A big night of football

Published 9:59 pm Thursday, November 6, 2014

Lakeland High School sophomore Demetrius McKinney, No. 31, advances the ball as sophomore Garrett Whitley, No. 52, leads against visiting Deep Creek High School last week. The Cavaliers look to ensure a playoff spot tonight with a win at Grassfield High School. (Melissa Glover photo)

Lakeland High School sophomore Demetrius McKinney, No. 31, advances the ball as sophomore Garrett Whitley, No. 52, leads against visiting Deep Creek High School last week. The Cavaliers look to ensure a playoff spot tonight with a win at Grassfield High School. (Melissa Glover photo)

No. 4 Nansemond-Suffolk (5-5) at No. 1 St. Anne’s-Belfield (9-1) – 7 p.m.

Last meeting: SAB Saints 61, NSA Saints 6

Nansemond-Suffolk Academy’s football team begins postseason play tonight in the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association Division II state semifinals, and in this game, NSA will have the chance to avenge its most lopsided loss of the year.

“The kids are probably more excited than they’ve been since early in the season. They are really up for the challenge and some payback,” Nansemond-Suffolk coach Lew Johnston said. “I think they realized how poorly we played that first time, and they wanted a chance for a full redemption.”

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St. Anne’s-Belfield is an impressive opponent, boasting a variety of offensive weapons. Senior quarterback Lee Parkhill has had a successful year throwing the ball, and he has been able to spread it around to junior wide receivers Jalen Harrison, Kareem Johnson and Campbell Miller.

Harrison has been the most dangerous of the trio, and Johnston said junior defensive back Noah Giles will be tasked with covering him.

Senior fullback/running back Jake Allen catches out of the backfield and is one of several backs benefiting St. Anne’s-Belfield this year.

NSA hopes to put pressure on Parkhill.

“The best pass defense is a pass rush,” Johnston said.

Injuries ravaged his team on both sides of the ball during the previous meeting with St. Anne’s-Belfield, but on Thursday, Johnston noted what could significantly alter the shape of the rematch.

“We’re fully healthy. Everybody’s back.”

Western Branch (7-2) at King’s Fork (7-2) – 7 p.m.

Last season: Bruins 41, Bulldogs 28

King’s Fork High School coach Joe Jones succinctly summed up tonight’s regular season finale against Western Branch High School.

“I think it has the makings for a great game,” he said.

Both teams’ records bear two losses, and both teams have lost to the same opponents — Oscar Smith and Indian River high schools.

Both the Bruins and the Bulldogs feature potent run-first offenses.

Western Branch senior running back Corey Gray has run for 1,284 yards and 19 touchdowns this year, junior quarterback Daniel Griffith has run for 399 yards and 11 touchdowns and sophomore running back Jeancarlo Berrios has added 520 yards and five touchdowns.

To stop the Bruins, Jones said, “You’ve got to be disciplined, physical and tackle well.”

The Bulldogs also cannot forget about Griffith and the WB passing game, which can surprise opponents and reap big plays.

Jones highlighted two big things motivating his healthy squad to win tonight. First, victory would lock up the best regular season football record in King’s Fork history. Second, “It would give us, for sure, one home playoff game and a high possibility of two home playoff games,” he said.

Lakeland (3-6) at Grassfield (3-6) – 7 p.m.

Last season: Grizzlies 29, Cavaliers 12

After a year without a postseason presence, Lakeland High School can ensure its return trip to the playoffs with a win tonight against Grassfield High School.

“It’s a huge game,” Cavaliers coach Bryan Potts said. To win it “would do wonders for our program, our confidence.”

He also noted that a victory would give Lakeland its first two-game winning streak this season, and “that’s huge going into the playoffs.”

The Grizzlies are mathematically eliminated from the postseason in Region 6A South, but they will likely be playing for their seniors, and Potts said his team will need to meet their emotion.

“We had a solid week of practice, probably the most competitive practice we’ve had since summer camp,” Potts said.

Grassfield suffered major player losses due to graduation after last season, but “they still have some pretty good athletes,” Potts said.

Sophomore running back Shawndell Joyner is a running threat on the team, and senior quarterback Brett Smith has capable wide receivers to pass to in the form of juniors Racee Lucas, Jordan Alexander and Grant Holloway.

Lakeland junior defensive back William Barnes will be limited with a shoulder injury.

Nansemond River (4-5) at Deep Creek (0-9) – 7 p.m.

Last season: Warriors 34, Hornets 20

Nansemond River High School is headed for the playoffs this year, but coach David Coccoli is not letting his team overlook its final opponent of the regular season, noting the importance of going out on a high note.

“We need to win this game,” he said.

He explained how this goal might not be as easy to achieve as some would think.

“They’re athletic at the skill positions,” he said of the Hornets. “Their record is not indicative of the talent that they have.”

Coccoli highlighted Deep Creek senior quarterback Terrence Shambry.

“He can throw the ball and can run the run ball,” the coach said, adding that Shambry has some receivers that can go up and get it.

The Warriors are prepared for a balanced attack from the Hornets.

When Nansemond River has the ball, it will have a clear objective in mind after having turned the ball over three times last week.

“We’re just concerned about eliminating errors,” Coccoli said.

The Warriors will press on without star senior defensive back/wide receiver Antonio Sims, who broke his ankle last week and is out for the year.