NSA’s Lennon is master of change

Published 7:12 pm Thursday, November 26, 2009

Back in August, Nansemond-Suffolk’s first football scrimmage didn’t include Domonique Lennon.

Lennon was on the sideline, looking on at what he thought would be his new team, but waiting for his transfer into NSA to be complete and official before he could take the field.

By the Saints’ first game of the regular season, Lennon was the starting quarterback. That first game wasn’t pretty for Lennon or the Saints as Windsor beat them 28-0.

Despite a new kid coming into school and moving into the starting quarterback job, there was never a problem on the team said Lennon, who started for Landstown High School as a sophomore.

“They took me in with open arms. They kept asking me, ‘when are you going to be able to play,’” said Lennon.

Lennon had only “three or four” practices with his new team before the Windsor game, but the season turned around in a hurry and the Saints got on track with three straight wins following the opening loss. Three months later, the Saints have the Virginia Independent School, Div. II crown after a 17-0 win at Blue Ridge on Saturday.

Lennon’s arrival brought about a host of changes for the Saints and head coach Kevin Allen. As the season proved, the changes made the Saints stronger.

Allen had senior Will Crenshaw at quarterback in that opening scrimmage in mid-August. With Lennon taking over at quarterback, it allowed Crenshaw to move back to his natural position, running back, where he totaled nearly 1,500 yards for the Saints.

“When Domonique came in, we moved Will back to running back and that allowed Will to do what he does,” said Allen.

Allen’s initial plan for NSA’s offense, an option running attack, was scraped early in the season in favor of an I-formation offense that took advantage of Lennon, Crenshaw and NSA’s strength on the offensive line.

Lennon’s athleticism on the field is clear. He’s tall, fast and has an accurate arm. What isn’t obvious from the sideline, but is clear to his coach, is Lennon’s intelligence on the field.

“Domonique’s a very good decision maker. He’s able to change plays when needed for us and get us into something that will get us positive yards,” said Allen.

There were big changes on defense, too. “Having a very good safety, someone you can groom and turn into someone special, it means a defensive coordinator can take chances,” said Allen.

In the state title game, Lennon had one of the five interceptions the Saints came up with against Blue Ridge.

“We were very confident in our defense. A lot of people weren’t really giving our defense credit. They knew about our offense and knew we had a phenomenal running back, but we knew our defense would be okay in that game,” said Lennon about the state championship.

“We just proved them wrong. A lot of people think size is all that matters in football, but it’s not always about size, it can be about heart and our team has a lot of heart,” said Lennon.

It’s easy to think the starting quarterback of a state championship team might have the goal of playing college football. That’s true of Lennon, a junior, but he sees himself as a defensive back first and foremost.

Lennon totaled 80 tackles (39 solo tackles), seven pass deflections, five interceptions, three blocked field goals and a forced fumble for the season.

“Domonique’s very coachable, and if he continues to be coachable, it’ll help him as far as recruiting,” said Allen.

The high school season just ended for Lennon, but the football season is anything but over. Workouts will continue, and even intensify, said Allen, and offseason recruiting camps will be important in the coming months.

Allen expects the offseason workouts and conditioning to pick up for all of his Saints. Allen took the job over the summer and didn’t have time to organize a true offseason program heading into this season.

In what could be called his first full season as NSA’s head coach, Allen expects his team will improve on the things that already made them good this season.

The Saints got used to Allen’s ever-changing game plans, especially on the defensive side. Even with a shortened week of practice heading into the state final, Allen and the Saints put in a new defense for Blue Ridge, something the Barons couldn’t have seen on video.

“There’s always a new defensive scheme, every week,” said Lennon.

There are also more changes likely for Lennon, which, in a way, is nothing new.

On defense, Allen might move Lennon to cornerback. On offense, Lennon might move to wide receiver since Allen is optimistic about two young quarterbacks who played on NSA’s JV team this season. “That’s really his natural position, on offense,” said Allen.

“Our future looks really bright,” said Allen.