Warriors slay Grizzlies in opener

Published 1:14 am Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Nansemond River High School football team made the 2014 season a special one right out of the gate at Grassfield High School.

The Warriors have not officially recorded a win against Grassfield since the Grizzlies came on the scene back in 2007, but Nansemond River added a new chapter to history by hanging on for a 21-19 victory Friday night.

“It’s just a start of what we’re trying to build here,” said new Warriors coach David Coccoli.

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He was pleased to get the win in his debut, but deflected the attention and credit to his players, noting they have worked hard for him since he got the job.

“They pulled it out in the end,” he said.

Grassfield, a highly regarded Group 6A team, tried to prevent the upset in the final minutes, but Warriors senior defensive end Napolean Cross blocked a 32-yard field goal attempt to end the effort.

Coccoli saw from his team mostly what he expected to see. He said that going into the game, “I thought we had a good shot.”

Nansemond River scored all of its 21 points in the first half.

“We ran the ball pretty well,” Coccoli said.

After the Grizzlies got on the board first with a six-yard touchdown run to make it 6-0, the Warriors responded with junior running back Terrence Lambert scoring on a three-yard run to help his team take a 7-6 lead.

Grassfield took back the lead via a 65-yard touchdown completion, but NR junior Chris Henderson returned the ensuing kickoff 76 yards, putting the Warriors up 14-13 in a busy first quarter.

Nansemond River senior quarterback DeShon Saunders had a one-yard touchdown run in the second to make it 21-13 at the half.

Penalties knocked some of the Warriors’ drives back after that, but Coccoli said, “Our defense picked it up in the second half.”

After giving up the two scores in the first quarter, it allowed only one more, a 9-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. Grassfield’s two-point conversion attempt failed.

Nansemond River junior defensive back Marquis Braimer was a standout with four solo tackles and an interception.

On offense, Lambert carried the ball 14 times for 100 yards, while Saunders had 11 carries for 59 yards and went 3-for-4 passing for 85 yards.

Coccoli said his team’s execution was good, but “we’ve got a lot of work to do, and the kids know that.”

Nansemond River (1-0) visits Churchland High School next Friday night.