Bulletin Staff Report
The good news — high school football is back!
No more whistles, wind-sprints, and weight room visits. Tonight it’s time for the real thing.
The bad news — only one local team is at home for opening night.
Not only are three teams going on the road, two of those teams are travelling pretty far. But what is more quintessential about high school football than a long bus ride?
Martinsville is the lone home team in the area tonight, where they’ll take on visiting Morehead. Patrick County doesn’t have to go too far. They’ll head west to Carroll County in an early season rivalry showdown.
Bassett is getting a head start on facing fellow VHSL Class 3 schools, travelling nearly two hours northeast to Rustburg. Magna Vista will also be headed that direction to Liberty University, the place they won the VHSL state championship in 2015. The Warriors will take on Liberty Christian Academy.
All games are scheduled to kickoff tonight at 7 p.m., except Magna Vista which will start at 7:30. Here’s a look at each matchup.
Martinsville (0-0) vs. Morehead (0-1)
Last season’s record: Martinsville (1-9); Morehead (6-6)
With North Carolina schools getting a week head start on the season, Morehead comes to town with a loss on the season after falling to Western Guilford 20-0 last Friday. The Panthers turned the ball over six times, including throwing five interceptions. The Greensboro News and Record reported Morehead had just 45 yards rushing on 23 carries, and completed 8-of-23 passes.
Starting the season off against a team reeling from a loss could be good for a Martinsville squad that has a lot of question marks and will need some time to adjust with many first year players and a new head coach.
Magna Vista (0-0) at Liberty Christian Academy (0-0)
Last season’s record: Magna Vista (5-6, lost in first round of playoffs); Liberty Christian (4-7, lost in first round of playoffs)
Magna Vista was unable to scrimmage against Lord Botetourt last Friday as previously scheduled, so they instead opted for a tune-up against Matinsville. Getting a chance to get on the field against the Bulldogs was nice for the Warriors, but didn’t provide them the early challenge Botetourt, a VHSL Group 3 final four team a year ago, would have.
Now, the Warriors will truly start their season against another VHSL Class 3 school, after Liberty Christian moved down a class for this season. LCA returns their quarterback, Josh Nelson, and top receiver, Tyler Rose. Nelson and Rose connected for 1,000 yards a season ago for a team that averaged 22 points per game.
Magna Vista is heavy on offensive power as well, which could mean a high-scoring matchup in Lynchburg.
Bassett (0-0) at Rustburg (0-0)
Last season’s record: Bassett (3-7); Rustburg (4-7, lost first round of playoffs)
Rustburg defeated Bassett 24-6 on opening night a year ago. But the Bengals proved to be a different team in Week 10 than they were in Week 1, and hope to be a different team in 2019.
The contest against Rustburg will have different significance than in the last two seasons, too, because with the Bengals moving down to VHSL Class 3, they’ll be testing themselves against a squad that will also be fighting for a playoff spot in a crowded Class 3.
While Bassett improved as the season went on last year, the opposite could be said for the Devils, who lost five of their final six contest in 2018 and fell in the first round of the playoffs. Rustburg installed an option offense for this season to take advantage of their wealth of rushers. With Bassett coming into the season with a much stronger defense than in years past, starting the season against a team learning a new offense could be a good early season test.
Patrick County (0-0) at Carroll County (0-0)
Last season’s record: Patrick County (2-6); Carroll County (3-7)
With Patrick County’s proximity to Carroll County, the two schools are made for a natural non-district rivalry. The two teams have played one another in each of the last 10 seasons, with Patrick County only winning twice, in 2014 and 2015. The Cavaliers have outscored the Cougars 371-184 in that span, and Patrick County has scored just 6, 7, and 14 points in each of the last three matchups.
The Cougars’ offense looks to be stronger this season, and will undoubtedly improve on their 11 points per game scored last season. They return quarterback Will Sprowl and leading rusher Dae’Shawn Penn to the run-heavy offense.
Carroll County, much like the Cougars, is also in the middle of a rebuild. This game should be a lot closer than in years past, with Patrick County in good position for a first rivalry win in four years.