Suffolk football tackles the postseason

Published 3:52 pm Friday, November 13, 2015

Life under the Friday night lights takes on a new meaning tonight for all four of Suffolk’s high school football teams — the playoffs are here.

King’s Fork High School and Nansemond-Suffolk Academy host the teams they traveled to play in their respective season openers, while Nansemond River and Lakeland high schools hit the road, traveling to Norfolk and South Hill, respectively.

No. 5 Smithfield (6-4) at No. 4 King’s Fork (5-5) — 7:30 p.m.

This season on Aug. 28: Bulldogs 24, Packers 17

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The Bulldogs look to revive their season tonight after capping off their current four-game losing streak with a shocking 16-12 road loss against Deep Creek High School last week, one of the biggest upsets in Suffolk football for 2015.

“You know the old saying, ‘Losing builds character’?” King’s Fork coach Joe Jones said. “I’ve got all the character I want now.”

The Bulldogs have gotten used to winning, going 26-11 from 2012 to 2014, including 4-3 in the playoffs.

Of last Friday’s game, he said, “It was just unfortunate,” but he gave the Hornets credit, adding, “They played hard the whole game.”

Nevertheless, the Bulldogs held a 268-165 advantage in total offensive yardage and a 14-12 advantage in first downs. They had two turnovers, but Deep Creek had four, and while they had 18 penalties for 175 yards, the Hornets were not far behind with 16 for 170 yards.

Jones said his staff and players have moved on from the loss.

“We didn’t even look at the film,” he said, and instead they have been concentrating on what they do well and on the Smithfield Packers.

“They’ve got some weapons on offense where they can score on big plays,” Jones said, noting his team has struggled to prevent big plays.

Chief among Smithfield’s weapons is 6-foot-4-inch junior wide receiver Chris Pierce, who had six catches for 122 yards and a touchdown against the Bulldogs in the season opener.

Also dangerous is senior wide receiver Aaron Williams, who had three catches for 101 yards and a touchdown in the opener.

Jones said on Thursday, “We’re going to find out tomorrow night how hungry we are to keep the tradition that we’ve started the last three years going.”

No. 5 Nansemond River (7-3) at No. 4 Norview (7-2) — 7 p.m.

Last year in its opening playoff game, Nansemond River came close to knocking off Phoebus High School but ultimately fell 14-13. That version of the Warriors had far fewer seniors than this year’s squad, though.

“We’re a different football team,” Nansemond River coach David Coccoli said. “We’re a lot more explosive offensively.”

That explosiveness combined with strong defensive play has translated into the Warriors outscoring their last four opponents 198-31.

Tonight, they face a Norview team that Coccoli also described as being explosive offensively. The Pilots average 38.2 points per game this season.

Their only losses have come against Lake Taylor High School (10-0), a No. 1 seed in the Region 4A East bracket, and Highland Springs High School (9-1), a No. 1 seed in the Region 5A South bracket.

“They’re a good football team,” Coccoli said of the Pilots, noting they have good size up front. “We need to control the line of scrimmage.”

Junior quarterback Darriel Mack Jr. helps power the Norview offense, along with senior slotback Devon Watford and junior running back Kevin Marks Jr.

No. 3 North Cross (7-3) at No. 2 Nansemond-Suffolk (7-3) — 7 p.m.

This season on Aug. 29: Saints 54, Raiders 28

To return to the state title game for the first time since 2012, the Saints must defeat North Cross School again.

“We’re excited,” NSA coach Lew Johnston said. “We’ve had a great week of practice. The kids are fired up. We know what the objective is out in front of us.”

But these are not the same Raiders that Nansemond-Suffolk faced in Roanoke to open its season.

“There are two huge changes,” Johnston said. “Their starting quarterback went down about three weeks ago, I guess, with a broken collarbone.”

Taking over behind center for North Cross has been sophomore Nariq Bailey, who Johnston said looks really athletic.

The Raiders passed for 195 yards against NSA in August, but their offense focuses a little more on the run now.

“They’ve come back with a running back who did not play against us who is now starting,” Johnston said, referring to sophomore Maurice Garrison.

The coach noted North Cross’ main threat, however, is senior wide receiver Jordan Lowery, who burned the Saints with nine catches for 131 yards and two touchdowns in the opener, to go with a kickoff return for a touchdown.

NSA will have more experience in its linebacking corps this time around, though, since senior Daniel Griffith and junior KeShaun Moore are healthy.

No. 6 Lakeland (2-8) at No. 3 Park View (8-2) — 7 p.m.

The Cavaliers have earned a playoff spot and stand ahead of No. 7 and No. 8 seeds that each have four wins, but the Cavs are seeded higher because of who they played.

Lakeland has played no one lower than Group 4A before now. Playing against teams from higher classifications, and especially getting wins against them, translates into a wealth of power points, which dictate seeding.

“Now we have an opportunity to play against some schools with the same enrollments as ours, and we’re pretty excited about the opportunity that we have,” Cavaliers coach Kevin Knight said.

Park View High School’s record is imposing compared to Lakeland’s, but tonight’s matchup may not be the easy win for the Dragons that some might think, as Park View has played no teams this year above the 3A classification.

The Cavaliers have had little reason to rest easy, fresh off a 52-7 road loss to red-hot Nansemond River.

“We’ve been riding them hard ever since that game,” Knight said.

Knight noted Park View runs a Wing-T style offense.

“They like to run the ball,” he said, adding that the Dragons’ run game features sophomore running back German Neville.

Knight emphasized the need for discipline on defense and speed on offense, where he hopes to spread Park View out.