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No summer break for state champs

Last fall was supposedly going to be more of a building year for Nansemond-Suffolk’s football team under first-year head coach Kevin Allen. Allen and the Saints grew into a state championship, NSA’s first on the gridiron since 2000, by November.

Now with a lot of experienced players returning and a full offseason to teach during, Allen is confident with what he sees about three months away from starting his second season with the Saints.

“I feel really good about who we have returning. We have about 97 percent of our defense coming back,” Allen said.

NSA’s head coach, who takes on all the defensive responsibilities himself, said he’ll have to fill three starting spots because of graduation. Even in those positions though, Allen thinks he has players who saw a healthy amount of playing time last season ready to step in.

It wasn’t the case all season long in a 9-3 record, but certainly in NSA’s two playoff victories, culminating in a 17-0 win at top-seeded Blue Ridge in the state final, NSA’s defense became both reliable and playmaking.

“We’re losing some big guys from our offensive line,” Allen said, “but some of our younger kids coming up have some decent size and they’re probably a little bit quicker than our big guys we had.”

As for his offensive playmakers, Allen knows he has an all-state leader in Domonique Lennon. Lennon was All-Virginia Independent Schools at quarterback and free safety. Allen says Lennon’s drawing college interest from Div. I programs such as East Carolina, Old Dominion, Hampton and Norfolk St.

The biggest challenge as far as replacing a lost senior is likely at tailback where Will Crenshaw was a standout.

“We have some good running backs coming back, but they have big shoes to fill,” Allen said.

Allen said he enjoyed the glow of the state championship, “through the rest of November and December,” but, “when the calendar turned over to January, that was in the past. The only thing we can think about right now is this season.”

He feels his players have received the same message well. Some of the Saint players are going to camps at area colleges, unlike many other programs though, Allen doesn’t have his team in any passing leagues during the summer.

“This summer, we’re going to be working on a lot of position work and a lot of speed training,” Allen said.

“We’re going to be lifting, working on conditioning and doing everything we can to get all the kids stronger,” Allen said.