NSA, Lakeland to hit gridiron

Published 11:07pm Thursday, August 29, 2013

Nansemond-Suffolk at Pope John Paul the Great – 4:30 p.m.

A scheduled scrimmage last Friday against Fredericksburg Christian Academy never happened due to weather, but Saints head coach Lew Johnston suspects the missing game has made his players even hungrier to get going this afternoon.

“We’ve had an unbelievably great week of practice,” he said. “I think we’re as ready as we’re going to be.”

NSA and Pope John Paul the Great Catholic High School exchanged game film from scrimmages that did occur.

“I think athletically, we’re stronger and faster,” Johnston said. “Hopefully, we can execute up to the level that I expect.”

He said he has been preaching to his team mental toughness and discipline, to focus on the task at hand.

He and the team will have a clear goal to start the game.

“We want to physically attack our opponent in the first quarter,” Johnston said. “We want to make a statement early on.”

He admitted the Saints have struggled on the road, but he aims for success through maintaining consistency in preparation, no matter what the location of the game is.

To cultivate a focused mindset, he said, “We set the tone on the bus,” letting players sleep or listen to music, while keeping talking to a minimum.

Lakeland at I.C. Norcom – 7 p.m.

New Cavaliers head coach Bryan Potts has had an idea of what he wanted to accomplish with his team entering the first game of the season.

“The goal was simply to get the guys thinking and going in a different direction philosophy-wise, building to what my staff and I were trying to accomplish, and so far we’re on track to doing so,” he said.

His expectations are “to improve upon the Franklin scrimmage,” where Lakeland got a good idea of what it still needs to work on. He said a slow start on both sides of the ball hurt the Cavaliers tremendously, leading to a 35-31 defeat.

Lack of discipline was also an issue, manifesting itself as off-sides, facemask and holding penalties.

Potts said Lakeland’s players will have to be especially focused tonight since it will be a noisy, road environment, something they have tried to simulate in practice with music on the loudspeakers.

The coach diagnosed Norcom senior quarterback Darron Downing as the primary threat, noting his effectiveness using the read-option. Potts said Lakeland will need to make sure he stays in the pocket, “because he’s a big threat when he runs.”

He said the Greyhounds have greater size up front, but the Cavaliers are a little more athletic and will have to deal effectively with the size difference every week.

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