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Warriors nip Wilson for first win

Nansemond River High’s Traquel Burch is not a large football player, but the 5-foot-9 cornerback made Friday night’s big play for the Warriors during their 14-12 defeat of visiting Wilson in a non-district game.

With 10 minutes to play, the hosts were clinging to their two-point lead against a foe whose on-field losing streak has now reached 33 games. Burch watched as Wilson’s Michael Robertson lined up in the slot on his side of the field, then ran a slant route across the middle, catching a Daquan Saunders pass and accelerating towards the far sideline.

Coaches constantly emphasize that defenders must relentlessly pursue the ball carrier, but that’s easier said than done when the fourth quarter rolls around and fatigue sets in. Nonetheless, Burch took off after Robertson, making a diving tackle 29 yards down the field and saving the Warriors’ first victory of the season.

“I had a good angle on him and he was slow,” Burch said with a grin.

Said Nansemond River coach Tracey Parker: “That catch should have never happened, but they caught us out of position. It was the safety’s play, but Traquel helped us recover and ran the receiver down because he was hustling.”

The second half went much better for the Warriors (1-2) than the first, when they committed seven penalties for 80 yards and were outscored 12-6.

“We had a little meeting at halftime and did some preaching on the topic of playing hard-nosed but disciplined football,” said Parker, whose team defeated Wilson 23-13 on the field last season before having to forfeit the game for inadvertently using an ineligible player.

Nansemond River’s El Williams returned the opening kickoff 17 yards and the hosts drove 67 more in 10 plays to take a 6-0 lead on quarterback Steve Skinner’s 1-yard run. A run was stuffed on the conversion attempt.

Wilson (0-3) tied the game on the second quarter’s first play, a 1-yard run by that capped a 67-yard, nine-play drive. The Presidents’ running attempt for the conversion also failed, but they went up 12-6 a minute before halftime. Saunders ran for a two-yard touchdown to end a 70-yard, eight-play march aided by a pass interference call against Nansemond River.

Wilson hurt itself badly on the first possession after halftime. The Presidents snapped the ball over their punter’s head and the Warriors took over on Wilson’s 17-yard line. Three consecutive runs by freshman tailback Lamont Brown netted 14 yards and Skinner ran three more for a touchdown before passing to Morris Johnson on a 2-point conversion.

Brown, who’s only 13 years old, rushed 16 times for 97 yards while teammate Jalen Thrower carried six times for 25 yards. Skinner completed 5 of 8 passes for 35 yards while the Warriors’ defense limited Saunders to completing 4 of 18 throws for 38 yards.

Wilson’s passing game came to the fore when the Presidents forced a punt and took over on their 34-yard line with five minutes remaining. The visitors drove to Nansemond River’s 37-yard line, converting a fourth down en route, but Saunders threw three consecutive incomplete passes and the Warriors regained possession on downs with 1:22 to play.

“We still made a lot of mental errors,” said Parker, whose team hosts cross-town rival and district foe King’s Fork next week. “That’s an attribute of a young football team that wants to do well but is still learning how to do it.”