Suffolk football begins on the road
Published 10:58 pm Thursday, August 27, 2015
For football fans everywhere, the first game of a new season is one that sells itself.
“The opening game every year is always an exciting time,” King’s Fork High School coach Joe Jones said.
Speaking for himself and his team, Nansemond River High School coach David Coccoli said, “We’re excited, we’re ready to play.”
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The Warriors and Bulldogs will start the 2015 season tonight, ahead of Nansemond-Suffolk Academy, which springs into action on Saturday, and Lakeland High School, which gets going on Sept. 4.
Nansemond River vs. Menchville (at John B. Todd Stadium) — 5 p.m.
Aside from starting off the year with a win, Coccoli has some simple things he hopes to see his team accomplish against Menchville High School.
“We want to play hard, play good all four quarters and play to the best of our ability,” he said.
The emphasis on playing well for the entirety of the game continues Coccoli’s focus on his team demonstrating consistency in its play.
On both sides of the ball, “if we can be consistent, we’ll be OK,” he said earlier in the preseason.
After the Virginia High School League’s latest realignment, the Warriors have joined Group 5A and are now part of Conference 10, along with Menchville. Tonight’s game will be NR’s only regular season contest against a conference opponent.
The Monarchs are coming off of a 1-9 season, looking to build a solid program, and Coccoli has gotten some insight into how they operate.
“They’re a spread team,” he said, noting they like to pass the ball. “They’ve got some good athletes, and they’re fundamentally sound.”
Menchville players to watch include senior defensive/offensive lineman Kalepo Naotala and senior cornerback/running back Malik Dixon.
Coccoli was clear on his team’s focus, offensively. He said, “We’re going to try to establish the run and go from there.”
He said his team is in good shape health-wise entering the season.
King’s Fork at Smithfield — 7 p.m.
The excitement for a season-opening game reaches a new level when history is involved.
“Some games are a little more personal than others,” Jones said, and a game against Smithfield High School qualifies.
Jones coached the Packers from 1996 to 2001, and this will be his first time facing off against them as coach of the Bulldogs.
“It has a little more personal meaning to me, and it’ll be a little different,” Jones said. “I’ve got a lot of friends there.”
This will be the first time King’s Fork has ever lined up on the gridiron across from Smithfield, which is a fellow Group 4A team.
“I think it’ll be the first game of a solid rivalry, kind of a ‘Battle of Route 10,’” Jones said.
The Packers went 5-6 overall last year, falling in their opening playoff game 46-14 to Monacan High School.
But they have a new coach this year and will be looking to re-establish themselves as a force in the area.
“They’re not afraid to put the ball up,” Jones said, having looked at their game film from scrimmages. “They’ve got a big receiver.”
That big receiver is 6-foot-4-inch, 201-pound junior Chris Pierce, a returning weapon for Smithfield.
“He’s physical,” Jones said. “With his size, he’s able to go up and get the ball.”
Jones noted the Packers also have decent size up front and good athletes.
The Bulldogs will be without junior offensive/defensive lineman Phillip LeClair for the first half of the season due to a knee injury.