No. 8 Marion (3-7) vs. No. 1 Ridgeview (8-2)
At Wolfpack Stadium, Rose Ridge (Friday, 7 p.m.)
Ridgeview is the obvious favorite.
For the second straight year, the Wolfpack enters the postseason as the top seed in the Region 2D playoff field and as Mountain 7 District co-champions.
NCAA Division I prospect Trenton Adkins continues to demolish opponents with his rushing attack. Last week against Honaker, the Ridgeview junior totaled 171 yards and five touchdowns on fewer than 10 carries.
Senior Alijah Sproles also is a strong force at fullback behind a solid offensive line. Sproles also makes his presence known on defense at his linebacking spot.
Despite his team being the heavy favorite, Ridgeview coach Rick Mullins is taking nothing for granted.
“We need to come off the ball on both sides and try to win the line of scrimmage. They are good on the line,” Mullins said. “We must be aggressive and attack on offense and defense.
“Marion will play hard and we must be ready for anything.”
No. 7 Gate City (4-6) vs. No. 2 Union (8-2)
At Bullitt Park, Big Stone Gap (Friday, 7 p.m.)
You don’t have to look past the regular-season meeting between these teams to know this game will most likely be a close one. Union held off a pesky Gate City squad for a 28-14 win on the way to the Mountain 7 District co-championship.
Gate City travels back to Bullitt Park and will once again look for the upset against Travis Turner’s vaunted Bears.
“Union is a well-coached football team,” said Gate City coach Jeremy Houseright. “Coach Turner and his staff do an unbelievable job.
“They have physical offense and defensive lines. They have big physical running backs. They are a really good football team. We need to come out and play disciplined football and compete for 48 minutes.”
Fans expecting an old-fashioned, smash-mouth, 3 yards and a cloud of dust-type of game won’t likely be disappointed.
The game plans should focus on Union’s Mason Polier and Gate City’s Michael Calhoun. Both are seniors, both play fullback and linebacker, and both are tough as nails.
No. 6 Tazewell (7-3) vs. No. 3 Graham (8-2)
At Mitchell Stadium, Bluefield, W.Va. (Saturday, 1 p.m.)
Tazewell is having one of its best seasons in recent memory. That’s the good news for the Bulldogs.
The bad news is they have to face Southwest District champion — and defending state champ — Graham again. The G-Men rolled to a 45-0 victory over Tazewell on Sept. 6.
The playoff game could be a lot closer, but it’s still an uphill climb for Tazewell.
Graham’s last loss came on Sept. 20, a thrilling 37-35 defeat by Union.
No. 5 Richlands (6-4) vs. No. 4 Wise Central (8-2)
At Warrior Stadium, Norton (Friday, 7 p.m.)
Excitement is an understatement when the conversation around the Central campus turns to football.
After posting their best regular season ever, the Warriors now are hosting their first postseason football game in school history.
Running back Chris Crabtree also tallied some school records for Central. Just a junior, he owns the mark for most yards in a season (1,588) as well as for the most rushing yards in a career (2,980).
Coach Luke Owens isn’t planning on changing the formula that got his Warriors where they are.
“We need to be who we are,” he said. “We need to control the line of scrimmage. We need to grind things out. Our best defense will be keeping our offense on the field for long drives.”
Richlands’ record mark can be deceiving, especially with veteran coach Greg Mance at the helm.
The Blue Tornado haven’t lost to any pushovers this season; their defeats came at the hands of Gate City, Union, Bluefield, West Virginia, and Graham.
“I expect them to be well coached. I have a lot of respect for Coach Mance,” Owens said. “Richlands plays extremely hard and they are explosive. We will have to find a way to slow them down.”
REGION 2D QUARTERFINALS
No. 8 Marion (3-7) at No. 1 Ridgeview (8-2), 7 p.m.
No. 5 Richlands (6-4) at No. 4 Wise Central (8-2), 7 p.m.
No. 7 Gate City (4-6) vs. No. 2 Union (8-2) at Bullitt Park, Big Stone Gap, 7 p.m.
No. 6 Tazewell (7-3) vs. No. 3 Graham (8-2) at Mitchell Stadium, Bluefield, 1 p.m.
No. 8 Honaker (5-5) vs. No. 1 Patrick Henry (10-0)
At Emory & Henry (Friday, 7 p.m.)
Despite winning the Black Diamond District championship, Honaker had to wait until the final week of the regular season to see if it would make the playoffs.
The VHSL power points rating scale does not make an exception for district champions when it comes to seeding or just making the field.
The Tigers did make the postseason, though, and now they face a Patrick Henry ground attack featuring Trevor Dye and Dylan Casey.
The Rebels are on a mission that includes a Region 1D championship trophy.
No. 7 Castlewood (6-4) vs. No. 2 J.I. Burton (8-2)
At Virginia-Wise (Friday, 7 p.m.)
J.I. Burton planned on playing at Lawson-Fitchko Stadium, but snowy, wet weather put the speedy Raiders behind the 8-ball in terms of field conditions.
So hoping to preserve the shape of their home field — and with Virginia-Wise’s blessing — the Raiders moved the game to the Cavaliers’ Carl Smith Stadium.
Two first-year coaches have their programs going well.
Coach Chris Lark has many in the region checking out the Blue Devils, who are in the playoffs for the first time in a couple of years.
Castlewood struggled last week, committing six turnovers in a loss to Eastside, and Lark is well aware that can’t happen this week.
“We didn't make things hard enough on Eastside. They got way too many big plays on us. We need to do better Friday or our season will come to an end,” he said.
After dropping their first two games of the season, Jacob Caudill’s Raiders are riding an eight-game winning streak.
“We have to be able to block the line of scrimmage and play good, hard-nosed defense against their single-wing offense,” Caudill noted. “We have to go from the beginning and not come out flat.”
No. 6 Thomas Walker (6-4) vs. No. 3 Chilhowie (8-2)
At Chilhowie High School (Friday, 7 p.m.)
Thomas Walker had a strong start to its season before slamming into a wall of injuries.
Despite losing three straight — to Eastside, Twin Springs and J.I. Burton — the Pioneers are in the postseason, where anything can happen.
“For us to be able to compete with Chilhowie, we will have to play better than we have and for an entire game,” said Thomas Walker coach Nick Johnson. “We can’t make mistakes and we have to get a little lucky.”
Chilhowie is in a “rebuilding year” this season after winning back-to-back Region 1D championships the previous two years.
No. 5 Holston (6-4) at No. 4 Eastside (5-5)
At Carl McConnell Stadium, Coeburn (Saturday, 1:30 p.m.)
These teams met on Nov. 1, when Holston took a 40-22 win. But that was before Garrett Whited returned to the Eastside lineup.
Whited was back with a vengeance last week, piling up 144 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries, catching a 19-yard touchdown pass and recording 15 tackles.
The senior captain’s return also gave the Spartans a psychological boost.
The Cavaliers bring their share of stars as well.
“Holston will be very physical and athletic just like the last game,” said Eastside coach Mike Rhodes. “It should be a heck of a ballgame again.”
REGION 1D QUARTERFINALS
No. 8 Honaker (5-4) vs. No. 1 Patrick Henry (10-0) at Emory & Henry, 7 p.m.
No. 6 Thomas Walker (6-4) at No. 3 Chilhowie (8-2), 7 p.m.
No. 7 Castlewood (6-4) vs. No. 2 J.I. Burton (8-2) at Virginia-Wise, 7 p.m.
No. 5 Holston (6-4) at No. 4 Eastside (5-5), 1:30 p.m.