Chargers run ends, for now

Published 9:54 pm Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Suffolk Chargers owner Angela Harper is surrounded by players from her team after a recent playoff win at Dré Bly Field. Harper's time, money and determination were the key forces in making the semi-professional team a reality.

Suffolk Chargers owner Angela Harper is surrounded by players from her team after a recent playoff win at Dré Bly Field. Harper’s time, money and determination were the key forces in making the semi-professional team a reality.

The Suffolk Chargers found themselves locked in a defensive battle with a new opponent on unfamiliar terrain in the divisional round of the Spring 2013 Atlantic Coast Football Association playoffs on Sunday in Annapolis, Md.

The Annapolis Thunder managed to score on an interception return with a two-point conversion, and while the Chargers responded with the game’s only offensive touchdown, the two-point conversion failed. Suffolk fell 8-6, but the loss did not overshadow a successful inaugural season for Suffolk’s semi-professional football team.

Chargers head coach Anthony Waddler was very happy with the way his team defended the American Conference’s No. 2-seeded Thunder, which finished the regular season at 6-2.


Email newsletter signup

“Overall, defense did an excellent job,” Waddler said. “Their offense didn’t drive down the field on us, they didn’t score on us offensive-wise, they scored off a turnover, and that’s what killed us.”

Quarterback Walter Boykins was getting ready to throw the ball in the second quarter when he got hit, Waddler said. The ball went up in the air, and the Thunder caught it and ran it in.

In the third quarter, running back Antonio McCray put the Chargers on the board with a 5-yard touchdown run. However, the next play proved to be the deciding factor of the game.

“Instead of running the ball, the quarterback audibled to a pass, and the wide receiver dropped the pass,” Waddler said.

The Suffolk team ended up having to overcome a challenge just to get to the game. Arrangements had been made to have three vans transport the players to Annapolis, but the plans fell through, and they were left with one.

“The guys that have their own cars, they started putting players in their cars, and some of them drove (up) there,” Chargers owner Angela Harper said.

The caravan made the trek, and despite the loss, Waddler had plenty of players to praise. On defense, he highlighted the performances of Larry “Maxx” Williams and cornerbacks Kamron Bryant and Swendell “Cub” Stephens.

Offensively, he spotlighted McCray and Antoine “Kingg” Smith, who had a successful stint at fullback in the first half.

Waddler, who was a player-turned-coach this year, shared his thoughts on his team, which went 6-4 for the season.

“I always knew we had talent, but I knew that we didn’t have a real offensive line, so I was kind of worried when we went up against a bigger, stronger team,” he said. “But once the season started and I saw the heart and how these boys were playing, I was like, ‘OK, we’re going to make a run.’”

He gave a special shout-out to the linebackers who performed successfully as offensive linemen.

For Angela Harper, seeing a winning season unfold out of her hard work to raise money and form the team was particularly sweet.

“I felt great about it, because a lot of people said that it wasn’t real, that I was trying to take people’s money and stuff,” she said. “And then they found out, ‘OK, this thing is for real,’ and these boys, they did real good for this to be our very first year, and we made it to the second round of the playoffs.”

After overcoming past brushes with the law, Harper also experienced personal redemption through the endeavor that she hopes will inspire others.

“My background wasn’t perfect,” she said. “I had charges, but it felt good to know that I can show people, ‘OK, look at my background, look at the stuff I’ve been through, and I can turn around, and you can turn around, and you can make a difference and help other people.’”

Her players were helped through having the opportunity to play in front of a scout from Virginia State University, and Harper was told a Norfolk State University representative observed at some point during the season, as well.

And the Chargers’ story does not end here. A new ACFA season begins in the fall, and the Suffolk team has already begun preparations.

“Basically, the whole team is going to stay together,” Waddler said.

And for other players interested in joining, Harper will be holding open tryouts on July 6 at Peanut Park.