Warriors win city football crown

Published 10:25 pm Friday, November 4, 2011

Lakeland’s defense converges on Nansemond River running back Nathan Wyche during Friday night’s game at Nansemond River. The Warriors won the Suffolk title for the season with a 21-14 win over Lakeland.

With two touchdowns in the last quarter, Nansemond River rallied to beat Lakeland 21-14 and claim the Suffolk football crown Friday night at Arrowhead Stadium.

The Warriors (5-5) came up shy of the last regional playoff spot as Green Run held on to the No. 8 spot with a win over Tallwood Friday night. Lakeland (7-3), despite the loss, gets to continue into the regional playoffs next Friday or Saturday.

Nansemond River’s defense and a constantly high wind held Lakeland’s fast-paced offense, especially the Cavalier aerial attack along with threats on punt and kick returns, for most of the game. The Warrior defense blanked the Cavs in the second half and went one step better than that to turn a 14-8 Lakeland lead around early in the final quarter.

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On the last snap of the third period, Lakeland standout running back/quarterback Raekwon Johnson took a shotgun snap and powered up the middle for a 20-yard gain to the Cavalier 40. Johnson cramped up on the play and was forced to the sideline for a few snaps.

One of the snaps, the second play of the fourth quarter, Warrior defensive end Tyron Smith dropped off his rush and intercepted a short slant pass from Lakeland freshman quarterback Miles Goodman, then sprinted 40 yards for the tying touchdown.

“There are some things (Lakleand) does really well, things they excel at,” said Nansemond River head coach Tracey Parker Sr.

“We realized that and made some changes in what we were doing,” Parker said. “Our kids executed, of course, we didn’t draw it up exactly like that but Tyron was in the right place, he made a great catch, then he ran for his life.”

An unsportsmanlike penalty on the Warriors in the aftermath of the touchdown forced a 35-yard extra point try, along with the kick, toward the scoreboard end of Arrowhead Stadium, being directly into the wind. Kameron Burnor’s kick was no good, leaving a 14-14 score.

The Warrior defense came up huge again moments later. DaMario Valentine and Gary Brooks sacked and forced a fumble by Johnson, at quarterback again. Tracey Parker Jr. scrambled onto the ball for the Warriors at the Lakeland 45.

NR quarterback Darwin Barbee, who gained the starting spot midway through the season, took off on a rollout and run around the right end for 24 yards on a 3rd-and-9 play.

Facing 2nd-and-15 at the Cavalier 25, Barbee lofted a pass toward the goal line. Lakeland’s Anaquan Peterson seemed to make a leaping interception, only for Warrior receiver Shannon Evans to take the ball away and fall into the end zone. A successful Burnor kick, a feat from 20 yards out into the wind, made it 21-14 Warriors with 6:56 remaining.

Lakeland still had two more chances to come back. The Warriors held the Cavs to three plays and a punt. NR’s Gary Brooks brought down Peterson on a sweep for a six-yard loss on third down.

Lakeland’s defense forced a Warrior punt, into the wind, so it covered all of eight yards. The Cavs took over on the Warrior 41 with 2:36 left.

A pass interference flag on the Warriors set the Cavs up on the Warrior 12. From the eight, Johnson rumbled through the line and into the end zone only for a Cavalier penalty to bring the play back.

On 4th-and-9, a pass by Johnson was batted down at the line, giving the Warriors one last defensive stop and the game.

The Cavaliers opened the scoring in the first period with Goodman passing to Peterson for a 25-yard touchdown, finishing a 71-yard drive.

The Warriors answered with a steady march on the ground. Warrior senior running back LaMont Brown rushed 27 times for 126 yards and the first River touchdown of the night. Brown’s 19-yard touchdown run and his two-point conversion run gave NR an 8-7 lead early in the second period.

Johnson, who played middle linebacker on a high number of NR snaps, along with his 26 carries for 134 yards for the Cavalier offense, made a huge defensive play to put the Cavs in front just before halftime.

Johnson broke into the Warrior backfield, ripped the ball away from Brown well beyond the line of scrimmage, then kept going 11 more yards for a touchdown and a 14-8 Lakeland lead.

Those were the last Lakeland points. The Warriors forced four Lakeland punts, two turnovers and two stops on downs following the first Cavalier touchdown.

“This means everything,” said NR senior lineman Corey Barnes. “We’ve worked a long time and to be city champs means a lot. Our class set a new path. We helped make this a new Nansemond River. We showed we’re as good as anyone out there.”

The Cavaliers had a playoff spot clinched going into Friday night. The loss likely means the Cavs will go on the road for their first round regional playoff game.