HARRISONBURG — It’s never too early to start talking high school football in the Shenandoah Valley with area teams set to begin training camp in just over a month.

The Virginia High School League released its master schedule Tuesday and this year’s slate features some changes as East Rockingham moves over to the Bull Run District and Fort Defiance leaves the Valley for the Shenandoah.

While the Eagles are coming off a run to last year’s VHSL Class 2 semifinals, teams like Harrisonburg and Spotswood will look to build off first-round exits from a year ago, Broadway is aiming to rebuild under first-year coach Danny Grogg and Turner Ashby is trying to right the ship after another disappointing season under coach Chris Fraser.

Here’s 10 prep football games to watch this upcoming season:

Spotswood at East Rockingham

When: Aug. 30

Last season: East Rockingham beat Spotswood 34-7 in Penn Laird.

Why Go: The Eagles (13-1) erased the “little brother” label last year with a dominating 27-point win over their U.S. 33 rival in Penn Laird to take a 3-2 all-time lead in the series.

This season could be about revenge for Spotswood (9-2), which has a plethora of talent and experience coming back and could be primed for a deep postseason run of its own.

Handley at Harrisonburg

When: Sept. 6

Last season: Handley beat Harrisonburg 24-17 in Winchester.

Why Go: The loss to Handley (5-5) a year ago put the Blue Streaks (7-4) at 0-2 to start the season and raised a lot of questions about what was to come for the rest of the year.

What they found out was they had one of the area’s best quarterbacks in Kwentin Smiley, who returns this year, and could be set up for a bigger season in 2019.

Riverheads at East Rockingham

When: Sept. 13

Last season: East Rockingham beat Riverheads 28-0 in Elkton.

Why Go: There was no hiding the excitement last year after East Rockingham thumped Riverheads 28-0 in Elkton for the program’s first-ever win over the Gladiators in a game that felt more like a middle-of-November playoff bout than an early-September regular-season contest.

Despite being in two different districts now with the Eagles moving to the Bull Run, the two teams will maintain their recent rivalry with a rematch back in Elkton this year as the defending VHSL Class 1 champion Gladiators (13-1) will likely come in with something to prove.

Buffalo Gap at Broadway

When: Sept. 27

Last season: Did Not Play

Why Go: It’s a battle of first-year coaches in Broadway’s Danny Grogg and Buffalo Gap’s Brad Wygant and two teams that will build off very similar philosophies on the field.

Both of these squads are hard-nosed, gritty teams and that should result in a defensive-minded game when the two teams meet in late September at BHS.

East Rockingham at Clarke County

When: Sept. 27

Last season: Did Not Play

Why Go: While the two teams have never met before, both East Rockingham and Clarke County are expected to be in contention next year in the newly-designed Bull Run District.

Clarke (7-4) has been in the playoffs every year since 2007 and had a five-year stretch of 10-win seasons from 2013-2017. If ERHS wants to win a district title this season, it’ll likely go through Clarke.

Turner Ashby at Wilson Memorial

When: Oct. 4

Last season: Did Not Play

Why Go: The Knights (2-8) are desperately seeking a turnaround after showing some progress early last season. And after a grueling out-of-district schedule the past two years, wrapping up this season’s slate in Fishersville will be somewhat of a relief.

Wilson Memorial (5-6) showed improvement last season after a couple of down years to get back to the Region 2B playoffs, but lost a lot, meaning the Knights could have a shot at getting one last non-district win over a Class 3 opponent before entering into league play.

Spotswood at Rockbridge County

When: Oct. 11

Last season: Spotswood beat Rockbridge County 35-7 in Penn Laird.

Why Go: Last year, Rockbridge County came into Penn Laird averaging 59.5 points per game, but was quickly put to rest by a Spotswood defense that proved to be legitimate throughout the remainder of the season.

If there is a third team that could get involved in the Valley District championship race this season, it’s the Wildcats (6-5) and the three-way battle between them, the Trailblazers and Harrisonburg will begin on Oct. 11 in Lexington.

Broadway at Turner Ashby

When: Oct. 11

Last season: Broadway beat Turner Ashby 58-28 in Bridgewater.

Why Go: It is no secret that these two teams aren’t the biggest fans of each other and that rivalry is sure to carry over to this season after the 58-28 rout Broadway handed Turner Ashby last year in Bridgewater.

The Gobblers will have a lot of new faces on offense this season, but so will the Knights, meaning this game could be a matchup of two teams battling for a spot in the Region 3C playoff picture.

Rockbridge County at Harrisonburg

When: Nov. 1

Last season: Harrisonburg beat Rockbridge County 77-49 in Lexington.

Why Go: This game was anything but ordinary a year ago with both teams opting to focus on getting into the end zone and the defenses having forgettable nights.

Once it was all over, the Blue Streaks walked away with a 77-point performance on the road and could be set for an offensive showdown like that again with both teams returning an array of big-name players on that side of the ball.

Spotswood at Harrisonburg

When: Nov. 8

Last season: Spotswood beat Harrisonburg 28-13 in Harrisonburg.

Why Go: Playing in a monsoon last season, Spotswood showed it was the class of the Valley District when it clinched the regular-season crown with a 28-13 win over Harrisonburg to capture its first district title since 2013.

This season, the district will likely come down to these two teams again as both squads will rely on their prolific signal callers — Blue Streaks dual-threat senior Kwentin Smiley and Trailblazers pro-style junior Ryan High — to carry them to deep postseason runs.

Contact Cody Elliott at 574-6284 or celliott@dnronline.com | Follow Cody on Twitter: @Cody_DNRSports

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