Warriors fall at Indian River

Published 9:43 pm Monday, September 23, 2019

By Matthew Hatfield


The Nansemond River Warriors got their first test of the football season on Friday night in a Southeastern District matchup in Chesapeake against the Indian River Braves.

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These two programs have met the past two years in the playoffs, with Nansemond River eliminating Indian River in 2017 on their way to a regional title, while the Braves exacted revenge a season ago.

But not even 13 minutes into their latest encounter, Indian River jumped out to a 19-0 lead and Nansemond River couldn’t quite catch the host Braves, who doubled up the Warriors 40-20 to hand them their first defeat of the 2019 campaign.

Most discouraging for second-year Warriors Coach Justin Conyers was the fact his defense gave up 424 total yards of offense, with 335 coming before half-time.

“Our defense was atrocious,” Conyers said. “They did nothing special. They didn’t do anything that was unexpected. It was the little things. We didn’t fill the gaps, run on shoulders. That’s all on me. But it will change.”

Indian River wasted no time attacking through the air, striking for a 71-yard touchdown pass on the first play from scrimmage. Whereas Nansemond River failed on its first two fourth-down attempts of the night, the Braves converted a fourth-down play on three separate occasions in the opening half, leading to touchdowns.

The Warriors did, however, get on the scoreboard within 12 seconds of falling behind 19-0 when X’Zavion Evans connected with Mar’keese Green on a halfback pass that resulted in a 60-yard touchdown. Yet by intermission, much of the damage had been done, as Indian River racked up 217 passing yards on eight completions.

“We left 18 points on the board in the first half offensively. But when you have your best rusher run for more yards than he has all year, it’s hard to ask for much more. The offense drove down and there were times when we didn’t finish, but they’re a good defense,” Conyers added.

“I don’t think field position was bad either. We had one botched punt and then we fumbled once. We have a freshman quarterback, and that’s expected. The defense has to be able to handle it until the offense gets going, which we did. We just were in bad situations because we were point chasing, so that changed our play-calling a little bit. It was just the defense. There’s no other way around it.”

Evans, who ran in a two-point conversion following a touchdown pass in the second quarter, did everything in his power to keep Nansemond River in the game. The 5-foot-9, 205-pound senior transfer from Deep Creek broke off a 55-yard touchdown run early in the third period to cut Indian River’s lead to 33-20.

Miscues and the inability to come up with timely conversions on third or fourth down kept Nansemond River from finding the end zone again in the contest’s final 23 minutes.

By night’s end, Evans had 181 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 16 attempts to complement the 107 yards rushing on 14 carries from Brent Stratton.

“X’Zavion is a Division I running back and whatever college gets him is going to be very lucky,” Conyers commented. “Our offense did well, even though there were simple mistakes that we’ve been making. That happens sometimes when you have a freshman signal caller. That’s not an excuse either. Twenty points and over 200 rushing yards should win us this game.”

Now 2-1 overall on the season, Nansemond River will host Great Bridge (1-2) at Arrowhead Stadium on Friday. They’re very much looking forward to getting back senior linebacker Elijah Askew, who has been cleared to play after missing the first three games due to a minor fibula fracture.

“He will help a lot at linebacker. It gives us more depth, which always helps,” said Conyers, eager to see how his team bounces back from its first setback on the field.

“Adversity hits and how we’re going to handle that will tell us the character of our team. This is a good team, and they’re always well-coached. We can’t keep making mistakes and win this game.”