeastern Conference

Sullivan Central at Sullivan East

Last meeting: Sullivan Central 51, Sullivan East 42 (Oct. 5, 2018, at Blountville, Tenn.)

Two teams in desperate search for wins meet in this one. Sullivan Central snapped a 36-game losing skid with a win over the Patriots last season. The Cougars (1-5) have faced a three-game gauntlet, having been outscored 166-36, including last week’s 70-6 setback to Greeneville. The Patriots (0-6) are still looking for that elusive victory, with four of their six losses coming by a combined 13 points. Look for Will Nottingham and the Cougars to throw the football, while Dylan White, Mason Hayworth and the Patriots will keep it on the ground. These clubs have met every year since 2013, with East winning the first five before the Cougars prevailed last season. This is the definition of a toss-up.

Prediction: Sullivan Central 18, Sullivan East 16

John Battle at Wise County Central

Last meeting: John Battle 20, Wise Central 0 (Oct. 5, 2018 in Bristol, Va.)

John Battle rushed for 146 yards in this game last season behind Juddy Shaffer (109 yards, 2 TDs) while Wise Central lost four fumbles … Four backs have rushed for at least 153 yards for Wise Central, with C.J. Crabtree (739 yards, 11 TDs) setting the pace. Junior Ben Brickey leads the Warriors with 192 yards receiving and 23 tackles. … John Battle, which has been handicapped by injuries, has dropped three straight games since posting a 12-7 win over rival Virginia High. But the Trojans only trailed unbeaten Patrick Henry 14-6 at halftime two weeks ago.

Prediction: Wise Central 28, John Battle 10

Southwest District

Richlands at Tazewell

Last meeting: Richlands 34, Tazewell 0 (Oct. 5, 2018 in Richlands, Va.)

Richlands overpowered the Bulldogs last season with a 295-yard rushing effort. … After opening the season with a 1-3 record, Richlands made a statement last week by compiling 448 total yards in a 45-28 win over previously unbeaten Radford. The Blue Tornado features senior quarterback Cade Simmons (767 yards passing, 187 rushing), 6-2 junior running back Logan Steele (435 yards rushing) and sophomore receiver Sage Webb. Simmons, who is playing football for the first time since his freshman year, has authored one of the top stories in far Southwest Virginia. … Tazewell has been decimated by injuries. The Bulldogs have lost their top two running backs among other setbacks but have averaged 31 points en route to three straight wins.

Prediction: Richlands 28, Tazewell 0

Non-District

Honaker at J.I. Burton

Last meeting: J.I. Burton 37, Honaker 33 (Oct. 5, 2018 in Honaker, Va.)

This is a crucial game as valuable Region 1D playoff power points are at stake. … J.I. Burton has won three in a row after an 0-2 start and the winning streak for the Raiders has included wins by scores of 56-20, 41-0 and 48-6. … Esau Teasley (524 rushing yards, seven touchdowns), Mikey Culbertson (seven TDs), Jaymen Buchanan (102.8 passing yards per game) and Najee Steele (12 receptions, 342 yards) have been the leaders for Burton. Culbertson (54 tackles), Xadrian Taybron (37 tackles) and Lonnie Lindsey (28 tackles) have been the tone-setters on the other side of the ball …. “J.I. Burton is like always,” said Honaker boss Doug Hubbard. “Big and fast.” … A rugged rushing attack led by Trevor Dye has been the calling card all season for the Honaker Tigers. “Honaker will be a tough matchup for us,” said J.I. Burton coach Jacob Caudill. “They are well-coached, have size and are usually pretty physical.”

Prediction: J.I. Burton 29, Honaker 24

Northwood at Hurley

Last meeting: First meeting

Hurley might be the most underrated team in Southwest Virginia as the Rebels are averaging 304.6 rushing yards and 30.2 points per game … Matt Blankenship (559 yards, six touchdowns), John Matt Justus (399 yards, four TDs) and Dustin Stinson (324 yards, five TDs) give the Rebels a trio of talented running backs. “Our ground game continues to be our strength,” said Hurley coach Austin Cooper. “Our line play and backs are what we are riding every Friday. They know what they are capable of and know what we expect from them.” … Northwood is struggling as the Panthers have scored just seven touchdowns this season. … Homecoming will be a happy occasion at Hurley.

Prediction: Hurley 48, Northwood 8

River View (W.Va.) at Twin Valley

Last meeting: First meeting

River View (2-5) could be a de facto member of the Black Diamond District as this will be the third game against a BDD opponent for the Raiders in 2019. … River View upset Hurley in triple overtime, while losing a hard-fought game to Grundy earlier this season …. The defense has been decent for Twin Valley, but the Panthers have struggled to be consistent on offense. … River View’s running game could cause Twin Valley problems: “River View is a physical team that runs very hard,” said Twin Valley coach Jeremy Ward. “They have two backs who are very quick. Defensively, they flow hard and don’t miss many tackles.”

Prediction: River View 29, Twin Valley 16

Hancock County at Thomas Walker

Last meeting: Thomas Walker 47, Hancock County 6 (Oct. 5, 2018 in Sneedville, Tenn.)

Thomas Walker is 4-1 and rated second in the latest VHSL Region 1D playoff power point ratings, but head coach Nick Johnson still feels his team hasn’t put together a complete game. … The defense has been solid for the Pioneers with linebacker Jaron Warf (53 tackles) and defensive end Ethan Hounshell (26 tackles) leading the way. … Hancock County has a 3-4 record, but the Indians from Sneedville, Tennessee, are 0-2 against Cumberland District foes. They lost to Rye Cove on Sept. 13 (36-34) and Twin Springs on Sept. 27 (42-34). … This will complete the tri-state portion of Thomas Walker’s schedule. The Pioneers will have played one team from Northeast Tennessee, two squads from Southwest Virginia and three opponents from Kentucky through six games.

Prediction: Thomas Walker 49, Hancock County 22

Virginia High at Abingdon

Last meeting: Abingdon 14, Virginia High 6 (Oct. 5, 2018 in Bristol, Va.)

Abingdon won this game last season behind 75 yards rushing from Martin Lucas and two defensive stands inside its own 10-yard line. …. Lucas (837 yards rushing, 13 TDs continues) to generate impressive numbers behind his large offensive line. The 6-foot-3 junior led the Falcons back from a 19-7 second quarter deficit to Wise County Central last week. The Falcons hold the No. 7 spot in Region 3D points but the closest challengers all have just one just one win. … VHS has been using leading rusher Stevie Thomas at quarterback and running back in recent games. Thomas collected 233 total yards last week against Chilhowie while 6-2 senior receiver Hunter Wright turned in another strong performance.

Prediction: Abingdon 31, Virginia High 14

Lee High at Cumberland Gap, Tenn.

First meeting

After being outscored 203-45 in their first five games, the Cumberland Gap Panthers (1-5) earned a 46-38 win over Wartburg Central last week. The Claiborne County-based Panthers dropped a 35-12 decision to Thomas Walker on Aug. 30. … Lee High has allowed at least 377 yards rushing and 41 points in each game this season, but Bryce Clark is a hitter. Running back Nick Napier and receiver Justice Fannon are also leaders for the Generals.

Prediction: Lee High 28, Cumberland Gap 14

Marion at Gate City

Last meeting: Marion 44, Gate City 39 (Oct. 5, 2018 in Marion, Va.)

Marion edged the Blue Devils in dramatic fashion last season as Tanner Tate connected on a 60-yard touchdown pass with 38 seconds left in the fourth quarter. That was one of three TD connections for the gritty Tate, who has passed for six scores and 780 yards this season. … Gate City has allowed at least 28 points in every game this season. Gate City was able to generate some long drives last week against George Wythe, but the Blue Devils allowed 194 yards rushing and 140 passing.

Prediction: Gate City 31, Marion 21

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