Saints march to title

Published 8:53 pm Saturday, November 21, 2009

ST.GEORGE — Nansemond-Suffolk won the Virginia Independent School Division II state football championship Saturday with dominant defense leading the way to a 17-0 victory at top-seeded Blue Ridge.

The Saints did better than shutout the Barons, NSA’s defense scored one touchdown and all but scored NSA’s second touchdown of the day. NSA (9-3) held Blue Ridge (7-4) to eight yards of total offense in the first half, forced five interceptions and one lost fumble in the second half. NSA’s last state championship came in 2000.

“It’s a great way to go out,” senior lineman Sean Buttery said. Buttery was one of five senior captains for the Saints and one of 10 seniors on the team. “The seniors had a meeting earlier this week and we said to each other we had to lead, we had to show the rest of the guys we could play our game against (Blue Ridge).”

Blue Ridge scored 28 or more points in seven of its 10 games this season, but the Saints had the advantage throughout in the final.

On Blue Ridge’s first possession of the game, the Barons got two first downs before sacks by Josh Todd and Buttery led to a punt.

“What I try to do as a defensive coordinator, we look for what a team does well and we try to take that away. We wanted to take away their deep passes, so we wanted to come at them with pressure as much as possible,” NSA head coach Kevin Allen said.

NSA’s offense also played defense in a way. The first drive of the day for the Saints was a 15-play march down the field that took nearly nine minutes off the clock.

Running back Will Crenshaw carried most of the way down field, but Domonique Lennon hooked up with Tyler Edwards for a 12-yard pass on a third-and-13 play and Lennon kept the drive going on fourth down with a 4-yard quarterback sneak to the Baron 29.

NSA moved to fourth-and-goal from the 3, but another quarterback sneak wound up short of the goal line.

The long drive resulted in no points, but left Blue Ridge in poor field position and NSA’s defense kept the Barons near their own goal line for the rest of the half.

The Saints capitalized on the field position late in the half. Starting from the Saint 44, the big play of the drive was a 30-yard reception from Lennon to Crenshaw on a third down, moving the Saints to the Baron 15. Bobby Lamm kicked a 28-yard field goal with 2:39 left in the half.

Blue Ridge’s best chance to score came with its first drive of the third period. Led by quarterback Speedy McCauley, the Barons looked good through the air moving from the Blue Ridge 40 to the NSA 5.

A holding penalty cost Blue Ridge 10 yards, and then the Barons went for a screen pass, something that worked two previous times on the same drive.

“They got the best of us a couple times, but we came back and made an adjustment,” sophomore linebacker Ryan Serianni said.

The Saints double-covered the back out of the backfield, forcing McCauley to hold onto the ball, then NSA’s rush got to him. Ryan May forced a fumble and Serianni scooped up the bouncing ball and took it 70 yards for a touchdown.

The rest of the game was all about NSA’s defense rushing McCauley, forcing bad throws and making interceptions.

Despite a short week in practice, Allen worked with his defense on a new system, one that wasn’t on any tapes.

“(Blue Ridge) prepared for something we really never showed today,” Allen said. “They (NSA players) know I change up things a lot. They’re used to it and they’re mentally good enough to get it.”

On a third-and-22 play at the NSA 33, Lennon picked off a deep pass to give NSA the ball late in the third period.

After trading punts until a few minutes into the fourth period, Crenshaw cut in front of a slant pass and intercepted McCauley.

On the first play of the next Baron possession, Harris Howell jumped in front of a Baron receiver near the right sideline for an interception.

On the next Baron series, NSA forced a third-and-10 play and, off a deflection by a defensive lineman, Todd intercepted the pass and returned it 18 yards to the Baron 2. Two plays later, Crenshaw rushed in for the clinching score with 1:52 left.

Lennon was 5-for-14 passing for 65 yards and Crenshaw carried 27 times for 77 yards.

One more interception, this one by Kenny Rice after the Baron pass was deflected away by Lennon, preserved the shutout.

“All the young guys really stepped up,” Buttery said. “The running backs were great. The entire defense completely shut them down.

“From day one, coach Allen told us we’d win states and he was right.”

“Coach (Allen) said, before the season, he had a lot of confidence in us and we should have confidence, too. That, and teamwork got us here today,” Serianni said.