Saint defense handles No. 2 Patriots

Published 11:07 pm Friday, October 9, 2009

In a matchup of two of the top four teams in Division II of Virginia’s private schools, Nansemond-Suffolk pulled out a hard-fought, defensive battle against host Portsmouth Christian on Friday night, 14-7.

NSA has a long history of football compared to the three-year-old program of Portsmouth Christian, but facing the Patriots’ 5-1 record and No. 2 state ranking, the No. 4 Saints felt they were the side out for respect.

“People didn’t think we could do it. Everyone was doubting us because of one bad game against (Bishop Sullivan) Catholic,” said NSA’s head coach Kevin Allen.

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“I let the kids know how they doubted us,” said Allen.

A 3-yard touchdown run by quarterback Domonique Lennon gave the Saints the lead midway through the third quarter. From there, as was the case for most of the night, NSA’s defense held strong.

The Saints held four times against the Patriots after taking the 14-7 lead and the game came down to one last Patriot drive into NSA territory with under a minute to go.

On a 3rd and 10 play from the NSA 32, Bobby Lamm intercepted a tipped pass to seal the win with 0:32 remaining.

On NSA’s second possession of the night, the Saints marched from their own 22 to the PC 30 only for Kenny Rice to fumble a pitch from Lennon and the Patriots recovered.

NSA’s defense forced a punt and the Saints moved the ball on the ground again. Will Crenshaw dashed for gains of 16 and 42 yards on back-to-back plays to put the Saints inside the PC 20.

Fullback Ryan Smith pounded through the middle of the line on the next three plays, ending with Smith going into the end zone on an 8-yard run. Lamm’s extra point kick made it 7-0 NSA with 8:48 left in the first half.

The Patriots answered immediately with a drive mostly through the air. Quarterback Josh Pope connected with receiver Joe Pope on pass plays of 26 and 15 yards. Josh Pope finished the drive with a two-yard sneak for a touchdown. The game went to halftime tied, 7-7.

The Patriots got the ball to open the second half and a more-aggressive NSA defense came out of the halftime talk with Allen.

NSA threw the Patriots for three straight losses, forced a punt, and got the ball on the Patriot 31 for its first possession of the second half.

Lennon converted a 4th-and-1 with a 2-yard run. On 3rd-and-8 from the PC 17, Tyler Edwards made a diving catch near the right sideline for a 14-yard gain. On the next play, Lennon followed his offensive line on a three-yard plunge to score. Another successful kick by Lamm made it 14-7.

Lennon, a safety on defense, intercepted a Patriot pass to stop PC’s ensuing possession. NSA forced punts on the next two Patriot possessions.

Starting with five minutes left in the game, Crenshaw and May rushed for two first downs and into Patriot territory.

The Patriots forced NSA into a 4th-and-3 at the PC 37 with 2:23 left. The Saints went for the first down and had it on a run by Crenshaw, but a holding penalty against the Saints took away the first down and NSA punted, giving PC the ball on the Patriot 25.

Josh Pope, with a couple completed passes and one long scramble, moved the Patriots down to the NSA 32. The third-down pass by Pope down the left sideline could’ve moved the Patriots inside the NSA 10, but Ryan Serianni deflected the pass and Lamm made a diving catch at the NSA 16.

NSA’s defense held the Patriots to 46 rushing yards. Pope was 10-for-21 passing for 119 yards. Jonathan Horton had two tackles for losses and a sack. Thomas Westfall had 1.5 sacks and NSA had four sacks, all in the second half.

“We just changed up our defensive schemes and threw a lot of different blitzes at them and it seemed to work,” said senior linebacker/tight end/punter Josh Todd.

“This was our most important game of the season. Basically, we came into today with the mentality that there’s no tomorrow and this win is going to give us momentum for the rest of the season,” said Todd.

Crenshaw led NSA’s offense with 20 carries for 145 yards. May rushed seven times for 56 yards.

NSA (4-2) hosts Tidewater Conference rival Norfolk Academy next Friday evening.