A year older, but Saints in playoffs again

Published 9:57 pm Thursday, November 13, 2008

When the Nansemond Suffolk Saints face the Durham War Eagles on Saturday morning in a regional peewee playoff game, the Saints will already be playoff veterans.

Off the top of his head, Nansemond Suffolk head coach Tommy Salas guessed about 20 of the 27 kids on this team, now a peewee (ages 9-12) team, were on the junior peewee Saints team which won the district and made the regional playoffs last season.

This year, the Saints have gone 8-0 with the closest victory being a 12-0 score against Olive Branch. Nansemond Suffolk’s outscored its opponents 236-24, which includes five shutouts.

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The undefeated record has earned the Saints a playoff spot, with the first game being at 11 a.m. on Saturday at King’s Fork High School.

“We practice harder than all the other teams,” said Andrew Gould, who lines up at fullback and linebacker and is one of the Saints’ six team captains.

The captains all said work in practice on the blocking sled and in the “pride circle” wins games more than anything that happens during a game. The pride circle is a non-stop rotation of sit-ups, push-ups and high knee running for about 10 minutes.

“They have a love for the game, a passion for it,” said Salas. “They’ve been working hard since August 1. It takes dedication to be out here in August five days a week when it’s 100 degrees and their friends are at home playing Playstation.”

“This is a great bunch of kids. Most of them have been teammates for three or four years now,” said Salas.

“We’ve even had compliments from officials after games. They’ve said our games are better than high school games when it comes to discipline, being organized, the way we run plays,” said Salas.

“As long as we play our game, we’ll be fine,” said Michael Lepore, a linebacker/cornerback and backup quarterback.

The Saints are taking a major-league approach to this playoff game as the coaches have video of the Durham Eagles and have had tape sessions with the players.

“We’ve watched the video, but the coaches say it’s still about how we execute,” said Tyler Salas, the starting quarterback and middle linebacker.

“They’ve mostly been telling us we need to watch at your position,” said defensive lineman Cole Christensen.

Six peewee teams are in the regional playoff bracket, ranging from the Saints to a team from Huntsville, Ala. The Saints need three wins to win the regional championship and make it to the national finals in Orlando, Fla.