Warriors ready for playoff push

Published 11:17 pm Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Senior Corey Barnes, one of Nansemond River’s captains, leads the Warriors onto the field before each game. After going 4-26 through the last three seasons, the Warriors are 4-4 this season and have a shot at a playoff berth with two games left to play. Nansemond River plays at Hickory on Friday evening.

Corey Barnes leads the Nansemond River football team onto the field before every game, literally.

Barnes, a senior two-way lineman, walks deliberately from the end zone carrying a large black flag with a bold red “NR” logo on it.

He stops about 20 yards out onto the field. The rest of his teammates wait still at the goalpost. It’s a challenge for both squads getting amped up to square off.

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As with how any team takes the field, it’s a message to the opponent. With Barnes and the Warriors though, there’s a sense he’s throwing down a gauntlet to his own team; seeing if they’re ready for another challenge.

The Warriors have been ready all season long. A glance at NR’s 4-4 record says a ton considering the four victories equals the total wins the Warriors had in the past three seasons.

With two Fridays left in the regular season, Nansemond River visiting Hickory this Friday then hosting Lakeland on Nov. 4, the Warriors are in the hunt for a regional playoff spot.

“It proves our hard work is paying off, from winter around to summer and during the season,” Barnes said.

“It’s good because of how we’ve struggled for the last two years. Everyone’s been working hard in the weight room. Everyone’s been dedicated to this season and now we have a chance to get to the playoffs,” Barnes said.

“The playoffs have always been the goal since we started,” said defensive back Carl Williams. “We’ve been working as a team and hopefully we’ll do it.”

“From the start, we knew we had a chance at the playoffs because of the potential we had in this team. We always believed we were a playoff team, but we had to start playing together,” Barnes said.

The Warriors had to prevail over Western Branch last Friday to keep the goal within close reach.

LaMont Brown’s touchdown run with 2:41 left in the game looked like it was the winning score until Western Branch scored a touchdown and two-point play for a 30-29 lead with 1:16 left.

Darwin Barbee and Shannon Evans connected for an 82-yard touchdown pass, saving the Warriors with 0:29 left. Add a two-point run by Brown and the Warriors won 37-30.

It was Nansemond River’s first win in 15 meetings against Western Branch, going along with the Warriors winning over city rival King’s Fork for the first time since 2005 back in September.

Even when the Warrior effort hasn’t led to a victory, it’s clear the Warriors have been ready.

“Other teams know they’re not playing the old Nansemond River. They know they have to play. They have to come out and bring a good game with them,” Williams said.

The Warriors made a dramatic comeback in the final few minutes at still-undefeated Grassfield and fell just short, 16-13, in NR’s second game of the season.

NR lost 21-0 to traditional powerhouse Oscar Smith. NR led Great Bridge 22-21 until the Wildcats scored late in the fourth quarter and won.

The Grizzlies, Tigers and Wildcats won by 37, 50 and 50 points, respectively, when they faced Nansemond River last fall.

“This is a new Nansemond River. It’s not the old Nansemond River. We’re not going to roll over and give up. This team fights to the end,” Barnes said.

That belief kept the Warriors confident after Western Branch took the lead in incredible fashion late last Friday.

“This is uncharted water for us,” said head coach Tracey Parker Sr., “but the guys are responding very well. They know we’ve worked to be where we are, so that’s what we have to keep doing.”

“It feels good around school after a win but we’re not focused on that. We’re focused on the next game and playing another good game,” Barnes said.