Motivations abound for Suffolk football squads

Published 10:34 pm Thursday, October 30, 2014

Nansemond-Suffolk (4-5) at Hampton Roads Academy (2-6) – 7 p.m.

Last season: Saints 63, Navigators 14

The Nansemond-Suffolk Academy football team will make the playoffs with a win tonight, and Saints coach Lew Johnston explained the mindset he has tried to instill in his players as a result.

“I think, most importantly, we’re talking about tomorrow night being our first playoff game,” he said on Thursday.

King's Fork High School senior linebacker Duke Santora seeks to bring down Oscar Smith High School sophomore quarterback Shon Mitchell during last Friday night's game. The Bulldogs will look to bring pressure to host Hickory High School's backfield tonight. (Danny Haymond photo)

King’s Fork High School senior linebacker Duke Santora seeks to bring down Oscar Smith High School sophomore quarterback Shon Mitchell during last Friday night’s game. The Bulldogs will look to bring pressure to host Hickory High School’s backfield tonight. (Danny Haymond photo)

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The knowledge that their destiny is in their own hands with this game against the Navigators has “been a great motivation,” Johnston said.

After studying HRA, he said it is “much improved over last year, talent level has definitely gone up.”

Sophomore Devone Humphrey looks to be a quality running back, and junior Bryan Hart is the same kind of shifty, quick quarterback that has been giving NSA trouble all year.

Hart most frequently connects with junior wide receiver Thomas Bagley and Humphrey.

In terms of his team’s health, Johnston said, “We’ve gone from the injury bug to the sick bug.”

He has had five players — including senior David Gough — out this week with maladies like strep throat, an ear infection and the flu, but he hoped to see them back at practice on Thursday, which would allow them to play tonight.

Western Branch (6-2) at Nansemond River (4-4) – 7 p.m.

Last season: Bruins 63, Warriors 28

The Nansemond River High School Warriors have a couple of key motivations driving them tonight.

A win would set them up for a chance at their first winning season since 2002. It would also help secure a playoff spot.

Giving his perspective on his team’s chances of reaching the postseason, NR coach David Coccoli said, “We’ve got to win one of our last two games.”

The focus is presently on defeating Western Branch High School, a perennial power in the Southeastern District.

“They’re a good football team,” Coccoli said. “They’re 6-2 for a reason.”

He noted the Bruins like to run the football and use a double wing formation. The team’s main ground threat is senior running back Corey Gray, who has run for 1,183 yards and 18 touchdowns this season.

The Warriors cannot forget about junior quarterback Daniel Griffith and the Bruins’ passing attack.

“He actually throws the ball pretty well,” Coccoli said. But, he noted, because Western Branch wants to run the ball, the key to having a chance at winning the game is in stopping the run.

Nansemond River has no major injuries.

Deep Creek (0-8) at Lakeland (2-6) – 7 p.m.

Last season: Hornets 21, Cavaliers 16

Like it was yesterday, Lakeland High School coach Bryan Potts said he can remember his halftime speech to his team from last year’s game against Deep Creek High School.

He told his team that bad things happen when it lets opponents hang around in games that should be well in hand. The game ended up illustrating his point when the Hornets won, and he has reminded his players throughout this week.

The Cavaliers also have some other motivators.

“We have an opportunity to finish on a strong note,” Potts said. “We realize that we’ve also got the opportunity to make a push for the playoffs.”

If the playoffs started today, Lakeland would be in, but it cannot afford to give up ground.

Of the Hornets, Potts said they will try to spread the Cavs out and use senior quarterback Terrence Shambry to move the ball through the air.

“They’re going to pass the ball more than they try to run the ball, and that’s always a strength for us,” Potts said. “So, hopefully they come out, and they do what they like to do.”

Lakeland has a healthy roster entering its stretch run.

King’s Fork (6-2) at Hickory (1-7) – 7 p.m.

Last season: Bulldogs 35, Hawks 14

The goals for King’s Fork High School’s football team get loftier by the season.

Bulldogs coach Joe Jones said his team is in the playoffs, now the focus turns to determining the location of postseason games by winning tonight and Nov. 7.

“We need these last two to ensure home field at least for the first game,” Jones said.

Winning tonight would also set King’s Fork up for a chance at a school record eight-win regular season.

“Hickory is big; they’re big and strong, and we practiced with them a little bit at (Old Dominion University) at the camp this summer,” Jones said. “We’ve got to be able to use our speed and quickness to offset their size.”

This battle will take place on the line.

The Bulldog defense will face a variety of challenges, one of which will be senior tight end and University of Virginia commit Richard Burney Jr.

“He’s a big target and a big weapon,” Jones said. “We’ve got to know where he’s at.”

Bulldogs senior defensive end Jaquay Ledbetter is out with a shoulder injury and senior defensive back/slotback Trelen Cox is day-to-day with an ankle injury.