Football season kicks off

Published 10:17 pm Thursday, August 25, 2016

Football season is officially under way for three of Suffolk’s high schools. All the off-season conditioning, weight training, running, and individual efforts will be put to use tonight.

Nansemond River High School’s Warriors face the Menchville Monarchs, while the King’s Fork Bulldogs face the Smithfield Packers. Nansemond-Suffolk Academy, the defending Divison III state champions in the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association, will face Norfolk Christian this Friday as well.

All three are home games, and each begins at 7 p.m.

Nansemond River vs. Menchville

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Nansemond River looks to improve on a 7-4 record from last year. The last two years should provide hope for continued improvement for the Warriors this year. After winning five games in 2014, they added two to that win total in 2015.

“We just want to take another step,” coach David Coccoli said. “Each year is a year to get better. We want to take every game one at a time.”

The Warriors take on the Monarchs of Menchville, a team they beat 53-7 last year in the 2015 opener, a game Coccoli has completely moved from his mind.

“Last year is over with; this is a whole new year,” he said. “I’m sure they have gotten better like we have so last year means nothing.”

Standout Warriors returning to the field include juniors JeVon Waller and Gerrard Stringer along with senior Henry Moreno. They will also add Quincy Gregg, a junior transfer from King’s Fork.

On defense, the Warriors want to be more disciplined and put more pressure on offense they will see this year. However, on offense, Coccoli wants his team to remain disciplined.

Nansemond-Suffolk vs. Norfolk Christian

After winning a state championship last year, Nansemond-Suffolk Academy in now under the new guidance of coach Mike Biehl. One would think recent success would only add more pressure for the new coach, but Biehl does not see it that way.

“No one can put more pressure on me than I do myself,” he said. “I don’t want to come in and compare myself with the past success from coaches before me. I just want to come in and leave my mark on this football team. I already have high expectations for myself, so the stuff on the outside doesn’t bother me.”

A total overhaul of philosophy is in line for the Saints this year, both offensively and defensively. Previously the Saints had been running a Wing-T. Biehl will transition the team to more of a spread offense. Defensively the Saints were based on a 4-2-5 spread, but this year Biehl would like to mix and match multiple formations.

Although this year’s team lacks seniors, Biehl is confident the guys will step up in that role. Zac Morris, a sophomore wide receiver and safety, is one player Biehl expects to fill a void.

“He’s probably been our most improved guy.” said Biehl. “He didn’t play last year and will do good things for us this year.”

NSA will also be returning James Madison commit Keshaun Moore and first-team All-State player Erek Smith, who is also garnering interest of his own as a junior.

The Saints are excited to get the season started as they play Norfolk Christian.

Biehl wants his team to start fast, minimize mistakes, and allow their conditioning to take them through quarters. Teams are a reflection of their coaches, and NSA wants to be tough, aggressive and fast.

King’s Fork vs. Smithfield

King’s Fork went 6-6 last year. For the Bulldogs’ standards, 6-6 is not good enough, and first-year coach Scottie Littles will be the first person to say it. At 26 years old, Littles will march onto the field as a first-time head coach and try to lead his team to victory.

“We want to keep our composure out there,” Littles said. “It is the first game, and the kids will be excited to play. We want to play with emotion but not emotional.”

KFHS will return talented players in juniors Darran Butts (running back), Cherrod Joe (wide receiver) and dual-threat quarterback Justin German, who won the quarterback competition. On defense, Littles expects to have plenty of size in the secondary with Chris Shearin and Trey Mitchell.

Littles expects his team to compete hard every day. His goal is to be 10-0 and win a state championship, but he reminds himself and his team that “you can’t be 10-0 without going 1-0.”

The Bulldogs want to take each game one week at a time, and that’s how they plan to achieve want they want.

“We don’t want to be average,” Littles. “We want to win Suffolk, then the region, then the state.”

Lakeland High School starts its season next week.