Saints see work ahead

Published 10:38 pm Saturday, August 20, 2011

WINDSOR — Nansemond-Suffolk’s football squad saw its first live action under the lights with new head coach Lew Johnston at the helm, scrimmaging against Windsor and Isle of Wight Academy Friday evening at Windsor.

Johnston, who coached at Western Branch for 34 years ending in 2006, was pleased with some of what he saw from his team considering it was the Saints’ first time facing an opponent with brand-new systems on offense and defense. Johnston was also happy to have two more weeks and one more scrimmage before playing a game that’ll count.

Nansemond-Suffolk cornerback Michael Lepore lines up against a Windsor receiver during a three-team scrimmage for the Saints, Dukes and Isle of Wight Academy Friday at Windsor. The Saints, under new head coach Lew Johnston, are getting ready for their season opener on Sept. 2 at North Carolina’s First Flight High.

“We found out we have a ways to go. We still have to get in shape. Conditioning is a lot of what we’ve been working on but getting out here in a game is a different level than practice,” Johnston said.

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“I thought we played fine until we got tired. Guys started standing up. I can’t fault the effort, but some of the guys, once they were out there for a little while, it was like their feet were suddenly made of concrete,” he said.

With the teams trading 10-play series throughout the scrimmage, the Dukes and Chargers largely had success moving the ball against the Saints.

Isle of Wight’s first possession resulted in one touchdown, then another drive into Saint territory before Jack Russell intercepted a long, lofted pass in the end zone.

With some reserves on the field against Windsor’s offense, the Saints did well through most of the series. Windsor’s shotgun, option running offense picked up steam toward the end of the possession, capped by a quarterback keeper for a 45-yard touchdown sprint.

NSA’s new wing T offense showed spurts of good gains running and passing. Quarterback Tim Burns led the Saints on a drive into Charger territory on NSA’s first time with the ball. A sack pushed the Saints back from a first down inside the IWA 20 and the drive stalled from there.

In the second half of the scrimmage, the Saints marched steadily down the field against Isle of Wight, ending with fullback Reece Walton scoring on a 6-yard run.

“The guys are learning our system and it’s all new. That goes for the offense, the defense, but also the way we expect things to be done,” Johnston said.

“Our objective was to come here tonight and execute. We weren’t looking to win. That’s not the objective,” Johnston said.

NSA hosts Northampton in a scrimmage, which will be played as a game, Friday at 6 p.m. The Saints, coming off a 4-6 record a season ago, travel to play First Flight High School in Kill Devil Hills, N.C. to start the season on Friday, Sept. 2. It’ll be the first meeting between the Saints and Nighthawks.