Football preview: Big tests ahead

Published 9:56 pm Thursday, September 19, 2013

King’s Fork at Grassfield

Last season — King’s Fork 25, Grassfield 21

Last year’s showdown between the Bulldogs (2-0, 1-0 SED) and Grizzlies (2-0, 1-0 SED) produced one of the most memorable wins of the 2012 Suffolk football season, but the Bulldogs do not plan to rest on their laurels.

“We proved last year that we are a contender, and as I told the guys, you never stop having to prove yourselves,” KF head coach Joe Jones said.

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Both undefeated teams come off a bye week with plenty of time to prepare for one another, and both teams are slightly different from last season due to graduation.

However, still the same is the challenge posed by Grassfield senior offensive and defensive duo Isaiah Harper and Vincent Lowe, who wreaked havoc on Nansemond River High School recently en route to a 36-15 win.

“Defensively, we have to be able to contain their big-play guys,” Jones said, and offensively, the Bulldogs have been preparing for the Grizzlies’ different defensive fronts.

King’s Fork will be missing a few players due to injury, but Jones said, “We’re expecting just a good hard-fought football game.”

Bishop Sullivan Catholic at Nansemond-Suffolk

Last season — Nansemond-Suffolk 28, Bishop Sullivan Catholic 20

This game is set to be the first big test for the Saints (3-0, 1-0) this year, but NSA head coach Lew Johnston said it will be the first big test for the Crusaders (4-0, 0-0), too.

Some Bishop Sullivan games have featured incredibly high scores, including a 62-41 win over First Flight High School and most recently a 49-22 victory against St. Anne’s-Belfield School.

Johnston said Bishop Sullivan likes to use four or five receivers, led by senior Jamil Kamara. Senior tailback Brice Tucker is a threat, and the biggest difference-maker is junior quarterback Blake LaRussa.

“We’re going to have a couple different pass coverages in the secondary,” Johnston said, not to stop receivers, but to try confusing LaRussa. Johnston also said they must put pressure on him with four linemen so seven players can drop back and cover.

He has told his players they cannot get frustrated if the Crusaders get a couple of scores. He said, “They’ve got to stop us, too.’”

Junior Camden Sutten has practiced well at center, replacing suspended senior center Will DeLuca, and junior halfback Addison Peak is back to full speed after suffering a bruised knee last week.

Indian River at Lakeland

Last season — Lakeland 40, Indian River 0

The Cavaliers (0-2, 0-1) return to action from an important bye week, which gave them time to heal up from injuries and work on improving their game.

Head coach Bryan Potts said after reviewing the tape from the recent 29-12 loss to Great Bridge High School, he determined it is the small details his team needs to work on.

“If we do the small things right on a consistent basis, the bigger things will happen for us,” he said.

The Braves (0-2, 0-1) are coming off a 61-0 home loss to Oscar Smith High School, and have been outscored this season 99-0, but Potts has seen signs of an efficient passing game the Cavaliers will need to stop, particularly on screen plays.

He said his offense is familiar with Indian River’s defensive scheme, so it should be able to move the ball against it.

The game will be the Cavs home opener. “The excitement around the school has been awesome,” said Potts, who hopes his players will feed off the energy.

NRHS at Great Bridge

Last season — Nansemond River 20, Great Bridge 7

After turnovers were a key issue for the Warriors (0-2, 0-1) last week in a 27-8 loss to Churchland High School, NR head coach Tracey Parker’s hopes for tonight’s game were readily understandable.

“First of all, take care of the football,” he said. “When we take care of the football, we’ll put ourselves in a better position.”

The Wildcats (1-1, 1-0) come off a 19-14 loss to Granby High School, but Parker praised their balance on offense, citing their receivers and a dual threat quarterback. He also said, “They give you a lot of formations and run a lot of different plays out of the formations.”

“We have to do what we’re supposed to do as far as being in the right position and at that point, making plays,” he said.

The Warriors may still have some sidelined players due to injury but are hopeful senior linebacker Marvin Branch may return.

All of the local football games will kick off at 7 tonight.