Team charges into season

Published 10:44 pm Thursday, March 21, 2013

Suffolk’s very own semi-professional football team, the Chargers, started its season successfully last week with a road win in Delaware last weekend and will be making its debut at home tomorrow at Peanut Park.

Suffolk Chargers wide receiver Kendrey Thurman and the team practice on Thursday at Portsmouth's Cavalier Manor Park in preparation for Saturday's home-opener against the Richmond Venom at Peanut Park.

Suffolk Chargers wide receiver Kendrey Thurman and the team practice on Thursday at Portsmouth’s Cavalier Manor Park in preparation for Saturday’s home-opener against the Richmond Venom at Peanut Park.

The team began to form last fall after Angela Harper listened to her son, A.J., who wanted another chance to prove himself on the field to professional scouts from teams either here or overseas.

The Chargers play in the spring league of the Atlantic Coast Football Association and college and pro scouts are expected to check them out during the course of the season.

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In last Saturday’s season-opener, the Chargers defeated the Maryland Godds, 16-6. Angela Harper, a customer service representative for Capital One, has personally financed the team and donated a great deal of time and energy, as well, to make it a reality. She expressed what it has been like to see this endeavor to help her son and others come to life.

“It’s hard to put in words,” she said, as fought back tears. “I had a lot of people that doubted me, they said it wasn’t going to be anything. I wouldn’t be able to help these boys, but I am helping them. Just to know they’re able to get on that field and do what they love, that’s what does it all. Just to see them out there and those boys pushing and they’re trying to really do something, it just says more than any word could ever say, just to see them out there, knowing how much they really want it.”

Anthony Waddler became the head coach of the Chargers after having played with a Portsmouth team in another league with several players who are now on the Chargers’ roster. Collectively, they won that league’s championship, but then the team was discontinued, which gave the Suffolk players an idea.

“They wanted to start their own thing and represent Suffolk,” Waddler said.

“They couldn’t find a coach to stick, so the owner called me and was like, ‘Look, we’ve got a group of guys, they want to stay out of trouble, they want to do something positive, some are still trying to get into school and whatnot,’” he said. “So they were like, ‘Would you come over and help run the team?’ So, when I got over there, the team wanted me to be the head coach, so I took the job.”

Waddler evaluated the make-up of his roster, which currently consists of 42 players, and detailed his expectations for the group.

“We’ve got a lot of young players, basically, within the last three or four years, just being out of high school,” Waddler said. “We’ve got a lot of experience at every position as far as our line, especially our quarterback. He’s very smart. He knows how to maintain the team, so I think, if we all stay together and everybody keeps focused, I think we can possibly make the playoffs in our first season.”

The starting quarterback for the team is Walter Boykins. Waddler praised Boykins, backup quarterback Neil McKoy and defensive tackle Clarence “Dion” Artis for their leadership on the team.

“They’re at every practice, they work hard, they always lead their team, try to keep the guys together, no fussing,” he said. “They’re my team captains.”

Both quarterbacks will see plenty of action as Waddler employs a dual quarterback system. In contrast to Boykins, Waddler said McKoy is “a running back, so when I put him in the backfield, we have the play where we hand the ball off to him and he throws it to the receiver, so it’s like a halfback pass.”

McKoy shared his feeling on the team, one game into the season.

“I feel great, man,” he said. “I’m happy, I’m blessed to be up here, anyway. We’re finally getting everybody together.”

Harper’s son, A.J., is another team captain who Waddler cited as an all-around player who can run with the ball, play free safety and quarterback, as well.

The coach indicated that the Chargers will have balanced attack on offense that will go no-huddle, relying upon strong reads on the defense and a conditioning that can wear the other team out.

He also praised a defense that he can count on to step up if the offense is struggling.

The Suffolk Chargers (1-0) will host the Richmond Venom tomorrow night at 6 p.m. at Peanut Park.

“I’m looking to come out with a ‘W,’” A.J. Harper said, then gestured to his mother. “Plus, to see a smile on her face.”