A day of reckoning on the gridiron

Published 9:56 pm Thursday, October 23, 2014

Nansemond-Suffolk Academy senior fullback David Gough will likely need to be in peak form to help the Saints topple visiting Trinity Episcopal School and virtually ensure a playoff berth tonight. (Janine DeMello photo)

Nansemond-Suffolk Academy senior fullback David Gough will likely need to be in peak form to help the Saints topple visiting Trinity Episcopal School and virtually ensure a playoff berth tonight. (Janine DeMello photo)

Trinity Episcopal (4-4) at Nansemond-Suffolk (4-4) – 7 p.m.

Last season: Saints 58, Titans 29

The Nansemond-Suffolk Academy football team is well aware that tonight’s game is important to the 2014 season.

“We started talking about it Monday,” Saints coach Lew Johnston said. “This has huge playoff implications.”

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NSA could find itself out of the playoffs if it does not defeat Trinity Episcopal School, and the Saints have been preparing for the game by ratcheting up their intensity in practice.

They are also recovering from a frustrating wave of injuries.

Junior tight end/defensive tackle Jack Johnson should see more playing time this week, junior defensive back/running back Graham Moore’s hamstring is at 99 percent and junior quarterback Noah Serianni’s ankle looks good.

Sophomore linebacker Ke’Shaun Moore was waiting for the OK to play on Thursday from his doctor.

Unfortunately, senior lineman Shay Wood will be out after getting ejected in last Friday’s 56-34 win against visiting Greenbrier Christian Academy.

The Titans have a dangerous offense, led by its passing attack, which features junior Trevion Armstrong, a 6-foot-4-inch, 220-pound wideout/tight end who is already committed to Old Dominion University.

Throwing to him is talented junior quarterback Blake Bowen. Senior tight end/running back/wideout Jack Freudenthal and junior running back/strong safety Justin Jasper may also be factors.

Oscar Smith (6-1) at King’s Fork (6-1) – 7 p.m.

Last season: Tigers 62, Bulldogs 12

King’s Fork High School’s football team will celebrate homecoming tonight while taking on one of the most fearsome opponents in the state — Oscar Smith High School.

Bulldogs coach Joe Jones knows it is a demanding task, but it was not part of a grand plan.

“It just fell in line that this was the week for homecoming,” he said. “It’s no impact on me who we play. In fact, I like the fact that it’s an ambitious homecoming game because our guys usually get fired up for homecoming.”

Now, they will have a whole other reason, seeking to end the Tigers’ 74-game win streak against Southeastern District opponents.

“We’ve got a chance to make this a very special homecoming,” Jones said.

Making this goal difficult to achieve will be Oscar Smith senior running back Deshawn McClease, a Virginia Tech commit who has now set school records for career rushing yards (4,010) and touchdowns (68).

Tigers sophomore quarterback Shon Mitchell has continued to play well this season, adding offensive balance.

The Bulldogs will look for opportunities to do the same, lightening the load on the shoulders of junior feature back Deshaun Wethington.

Hickory (1-6) at Nansemond River (3-4) – 7 p.m.

Last season: Warriors 25, Hawks 14

Nansemond River High School coach David Coccoli gleaned some good insights about his team after studying its performance in last week’s 47-20 home loss against the King’s Fork High School Bulldogs.

On the negative side, he noted the Warriors struggled in special teams and turned the ball over more than once. Positively, he said NR outgained KF offensively.

“We just need to stop making mistakes, and if we do that, I think we’re going to be OK,” Coccoli said.

Struggling Hickory High School would seem to be a team that the Warriors can dispatch, but Coccoli was guarding against overconfidence, pointing out the Hawks played tough against Lakeland High School last week, despite suffering a 14-point loss.

“We need to play well,” he said.

Hickory will have size helping it on both sides of the ball.

“They’re very big up front,” Coccoli said, adding the Hawks have senior Richard Burney Jr., a University of Virginia commit, who is “one of the best tight ends I’ve seen on tape.”

Nansemond River hopes its junior starting running back Terrence Lambert will be able to return to the lineup after a two-game absence due to injury.

Lakeland (2-5) at Western Branch (5-2) – 7 p.m.

Last season: Bruins 52, Cavaliers 14

Taking on Western Branch High School is challenging task for most schools in the Southeastern District, but Lakeland High School is sensing an opportunity in the wake of Indian River High School’s 28-21 upset of the host Bruins last Friday night.

“It’s going to be a tough one, but the guys feel confident that they can get the job done, especially after studying (the Bruins’) film against Indian River,” Cavaliers coach Bryan Potts said.

He said Western Branch runs the ball 95 percent of the time, and leading the charge is senior Corey Gray, who “is a very, very tough running back.”

“Of course, it’s going to be hard to find him at times with the style of Wing-T that they run,” Potts said, noting the Bruins linemen bunch up together, using foot-to-foot splits.

“They’re not a bad passing team, but that’s definitely not the strength of their offense,” Potts said. “We’ve just got to get them in obvious passing situations.”

He said he thinks Lakeland enters its showdown against Western Branch this year in a better situation than 2013, and not just because it has one more win.

“I just think that we’re a year more experienced,” he said.