Saints march on to championship game

Published 10:27 am Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Nansemond-Suffolk used just about every way to score a point Monday night in its semifinal victory over Portsmouth Christian.

The Saints recovered their own fumble in the endzone for a touchdown, returned an interception for a touchdown, broke a long run for a touchdown and then forced a safety.

Add three extra points, and the Saints advance to the VISAA Division II championship game.

With the 24-14 win over the Patriots, the Saints improved to 8-3 on the year, but more importantly, advanced to the title game against No. 1 Blue Ridge.

“All in all it was a good game,” NSA head coach Kevin Allen said. “Portsmouth has a really strong defense, which forced us into a number of tough plays in the first half.”

In the first half, the Saints were held scoreless and limited to just one first down and 13 total plays – including punts.

“The first half was tough. We knew they would be prepared for our running attack that we used to beat them during the regular season,” Allen said. “So we came out with something different. After halftime, we said ‘the heck with that’ and just went with what we do best.”

What the Saints do best is run the ball behind senior tailback Will Crenshaw. Held to minus-two yards in the first half, Crenshaw finished the game with 109 yards on the ground, including a break out 75-yard touchdown run late in the game.

On the Saints second possession of the second half, NSA took over on the Patriot 45-yard line, their best starting field possession of the night.

Nine plays later, starting quarterback Domonique Lennon ran up the middle from eight yards out. Just a half yard from the endzone, Lennon lost possession of the football and fumbled it into the endzone where it was then recovered by offensive lineman Jonathan Horton for the touchdown. Bobby Lamm added the extra point giving NSA a 7-0 lead with 4:33 left in the third quarter.

On the very next play from scrimmage, Portsmouth Christian quarterback Josh Pope fired a pass downfield, where NSA freshman defensive back Harris Howell was waiting. Intercepting the pass at the 30-yard line, Howell followed his blockers down the left side of the field for a touchdown. The Lamm extra point gave the Saints a quick 14-0 lead with 4:16 remaining in the quarter.

Portsmouth would come back midway through the fourth quarter for their first score of the night, driving 60 yards on nine plays. On third down from the 10-yard line, Pope found his tight end, Barak Blalock for the touchdown. The extra point was good, cutting NSA’s lead to 14-7 with 7:03 remaining in the game.

Taking over on their own 20-yard line, the Saints aimed to simply run as much clock off as they could behind their powerful running game. But, on their second play from scrimmage, after a 5-yard penalty set them up on their 25-yard line, Crenshaw took the handoff and broke through the line and raced down the middle of the field for a 75-yard touchdown run.

Lamm’s third extra point of the evening was good, giving NSA a 21-7 lead with 6:45 remaining.

Portsmouth, though, would not go easily as they scored on their next possession, moving the score to 21-14 with 3:16 left.

NSA then took over and at their own 35-yard line. Over the next three minutes, the Saints marched down the field and were poised to score again with just 2:15 remaining. But, with first down at the one-foot line, NSA decided to kneel, allowing the clock to run out.

After an accidential timeout call by the referees killed the clock with 24 seconds remaining, and NSA facing a fourth down from the 1-yard line, NSA decided to go for the score, but failed.

Taking over on downs with 18 seconds remaining, the Patriots attempted to make one last pass, but Pope was called for intentional grounding while in the endzone which gave the Saints a safety. The two points ended the scoring, leaving NSA with a 23-14 win.

There was no word late Monday on when the championship game will be played, as both Blue Ridge and NSA were forced to move their semifinal games to Monday due to bad weather.

Either way, Allen is focused on ensuring his players get and stay healthy this week.

“We will work on a few things this week, but if we don’t know it by now, we are not going to learn it now,” Allen said. “We just want to get everyone healthy and get ready for Blue Ridge.”