NSA one game away from championship

Published 10:40 pm Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Nansemond-Suffolk Academy Saints have an 8-3 record going into Saturday's championship game.

Nansemond-Suffolk (8-3) at Blue Ridge (8-2) – Saturday, 1 p.m.

For the second time in the last four years, the Saints head to Saint George to face the Blue Ridge Barons for the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association Division II state championship.

In 2009 under head coach Kevin Allen, NSA came away with a 17-0 victory.

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“This is the ultimate, and we’re excited, we’re prepared,” current NSA head coach Lew Johnston said.

The team will head to northern Virginia Friday and get the opportunity to practice on the Virginia Cavaliers’ practice field. They will also get to watch NSA alumnus Bobby Lamm and the Cavaliers practice.

This week brought good news for the Saints who defeated Trinity Episcopal 41-21 in the semifinal round without senior linebacker Jacob Laine.

“Jacob Laine has been cleared to play, so we got our defensive leader back,” Johnston said. “So, that’s just a boost for everybody having him back on the field.”

With regard to the Barons, Johnston was quick to give the team respect.

“They deserve to be here; they’re a good football team,” he said. “They’re very basic, they’re very fundamental. They don’t make a lot of mistakes.”

He described the Barons’ defense as one that is designed to shoot into the gaps where the Saints will be trying to send their runners. This will make the job of the offensive line and blockers exceedingly crucial.

“If we block like we should, it’s not going to be a problem,” Johnston said.

On defense, NSA will be looking to stop Blue Ridge senior running back Cody Pegram and junior wide receiver PJ White, who Johnston said is good out on the flank.

“Those are the two we’re going to have to kind of concentrate on, not that we can’t be paying attention to other things, but those are the two guys we got to stop,” he said.

Johnston described what winning the state championship would mean to him in his second year with the program.

“It’s for the kids, and that’s why I came out here two years ago,” he said. “I fell in love with the school and the people. I told them, ‘I’ve earned my accolades, I got my trophies. This is for them.’”

“We’ve gotten them prepared, they’re focused, they’re ready. We’re confident.”

Lakeland (8-3) at Lake Taylor (11-0) – Friday, 7 p.m.

The Cavaliers break ground as they enter the second round of the state playoffs.

Lakeland head coach Glenwood Ferebee indicated that being the first do this was significant for him and his coaching staff, and it was a testament to the hard work put in by this particular group of players.

“It kind of makes you proud to sit back and think like, ‘Man, we had something special while I was coaching at Lakeland,’” he said.

After the Cavaliers’ 16-15 opening round victory last season over King’s Fork, Ferebee indicated that Lakeland now plays not just to represent itself, but the city of Suffolk. However, he is not letting the momentous nature of the game throw off his or his team’s concentration.

“I feel the same way I feel every Thursday,” he said this week. “It’s another game to us. We’re going to come out and play Lakeland football. I think if we eliminate mistakes, we’ll be all right.”

Due to injuries suffered in last week’s game against the Bulldogs, senior offensive guard/linebacker Chris Rodgers and senior offensive/defensive lineman Craig Taylor will be out.

Ferebee said that the Cavaliers and the Mighty Titans are no strangers.

“We scrimmaged them two years in a row — a lot of people don’t know that — and it was two good scrimmages and I think we beat them once and they beat us once,” he said. “So, we’re familiar with them and they’re familiar with us.”

These scrimmages came in 2010 and 2011, and Ferebee knows that Lake Taylor coaches came to watch Lakeland play this season.

Successfully blocking the many players that the Mighty Titans like to bring to the line of scrimmage on defense would be a key to offensive success, Ferebee revealed.

Defensively, he hopes the Cavaliers can take away Lake Taylor’s running game and force them to throw the football.

“We have to play responsibility football sort of like we played against King’s Fork,” Ferebee said. “They run a similar offense without all the motions that King’s Fork runs.”