Saints face real tests before playing for title

Published 3:51 pm Thursday, November 19, 2009

Nansemond-Suffolk’s football players are gearing up for a huge day on Saturday as the Saints (8-3) will be playing for the state championship at No. 1 Blue Ridge (7-3).

“They’re excited, very excited about the opportunity to play, especially the seniors since they haven’t even had the opportunity to get to the playoffs. This is everyone’s first time playing for a championship,” said NSA head coach Kevin Allen, who’s in his first season coaching the Saints and his first season as a head coach.

Even with the excitement surrounding Saturday, it’s not the most important thing all the Saint players are having to deal with in the few days leading up to the title game. End-of-term exams start on Friday at NSA.

There are some minor changes due to exams, some negative, but some positive.

On exam days, Nansemond-Suffolk dismisses for the day early, so that part about an exam day is actually helping the football team.

The Saints are departing Suffolk around 1 p.m. Friday and traveling to Charlottesville, about 40 minutes from Blue Ridge, in St. George.

The Saints will get to practice at the University of Virginia’s football practice facility on Friday afternoon, then spend the night a short distance from Blue Ridge.

“It’s very good for us. We won’t be on a bus for two or more hours before the game. When you’re on a bus like that, your legs cramp up, everything tightens up. A long bus ride before you play really can hinder how you play. It benefits us tremendously to get up there the night before,” said Allen.

The Saints ended practice a little early on Thursday, but Allen isn’t worried about how that, or the stress of exams in general, will truly change anything.

“It hasn’t affected us at all,” said Allen.

“It’s fine, at this point in the season, with what we’ve worked on all season long, if you don’t know it by now, you’re not going to get it,” said Allen.

The week leading up to NSA’s semifinal contest against Portsmouth Christian, which turned into more than a week thanks to the nor’easter and the game getting pushed back to Monday, was a test in adjusting to an odd schedule.

Allen had his team practicing in the gym on the rained-out days, then also had practices on Saturday and Sunday once the storm moved out, before Monday’s game, a 24-14 win.

At this point though, going on four months after starting two-a-days back in early August, it’s mainly about knowing what’s worked during the season and executing well. Changing practices around a little is not a big deal said Allen.

“The one thing we have to do better is play all four quarters, but I’ve been saying that all year,” said Allen.

NSA’s varsity cheerleaders are sponsoring a pep bus for students. The bus will leave NSA at 8 a.m. Saturday. Admission to the game at Blue Ridge is $5.