Warriors bring Suffolk football into full swing

Published 10:26 pm Thursday, September 4, 2014

Nansemond River High School senior quarterback DeShon Saunders, top left, is expected to lead the Warriors in tonight's season opener.

Nansemond River High School senior quarterback DeShon Saunders, top left, is expected to lead the Warriors in tonight’s season opener.

Nansemond River at Grassfield — 7 p.m.

Last season: Grassfield 36, Nansemond River 15

Nansemond River High School gets its 2014 football season rolling tonight.

“I think the kids are ready to play their first game,” new Warriors coach David Coccoli said. “They’re itching to go.”

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With two successful high school head coaching stints already under his belt, Coccoli is familiar with the feeling entering game one with a new program.

“It’s always exciting because you want to see how your kids perform under the lights,” he said.

Grassfield High School lost leading rushers and star defenders Vincent Lowe and Isaiah Harper to graduation, but it started 2014 well last Thursday with a 28-7 win over host Maury High School.

Sophomore running back Shawndell Joyner gained 111 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries and is someone NR will need to limit.

Coccoli, who praised the ability of Grizzlies coach Marty Asprey, said, “He’s usually been run-first in the past,” but the Warriors will be on the lookout for the pass because of the strength of senior quarterback Brett Smith and junior wideout Grant Holloway.

Smith passed for 1,169 yards and 15 touchdowns last year, while Holloway had 18 receptions.

Nansemond River has had one notable injury, but is healthy for the most part, Coccoli said.

Great Bridge at Lakeland — 7 p.m.

Last season: Great Bridge 29, Lakeland 12

As Great Bridge High School gets its 2014 season started, Lakeland High School looks to redeem itself after a poor second half last Friday against visiting I.C. Norcom High School.

“I think it’s a good opportunity for us to get back on track,” Cavaliers coach Bryan Potts said. “The guys responded well this week in practice after coming off what we knew was a very disappointing loss to Norcom.”

Potts and his staff made tackling a point of emphasis. They will look to stop Wildcats senior running back Brandon Jones, but may spend more time focused on senior wide receivers Duncan Boone and KJ Holloway.

“They like to pass the ball,” Potts said. “They’re going to spread us out the majority of the time.”

Junior quarterback Jacob Wilson threw 1,143 yards last year, but Potts is confident in Lakeland’s pass defense.

“We’re going to try to get a little more pressure on the quarterback this week and try to put them in situations where they have to throw,” he said.

Lakeland senior lineman Travis Jones returns from injury, as does senior running back/safety Ja’Juan Walker, though his play may be limited.

King’s Fork at Wilson — 7 p.m.

Last season: King’s Fork 32, Wilson 0

King’s Fork High School got its season off to a rousing start with last week’s 55-0 home win over Deep Creek High School. Despite a loss, Woodrow Wilson High School showed life of its own, too.

The Presidents fell to visiting Heritage High School on Friday night, but the 26-8 final score was deceiving.

“It was a tight game,” said Bulldogs coach Joe Jones, who was in attendance. The score was 12-8 going into the fourth quarter. “I was impressed with Wilson. Their quarterback and running back are very fast, quick and elusive.”

Among the primary threats to KF are senior quarterback Jaquan Ervin and senior running back Jamonta Williams.

“We’ve worked a lot on our tackling drills as we do every week, but even more this week,” Jones said.

He expects Wilson to run first, but pass 10-15 times, including possibly some shots downfield.

When on offense, the Bulldogs will need to put a body on Presidents senior linebacker James Chapman, Jones said.

King’s Fork is near 100 percent health-wise. Senior lineman Jaquay Ledbetter has been out but was cleared to practice this week.

Nansemond-Suffolk at Fredericksburg Christian — 4 p.m.

Nansemond-Suffolk Academy already has two blowout wins under its belt, yet Saints coach Lew Johnston is not wrestling with overconfidence coming into this afternoon’s game against the Fredericksburg Christian High School Eagles.

Rather, he said he is “a little concerned just because they too are a quality program, but more importantly than that, we’re playing a coach who has as much experience as I do. He’s been a Wing T guy for a long time.”

The Eagles, a Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association Division III squad, defeated St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School last week 21-14.

They have their own No. 44 fullback, senior James Plourde, who they are not afraid to run liberally for short gains that add up to time-consuming drives.

“We’ve got to get them off the field and get our offense back on the field,” Johnston said. “We can’t afford to let them have seven-, eight-minute drives and eat up a bunch of clock. So, that to me is going to be the key of the game.”

Eagles transfer players and senior wideout Josh Hill will be players to watch.

NSA senior lineman Shay Wood has started practicing again this week and could play some.