Saints warm up for season

Published 9:45 pm Tuesday, August 16, 2016

By Henry Luzzatto


Nansemond-Suffolk Academy’s football team got a chance to show its skill on the gridiron at a jamboree event in Edenton, N.C., on Friday night.

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NSA was one of eight teams participating in the Edenton Jamboree, a series of practice games for area teams to face off against each other in preparation for the season.

Saints head coach Michael Biehl, who took over the football program this season, said the jamboree gave him and the team an opportunity to learn their strengths and weaknesses ahead of the season.

“It was a good learning experience,” Biehl said. “We didn’t know what to expect going into it, but we did well.”

Biehl said the format of the jamboree allowed the teams to practice different situations. He said it began with three periods of 10 offensive and 10 defensive plays, then a red zone period, where each team began with possession in the red zone, and ending with 20 minutes of game time.

The Saints played against a variety of teams from North Carolina, including John A. Holmes High School, Manteo High School, Princeton High School and Bertie County High School. Playing a variety of teams forced NSA to adapt defensively and offensively, Biehl said.

Biehl said the jamboree pitted the Saints against tough opposition and required them to do their best with a small roster.

“It was a high competition level, but we held our own,” he said. “There were about 50 guys on the smallest team, and we have middle-to-high-twenties on our team.”

Biehl said the Saints’ small roster meant players had to go both ways, playing offense and defense, meaning some players did not get a break from playing. Though the pace was demanding on the athletes, Biehl said it showed how tough and fit his players are.

“We showed our high conditioning level,” he said. “Their speed of play didn’t slow down the entire time.”

Biehl said the Saints were able to implement their new offensive strategy, noting his scheme differs greatly from that of NSA’s previous coach, Lew Johnston. Players have had to adapt in just a few short weeks.

“We wanted to see what the playmakers could do with the ball, and they did a really good job,” he said. “We ended up scoring on nearly every possession.”

Despite the offensive prowess the team put on display, Biehl said, the defense was exposed early to different offensive schemes they had not experienced before.

“Defensively, we saw things we hadn’t really prepared for,” he said, “but we were able to adapt and rally from there.”

Biehl said he was happy with his team’s performance, but he said the Saints need to become better tacklers and sustain blocks better offensively before the season begins this Friday.

“It’s great to see that even when we are outmanned, we can still do a good job out there,” he said.

The Saints face Portsmouth Christian School at home at 6 p.m. Friday.