NSA goes for title; KF, Cavs press on

Published 9:22 pm Thursday, November 19, 2015

Nansemond-Suffolk Academy senior running back Noah Giles and the Saints could further cement their place in history tonight by winning the state championship. (Janine DeMello photo)

Nansemond-Suffolk Academy senior running back Noah Giles and the Saints could further cement their place in history tonight by winning the state championship. (Janine DeMello photo)

The big day has arrived for Nansemond-Suffolk Academy’s football team as it competes for the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association Division III state championship tonight at the Virginia Beach Sportsplex.

Meanwhile, King’s Fork High School and Lakeland High School continue their postseasons at Lake Taylor High School and the Poquoson Middle School Stadium, respectively.

No. 2 Nansemond-Suffolk (8-3) vs. No. 1 Atlantic Shores (10-0) — 7 p.m.

The Saints will be vying for NSA’s fourth state football championship this evening. The school’s other three titles came at the VISAA Division II level.

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Nansemond-Suffolk was the association’s inaugural Division II champ in 1991, then won again in 2000 and 2009.

Each NSA championship was earned by a different coach. If the Saints earn a fourth title, it would give Lew Johnston his first state championship as a coach in the final game of his 41-year football coaching career.

The Saints have been diligently preparing this week, finishing their practices under the lights at Arthur E. Jones Athletic Field to avoid the darkness that comes early these days.

“I’m excited, guardedly optimistic,” Johnston said on Thursday. “The kids are loose, confident, enthusiastic.”

He said he was sure they would start getting hyped up on Friday, but a key influence to the Saints’ mindset has been the result of a preseason scrimmage against Atlantic Shores Christian School.

“The fact that we beat them so soundly in the scrimmage in August, I think, has our kids’ confidence level way high,” Johnston said.

Seahawks coach Wayne Lance said, “We may be the (No.) 1 seed, but I would definitely say they’re the favorite.”

Likely the Saints’ and Seahawks’ best common opponent this season was Norfolk Academy, a VISAA Division I team. Atlantic Shores beat NA 36-35 in overtime, while Nansemond-Suffolk beat the Bulldogs 42-7.

But the Saints acknowledge that the Seahawks have put together an impressive season since they last met.

“We respect Atlantic Shores,” Johnston said. “Anybody who’s gone 10-0 is doing something right.”

Lance said his team has had a great year, and added, “I have a great group of guys.”

He noted the Seahawks lost a significant group of seniors a year ago, and nobody probably thought this year’s team could go undefeated or play in a state championship.

Johnston highlighted Seahawks junior quarterback Ryan Chamberlain as being outstanding.

“Not only is he talented but very experienced,” Johnston said. “He’s the linchpin, he’s the key to the whole thing.”

This season, Chamberlain has 112 completions in 160 attempts for 1,852 yards, 25 touchdowns and only one interception.

Senior running back Brandon Hall has led the Seahawks ground game, with 121 carries for 915 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Johnston pointed to Atlantic Shores senior wide receiver Jordan Cannady as quick, athletic and versatile, shining on offense and special teams.

For the Saints, senior running back Noah Giles has been slowed this week with a bruised hip but has been improving each day.

“I know he’s not going to let this keep him out,” Johnston said.

No. 6 Lakeland (3-8) vs. No. 2 Poquoson (9-2) — 7 p.m.

Lakeland is fresh off upsetting No. 3 Park View High School 21-14 in the first round of the playoffs, and that team was 8-2 going into the game.

“It’s playoff time, so whatever their record is, you throw that out and everybody is 0-0,” Cavaliers coach Kevin Knight said.

Poquoson High School is another 8-2 team, but it improved to 9-2 last Friday by defeating No. 7 Warhill High School 38-0 in the first round.

Lakeland faces the possibility of springing another upset, and Knight has cited his team’s rigorous regular season schedule as a confidence-builder to his players.

“We play in the toughest district in the state of Virginia,” he said. “I told them they can beat anybody. They believe in that.”

Knight said his team feels good right now, nursing bumps and bruises, but it has had a pretty good week of practice.

Cavaliers junior running back Damontra Milteer has been dealing with a hamstring injury but should be good to go on Friday, Knight said.

He noted Poquoson runs a Wing-T offense very well, and his defense will need to be quite disciplined to stop it.

When the Islanders pass, Knight said they are very effective, and his defensive backs will need to be on guard, particularly against senior tight end Brandon Peck.

No. 4 King’s Fork (6-5) at No. 1 Lake Taylor (11-0) — 7:30 p.m.

Last season: Titans 35, Bulldogs 6

King’s Fork has made its way to the regional semifinals for the past two years, but to do so this year, it will have to beat the defending Group 4A state champions who are on a 26-game winning streak.

“Anytime you get a chance to play against the best, that’s a true measure of where your program is,” Bulldogs coach Joe Jones said. “Everybody in 4A East knows that the road to the state title is going to go through Lake Taylor.”

He noted this game gives his team the opportunity to put itself on the map and show people it belongs in the playoffs, and he expects having faced the Titans in last year’s regional semifinals will help his team’s cause.

“With playing them before, our kids shouldn’t be intimidated by the fact we’re playing them,” Jones said.

Lake Taylor is led on the ground by senior running back Dazmine Palmer, who has run for 1,679 yards and 30 touchdowns this season.

Titans sophomore quarterback Tyrek Hughey has passed for 1,162 yards, 13 touchdowns and five interceptions, while also running for 322 yards and seven touchdowns.