Suffolk squads looking ahead at Shootout

Published 9:18 pm Saturday, June 27, 2009

Points were tallied during all 7 on 7 games at Saturday’s Peanut City Shootout passing tournament at King’s Fork High, but the focus for the three Suffolk schools involved was on more than the score.

The host Bulldogs split their team into two entries for the 24-squad competition, the fourth annual event hosted by their athletic department.

Lakeland aimed to get rising sophomore quarterback Walter Boykins as many snaps as possible while four different signal-callers are vying for the starting job at Nansemond River.

Newsletter

Email newsletter signup

In addition to crisp throws, quality catches and strong defense, formations were botched, passes were dropped and coverages were blown. And that’s all part of the reason for competing in such a format at this time of year.

“We’re here to get work in and they might as well not be keeping score,” said Lakeland coach Glenwood Ferebee, who’s aiming to raise the Cavaliers past the 3-7 record achieved in his first season last fall.

“We still have some bad habits, but I don’t think they’re the kind that will break us during games.”

Five of Lakeland’s 2008 defeats came by a combined 25 points as its players worked to learn Ferebee’s spread offense on the fly. Now, the coach has decided to beef up the running game with frequent carries by Cedric Johnson, who became a workhorse as a junior last fall.

“We’re actually scaling our passing game down a bit for Cedric,” Ferebee said. “I didn’t know how good a back he was when I got here but he’s going to touch the ball 25-30 times a game this season.”

That should take some pressure off Boykins, who will debut as a varsity starter. Ferebee said the sophomore would have started last season if he hadn’t come out late, and thinks his new signal-caller will also be helped by a rise in the team’s overall football IQ.

“A lot of our guys just played instead of truly knowing everything about the situations we were in last season,” Ferebee said. “That’s a big part of why we lost those close games. But I’ve spent a lot of time at the chalkboard teaching them the game. You have to know exactly what we’re trying to get out of a play as a team and how you fit into it.”

Hard work in the weight room and on conditioning suggests the Cavaliers, while still having only about 50 players in the program, will have fewer of them playing both ways this fall. That’s because more Lakeland competitors are now capable of starting roles and Ferebee should be able to put fresher troops on the field in the second half.

Getting more players more repetitions was also on the mind of second-year King’s Fork coach Joe Jones during Saturday’s event. The Bulldogs were 4-6 in his first campaign and he exercised administrative prerogative by splitting his team in the Shootout. That allowed starting senior quarterback Laray Kindred to guide one group and backups Matt Hommell, a sophomore, and Zach Super, a freshman, to lead the other.

One Bulldog it was hard to miss was rising senior Mike Murray, a baseball veteran with blazing red hair who’s come out for football as a senior. Although Jones said Murray is playing catch up to learn King’s Fork’s offense, he made a nifty running grab of a Hommell pass for a touchdown early on Saturday.

“I knew he was a good athlete from watching him in P.E. class,” Jones said. “He showed it by going out and getting that one.”

On an adjacent field, third-year Nansemond River coach Tracey Parker just wanted his players to get comfortable with each other and their responsibilities.

“We’re trying to build confidence and belief in each other,” said Parker, who has overhauled virtually his entire coaching staff. “We have to compete every down. We look at our games from last season and we were in games in the first and second quarters. Then a mistake or a big play came along and boom, the floodgates opened.”

Jamaal Wright took many of Nansemond River’s snaps at quarterback Saturday but Parker said he was only one of a quartet of candidates for the job and that he didn’t want to comment any further on the competition because “I don’t want any of them to think they’re the man at this point.”