Two area team battle for a spot in the region semifinals

Published 8:35 pm Thursday, November 16, 2023

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King’s Fork and Nansemond River look to continue their playoff run. On Friday, Maury will play host to Nansemond River and King’s Fork will welcome Warwick

King’s Fork v. Warwick

Coming off its first undefeated regular season and a convincing 49-7 win over Bethel in the region quarterfinals, the King’s Fork Bulldogs (11-0) look to continue that storied run at home against the Warwick Raiders (10-1) on Friday.

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The Raiders doused the Bulldogs’ hopes of a Class 4 state championship in 2022, knocking off the Bulldogs 31-19 in the region finals. Both teams moved up to Class 5 this season due to the VHSL realignment. 

If head coach Anthony Joffrion’s squad wants to avenge that loss, they must play disciplined football.

However, that is no small task. Having lost to only Phoebus, the Raiders are having one of their best seasons on both sides of the ball, averaging 43 points per game, and its stingy defense, giving up an average of only two points per game on defense. 

The Bulldogs are having a stellar season, putting up 41 points a game and allowing just 14 points a game. 

Games aren’t played on paper, something Joffrion knows well, and says a few of the keys to getting past Warwick will be playing their brand of football, being disciplined, and limiting mistakes. Joffrion says mistakes are what helped Warwick walk away with the win last season.

“They played a really good game and capitalized on our mistakes,” Joffrion said.

Playing within the offensive game plan will also be key to a Bulldog victory. 

King’s Fork will likely rely on the vision and speed of junior running back Javon Ford, who is averaging just under eight yards per carry, to keep the Raiders’ defense on its heels and open up passing lanes for quarterback D’Andre Artis-Boone, who boasts a QBR of 106.94.

On defense, the Bulldogs need to limit the big play potential of this Raiders team, and that starts with slowing down Warwick’s Messiah Delhomme, who is coming off an impressive performance against Menchville last week, scoring five touchdowns in his six total carries. 

While both teams are amid impressive seasons, this time, the game is at home at ‘The Kennel,’ a place fans from Suffolk have flocked to on Friday nights to support this breed of Bulldogs. The fans can also affect the game by bringing an electric energy to the stadium, be loud, and setting the tone early.

“The fans just need to come out and support us like they have all season,” Joffrion said. “With this most likely being our last home game of the season, we need the city of Suffolk to come out and support our young men.”

The winner will advance to face the Nansemond River vs. Maury winner for the region title and a spot in the VHSL state semifinals.

Nansemond River v. Maury

After a hard-fought 35-20 win over the Granby Comets in the region quarterfinals. The Warriors set their sights across the Elizabeth River as they head to Norfolk to take on an unbeaten and Division 5A’s top-ranked Maury Commodores.

The 9-2 Warriors look to avenge last year’s 55-7 loss at the hands of the Commodores in the 2022 region finals. Nansemond comes in averaging 42 points per game on offense but will need to find more production if they plan to crack the Commodore’s vaunted defense that is only giving up eight points per game and has not allowed a point to be scored since Sept. 29.

Head coach Alonzo Ricks says his team must seize every opportunity and understands those moments may be limited.

“Just have to take it in intervals of 10. We get some first downs and then try to get some opportunities,” Ricks said. “Then we need to seize and capitalize on those opportunities. They’re going to probably be few and far between. But when we have opportunities, we must do what we need to do and seize those opportunities.”

Defensively, a few keys to stopping this high-powered Maury offensive that averages 61 points per game are tackling well in space and playing assignment football. 

“We have to be aligned properly. We have to play assignment football,” he said. “We are going to have to make good tackles. They have good players that can get out in space, so we have to tackle in space. We need a total team effort.”

Ricks will also look for his leaders to keep the team focused and pick each other up during adverse situations. 

“Try to be as flawless and as perfect as we can be in all that we do,” Ricks said. “Just continuously uplift and pick up each other. You know, there’s going to be some times that you’ll have some hiccups fast and some times that you’ll have some mistakes, but it’s about being resilient and how you respond to bounce back from those things.”

Resiliency is one trait this Warrior team is not lacking in. Having faced adversity and coming out on top is something they have done a few times this season. 

The game will begin Friday at 7 p.m., with the winner moving on to play either King’s Fork or Warwick.