Big game predictions

Published 12:37 am Sunday, February 2, 2014

Suffolk players, coaches make Super Bowl picks

Suffolk’s coaches and standouts from the gridiron recently lent their expertise in forecasting the winner of the National Football League’s climactic showdown this evening between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks in East Rutherford, N.J.

The commonwealth is well-represented in Super Bowl XLVIII, with several Virginians on the Seahawks team. However, few have a local connection stronger than Lakeland High School senior offensive and defensive tackle Gregory Stephen, whose brother, Vinston Painter, is an offensive tackle on the Broncos’ roster.

Describing what it is like having a brother going to the Super Bowl, he said, “It’s a good experience. It’s big shoes to fill, because everybody’s expecting me to be like him, really.”

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The two talk every day, and Stephen said Painter, a rookie, does not know if he will see playing time on Sunday — “but he’s working to get towards that spot.”

Stephen’s pick was easy: “I’m going to go with the Broncos, of course — not just because of my brother, but Peyton Manning. I believe he can get it done against the Seahawks.”

King’s Fork High School junior linebacker Kane Miskel went with Seattle to win its first Super Bowl.

“They are the No. 1 defense in the league, and they have the best (defensive back) set in the league,” he said.

Nansemond River High School senior linebacker Marvin Branch picked the Seahawks for similar reasons.

“I like their defense, and Richard Sherman is becoming my favorite player in the NFL,” he said, explaining why with a laugh: “He talks so much junk.” Branch later added, “He backs it up on the field.”

Nansemond-Suffolk Academy junior fullback/defensive tackle David Gough is picking the Broncos “mostly because of Manning,” he said. “I really like him, I’ve been watching him for a long time.”

Gough sees the combination of Manning’s arm and Denver’s talented receivers as too much for Seattle.

Saints sophomore linebacker Cole Christiansen does not see those receivers as a problem. “I think Sherman’s going to shut them down,” he said.

He also picked the Seahawks, “because I don’t like Peyton Manning, because I don’t like quarterbacks that can’t run.”

Bulldogs sophomore feature back Deshaun Wethington gave credit to Seattle’s defense, but does not expect to see the Seahawks win.

“I think they haven’t seen nobody like Peyton, so it’s going to be hard for them to adjust to his game plan, and all the wideouts and how they spread out their offensive set,” he said.

Former Warriors head coach Tracey Parker highlighted Seattle’s Virginia players, including safety Kam Chancellor from Norfolk, wide receiver Percy Harvin from Chesapeake and quarterback Russell Wilson from Richmond.

“I’d love to see those guys show definitely how good football is in Virginia,” he said. However, he expects Denver to prevail.

“Having two weeks to go through film and prepare for someone — I think that’s a lot of time for Peyton Manning, and he’s one of the best at it,” he said.

Cavaliers head coach Bryan Potts said, “Seattle is my pick, and I think the reason why is because I think they have the best balance of defense and offense.” Additionally, “Whenever you have a strong defense, they just find a way to win games.”

King’s Fork head coach Joe Jones likes both teams but picks Denver.

“As a coach, I always preach, ‘Defense wins championships,’” he said. “I think Seattle has the better defense, but I’ve just always kind of been a Peyton fan.”

Lakeland sophomore linebacker Jaquan Yulee naturally applauded Seattle’s defensive aggressiveness, but he said, “I feel like it’s time for Peyton to win another Super Bowl.”

Some offered in-depth analysis with their pick, like Warriors senior running back Latrell “Vegas” Sandifer, who favors the Seahawks after recalling how Denver lost an earlier game this season to the Indianapolis Colts.

“The Colts ran just straight (man-to-man) and were just bringing pressure on Peyton, and that kind of threw him off, and he had a terrible game,” Sandifer said. “And I think the Seahawks will be able to do the same thing, but better because their (defensive line) will actually be causing havoc.”

Expecting the Seattle secondary to be too physical for Denver, he said receiver Wes Welker and tight end Julius Thomas must have big games to win, “because I think Sherman’s going to put the clamps on (Demaryius Thomas).”

NSA head coach Lew Johnston struggled with which team to root for, because while the Seahawks have Virginian talent, he has always loved Manning.

He cited the Seahawks’ ability to defend against Denver running back Knowshon Moreno as crucial to the game’s outcome.

“If Moreno has a good day, I think (the Broncos will) be hard to stop,” Johnston said. “If (the Seahawks) can stop him and make Denver one-dimensional, it could be a problem, because Seattle’s secondary is mighty good.”

Feeling certain that Richmond-native Russell Wilson, a second-year player, will have plenty more chances, Johnston said he will root for the Broncos, “and I think they’re going to take it.”