Football playoff time arrives

Published 9:32 pm Thursday, November 14, 2013

Today marks the mid-point of November, and high school football’s regular season is over, but two Suffolk teams are still alive and kicking.

As the Group 4A South Region playoffs get underway tonight, both King’s Fork High School and Nansemond River High School will play their respective games on the road with 7:30 p.m. kickoffs. The Bulldogs will play at Bailey Field located behind York High School in Yorktown, and the Warriors will play at Lake Taylor High School.

No. 9 King’s Fork at No. 8 Tabb

The Bulldogs (7-3) are making their second playoff appearance in school history. Last year, their first playoff game ended in a heart-breaking 16-15 loss to cross-town rival Lakeland High School.

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King’s Fork head coach Joe Jones said the talk all year among the Bulldogs has been about raising the bar from last year’s 7-3 team. They can do that tonight with a win.

Standing in their way will be the Tigers (7-3), a team hunting for its first playoff win since a 1993 victory over Lakeland.

“They’re a true Wing T team, and they run it well,” Jones said. The offensive system involves an abundance of run plays featuring a heavy degree of misdirection, forcing defenses to make good reads.

“You can’t follow the ball against the Wing T,” Jones said. “You’ve got to follow your reads.”

Tabb’s ground attack is led by junior running back Brent Hinson, who has rushed for 1,522 yards — second most in the Bay Rivers District — and 14 touchdowns.

“Our goal defensively is to get them into second- and third-and-long situations,” Jones said.

But the Bulldogs defense cannot afford to think one-dimensionally.

“If you just totally sell out on the run, then they’re going to hurt you with the play-action pass,” Jones said.

Aside from being ready for passing opportunities of its own, the Bulldogs offense will continue to rely upon its array of rushers, led by sophomore feature back Deshaun Wethington. He led South Hampton Roads with 1,520 yards this season.

Jones said King’s Fork blockers will need to be able to pick up the slants and blitzes of Tabb’s defenders.

The Bulldogs will have restored depth with the return of senior wide receiver/defensive back Jonathan Holloway and junior tight end/linebacker Tyler Brown. Both recovered from shoulder injuries.

No. 14 Nansemond River at No. 3 Lake Taylor

The Warriors (4-6) are back in the playoffs for the first time since the 1990s. This season marks head coach Tracey Parker’s sixth year with the team, and clinching a berth has been the fulfillment of one of his long-standing goals.

“We’ve been knocking on the door for the last three (years), so it’s been a good six years, a lot of hard work,” Parker said.

Nansemond River will face the Titans, who are the defending Group AAA Division 5 state champions. They are 8-2 this season, with their only losses coming to teams that are now 10-0.

The Titans’ junior quarterback Shiheem Johnson has thrown 13 touchdown passes this season, but the bulk of Lake Taylor’s offense comes on the ground.

“They definitely do like to run the ball,” Parker said. “That’s their bread and butter. We’ve got to stop what they love to do.”

He said they run a veer offense, similar to King’s Fork’s triple option. It features two running backs behind the guard.

Lake Taylor has run for 2,144 yards this year. Its features four runners with at least 300 rushing yards apiece, combining for 32 touchdowns.

When the Warriors are on offense, Parker said avoiding mental errors and being in the proper position will be particularly important because the Titans are a blitzing team.

Nansemond River has a potent rushing attack led by senior Latrell “Vegas” Sandifer, but junior quarterback Jermaal Wells also showcased the Warriors’ growing passing game last week.

“We hope to continue that this week and kind of keep people off guard, knowing that they’re going to have to defend both the run and the pass,” Parker said.

The Warriors have no key injuries to report.