Amherst County Football Practice 2

Xavier Ellis (left) runs a drill during a practice Amherst County High School on Aug. 21, 2019. 

Salem at Amherst

KICKOFF: 7 p.m.

FACTS: Amherst is coming off its worst season since 1988, when it won just one time. The 2018 season produced just one victory, too. But here’s the thing: Amherst had talent last year. It came close to knocking off several teams under interim coach Jeff Crews, who was thrown into the position of head coach two weeks before the start of the season. Now the Bob Christmas-led Lancers are out to put the past to bed. The first three out-of-district contests are brutal. It all starts tonight with Salem, continues in Week 2 with GW-Danville and concludes with Blacksburg. The Spartans are coming off a 7-4 season after reeling off three straight state titles from 2015 through ’17. But the biggest Salem news came in the offseason with the departure of 15-year head coach Stephen Magenbauer, who stepped away after leading SHS to five state titles. Watch for ACHS quarterback CJ Rose, who is slated for a breakout season.

Lord Botetourt at Brookville

KICKOFF: 7 p.m.

RADIO: 94.1 FM, 580 AM

FACTS: The season begins with a top-notch test. Lord Botetourt is widely regarded as the team to beat in Class 3 this fall. It’s easy to see why. LB returns firepower on offense after falling to Heritage 42-39 in the state semifinals last year. The Bees specifically will have to counter against Division I recruit Hunter Rice, a 6-foot running back who burned Heritage for 284 rushing yards in a playoff game last year. Rice holds offers from Virginia Tech, UVa, Liberty and Coastal Carolina. Brookville is trying to sew up its weaknesses after two disappointing scrimmages. There have been flashes of brilliance in the postseason, but BHS needs to clean up the mistakes. Jared Glinski takes his first step forward as commander of the offense tonight. The senior gunslinger and runner is BHS’ new quarterback. He has some speedy targets out there. And Brookville’s Ryan North is another brawny back who could take over tonight’s game.

Vance (N.C.) at Heritage

KICKOFF: 7 p.m.

RADIO: 102.1 FM

FACTS: Win and Heritage reaches something akin to immortality tonight. Not that the stakes are high; this is, after all, just the first game of the season. But the challenge is daunting. Vance is a favorite for the North Carolina 4AA crown after serving as runner-up in that division one year ago. Heritage is the reigning Class 3 champ but doesn’t come close to sporting the number of Division I-caliber athletes Vance possesses. Still, coach Brad Bradley has made one thing clear: The Pioneers won’t quit, no matter the score.

Franklin County at Liberty

KICKOFF: 7 p.m.

FACTS: Liberty has won the last two meetings by more than two touchdowns. This is a matchup that used to take place every year in the early 2000s and was renewed in 2015 after an 11-year lull. Franklin County has been unpredictable in recent years, going from winless in 2015 to hovering around .500 the next two seasons. Then, in 2018, the Eagles finished 7-5 and went to the second round of the playoffs. The Minutemen have savvy playmakers in Carlos Lorenzo, John Gass and Cortarius Gilmore, but the lines are young. So expect a few growing pains as LHS players adjust to the varsity ranks. The Minutemen are coming off a 7-6 season that propelled them to the Region 3C title game.

Bassett at Rustburg

KICKOFF: 7 p.m.

FACTS: Fans get a first glimpse at Rustburg’s retooled option offense tonight. It’s a move away from the spread, and coaches implemented it to fit the type of players moving through the program right now. Iron out the kinks and Rustburg has a chance to be a dangerous team in 2019. RHS has beaten Bassett by double digits the last two years. Armed with two capable running backs in Tre Tucker and Jaylin Johnson, a budding QB in Jaidian Johnson and large lines, RHS should roll tonight. Bassett features a handful of returners from last year’s 3-7 team that scored a signature win over a lackluster Magna Vista squad. Rustburg looks to have too much firepower tonight.

Staunton River at William Campbell

KICKOFF: 7 p.m.

FACTS: There are plenty of unknowns in this one. The history between Staunton River and William Campbell, separated by 45 miles, has been sporadic. Most recently, the two schools met in 2013 and ’14, splitting a pair of games. Before that, they met from 1990 through 1995, renewing a series that hadn’t been played regularly since the mid-1970s. Danny Broggin’s Generals have plenty of firepower and are big on the lines. The Golden Eagles begin their rebuild under first-year coach Shaun Leonard, who is installing the Wing-T. Watch for SRHS tailback Jacob Kirtley, back after missing 2018 with a torn ACL. For William Campbell, keep an eye on running back Jordan Young, who put up 1,129 yards one year ago, and quarterback Jermiah Smith (1,534 passing yards in ’18).

Appomattox at Buckingham

KICKOFF: 7 p.m.

RADIO: 105.1 FM, 1050 AM

FACTS: The Battle of the Axe always has gone through phases during the last two decades. Appomattox has owned Buckingham for the last four seasons, putting up 44 points one year ago and 63 the year prior. The Knights turned the corner by garnering six victories last season under first-year coach and former Raider Seth Wilkerson. As of last week’s scrimmage against Liberty Christian, Appomattox still was working out the kinks, subbing in backups and moving players around on offense and defense to find patterns that work. The Raiders enter the season having won four of their last five games.

Altavista at Central Lunenburg

KICKOFF: 7 p.m.

RADIO: 105.5 FM

FACTS: A year ago, Altavista recorded just four wins, mostly against hapless teams with no more than one win. The exception: Central Lunenburg. The Colonels opened the 2018 season on a strong note with a tight, 21-17 victory over the fellow Class 1 team. Altavista has won three straight over Lunenburg, winning in the teams’ season opener each time. So Lunenburg, which finished with a 6-5 record in 2018, will be champing at the bit for tonight’s rematch. For Altavista, the most important task is winning the battle in the trenches. The Colonels feature a few big bodies on the offensive line. If those guys can open up holes, athletic backs such as Christian Gilbert, Jayllen Jones, JaQuallen Jones and Ronchess Graves can pick up yardage in big chunks. Defensively, the Colonels biggest test comes in the form of Lunenburg running back T’Zion Wilkerson. At 5-10, 207, Wilkerson is quick and tough and can break away for 100-plus yards if the Colonels aren’t careful.

Magna Vista at Liberty Christian

KICKOFF: 7:30 p.m.

FACTS: Neither of these teams is short on talent. For Magna Vista, quarterback Dryus Hairston and wide receiver Isaac Ellison rose to the top of the Piedmont District, and running back/defensive back Louis Taylor became one of a handful of players in recent years to commit to play for a Division I program. Liberty Christian, meanwhile, features the potent combination of quarterback Josh Nelson and receiver Tyler Rose. The two connected for nearly 1,000 yards a season ago, and, after working to increase both their strength and speed in the offseason, could bruise opponents again. While Magna Vista proved it could hang with big, tough teams a year ago, it will look to finish the job and open the season with a quality win against an opponent that competes against the best in the state in the Seminole District, and LCA looks to start anew after ending 2018 with five straight losses.

Nelson at Randolph-Henry

KICKOFF: 7 p.m.

FACTS: Nelson will face several tough tests this season as it ends its stint competing as an independent and moves back to the Dogwood District. There, the Governors will meet stronger, more experienced heavyweights. Tonight’s opener against Randolph-Henry, however, should serve as an easy transition. Unlike their future opponents, Randolph-Henry is on a similar playing field to the Governors. The Statesmen have won a combined four games in the past three years, picking up just one win a season ago. Nelson posted three wins in each of the past two years, a feat it hadn’t accomplished in a decade. Both teams feature the run prominently in their offenses, so Nelson’s ability to connect in the passing game could be the difference. Quarterback George Brown should look often for senior receiver Brice Wilson often in hopes of also opening up options for running backs Aveon Tabb and Felix Rodriguez. For Randolph-Henry, Danny Parrish is a threat after picking up more than 500 rushing yards a season ago.

— Compiled by Ben Cates and Emily Brown

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— Compiled by Ben Cates and Emily Brown

Emily Brown covers the Hillcats, ODAC and high school sports for The News & Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5529.

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