It’s Week 11 of the high school football season, and the regular season comes to a close tonight. Here’s a look at where area teams stand heading into the Virginia High School League playoffs.

Who’s hot

Heritage. The Pioneers are 8-1 entering tonight’s home game against Liberty Christian and have reeled off eight straight victories, currently the best winning streak among area teams. They can wrap up the Seminole District regular-season title tonight with a win. There could be a three-way share of the title; LCA would have to defeat Heritage and E.C. Glass take down Brookville for that scenario to take place. 

More importantly, Heritage has a chance to earn home-field advantage throughout the first four weeks of the postseason. That’s exactly what the reigning Class 3 state champs did last year.

Watch out for Heritage this time of year. Under coach Brad Bradley, the Pioneers own a 17-6 playoff record. They’ve won nine playoff games in the last two seasons alone.

E.C. Glass. The Hilltoppers (8-1) shouldn’t hang their heads after the one-point loss to Heritage. It took overtime to topple the area’s No. 1 team, and Glass didn’t suffer any major breakdowns to its stellar defense.

The loss sent the ‘Toppers down one spot to No. 3 in Region 4D. But they can move back to No. 2 tonight if they defeat Brookville, and if Pulaski (currently No. 2) loses to top-ranked Salem. Moving back to No. 2 to would effectively negate the loss to HHS, at least from the standpoint of power points.

Glass reeled off eight straight victories to begin the season, something no midtown team had done since 1995. (ECG won eight straight last year, too, but not until after an early season loss to HHS).

All signs point to ECG getting back on track for a deep playoff run, because the weaknesses are few and far between. It’s unlikely Glass can overtake Salem for the region’s top spot, but a No. 2 seed would guarantee the midtown group of at least two home playoff games, and maybe more.

Appomattox. Coach Doug Smith engineered a masterful campaign. After dropping two of their first three, the Raiders looked destined for trouble in Region 2C and in the Dogwood District. But Appomattox can push its winning streak to seven games with a win over Nelson tonight. ACHS ruled the Dogwood again and is at the top of Region 2C, which means home-field advantage through the first four weeks of the playoffs. So get ready for another thrilling postseason, Raiders fans.

Gretna. Yes, the Hawks (6-3) have lost two of their last four. But there are plenty of reasons to hope for a lengthy postseason. Two of their three losses were by one point (to Radford and Thomas Jefferson-Richmond). The other was a 21-7 loss to Appomattox.

Gretna enters tonight’s game at Chatham at No. 3 in Region 2C, with a chance to leapfrog Radford for the second spot. Stay in the top four after tonight and GHS is guaranteed a first-round home game. Jumping Radford for No. 2 would be ideal, though, and would give the Dogwood the top two spots in the region.

And that run-based attack could pose problems for the opposition moving forward. Gretna’s biggest challenge: learn to close out the close ones.

Biggest surprise

Liberty Christian. The Bulldogs were ranked No. 7 in this newspaper’s preseason poll but have flexed their muscles in the Seminole behind a new defense and potent spread offense. They’re currently 5-1 in the district (7-2 overall) and sit behind only Heritage and Glass.

At a comfortable No. 3 in Region 3C, LCA is looking at the strong possibility of a first-round home game for the playoffs. Defeat Heritage tonight and it could potentially unseat Spotswood at No. 2 if the Trailblazers lose.

On the bubble

For three local squads, a lot depends on a combination of winning tonight and waiting for the outcome of other bubble squads in their regions.

Rustburg, Liberty and Nelson County could all still make playoff berths.

Of the three, Rustburg has the best chance to squeeze into the eight-team field in Region 3C. The Red Devils (3-6) are currently 10th in the region behind Fluvanna (ninth), Fort Defiance (eighth) and Western Albemarle (seventh). The eighth spot is still up for grabs because of how close all four teams are in power points. Rustburg and Fluvanna both have 18.2 points, Fort Defiance 18.6 and Western Albemarle 19.0. So there will be some shakeup after tonight’s games.

The Red Devils can buoy their chances by defeating Jefferson Forest. JF could have its hands full with RHS’ defense, touted as one of the best in the area. And quarterback Jaidian Johnson is back from a Week 2 injury.

Things are more precarious for Liberty. The Minutemen (1-8) are in 12th place in 3C with 16.1 points. One win won’t cut it in the region this year, so LHS will have to defeat Amherst tonight and hope for a host of other things to fall its way in order to squeak in the field.

Nelson (4-5) is 10th in Region 2C right now. While a playoff berth isn't mathematically impossible, the Governors would need to defeat Appomattox tonight, which would be the upset of the year.  

On the road

Brookville, Jefferson Forest, Amherst and Altavista are all facing the strong possibility of first-round road games next week.

The Bees (4-5) are sixth in Region 3C and are unlikely to get into the top 4. If the playoffs began today, BHS would travel to LCA next week.

In Region 4D, JF (5-4) could head to Pulaski for a first-round game or, depending how things shake out in Region 4D, could play Salem or E.C. Glass in the first round. Forest is in seventh place right now.

Amherst gets in by virtue of 4D featuring only eight teams. The 1-8 Lancers will be the eighth seed and likely face the winner of tonight’s Salem vs. Pulaski matchup.

A quick rematch?

It looks as if Altavista (3-6) will be the sixth seed in Region 1B. There’s a possibility the Colonels could head to William Campbell next week. If so, it would be the second time in as many weeks the two teams have met.

Campbell (4-5) is staring at first-round home-field advantage for the third straight season. The Generals are No. 3 in 1B and can enter the playoffs at .500 with a victory tonight.

Who’s out

Staunton River. It’s been another rebuilding year in Moneta under first-year coach Shaun Leonard, and the only victory came against an injury-plagued Liberty squad. Unless SRHS can pull off an improbable upset against Northside, the one-win campaign will include a streak of seven straight losses, giving the Golden Eagles a combined 1-19 record the last two seasons.

SRHS is currently 10th in Region 3D, where the top eight teams advance. They’re also 2.3 points away from the eighth-place team, William Byrd, meaning the possibilities of getting in the playoffs are extremely thin.

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Ben Cates covers high school sports for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5527. 

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