Indians to bring ‘upper level’ mentality to VHSL Class 2

Published 5:57 pm Friday, August 25, 2023

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Southampton High School’s varsity football team looks to bring a familiar mindset to a new competitive landscape this season.

In the latest realignment of schools within the Virginia High School League, Southampton moved from Class 3 to Class 2 to reflect a decreased enrollment level at the school.

Indians Head Coach Travis Parker said he is in favor of the new alignment. 

“We are where we belong,” he said. “For a while our enrollment was (Class) 2-caliber, but we competed in (Class) 3. And we held our own. The realignment puts us where we belong.”

He said that having to go up against VHSL Class 3 opponents in the past will benefit Southampton because having to play “up” made the school’s players and coaches perform at a higher level.

“We intend to bring that same ‘upper level’ mentality and physicality to the (Class) 2 level,” Parker said. “We expect to continue to win and bring home championships. We are fastening our seatbelts and expecting to enjoy this ride for the next four years in (Class 2).”

Last season, the Indians went 8-3, winning the Tri-Rivers District championship. They earned the No. 5 seed in the Region 3A Tournament but sustained their third loss of the year in their first-round playoff game.

Southampton said goodbye to some key contributors due to the 2023 graduation as evidenced by the eight senior players who were part of the school’s Feb. 1 college football signing ceremony: Defensive end/tight end Juelz Cooper, defensive lineman Leslie Dildy, running back/strong safety Alvin Hicks Jr., defensive tackle Raynard Holloway, defensive end Izaiah Riffas-Williams, slotback/cornerback Jaeden Warren, quarterback/free safety/cornerback Jayden White and wide receiver/defensive end Travain Wilkerson Jr.

Now getting a fresh season of opportunities to show that a new group of key Southampton contributors has arrived is a 2023 roster that Parker described as a healthy balance of seniors, juniors and sophomores. 

“However, the sophomores are having to step up now to be a big part of our success this season. And they are answering the bell,” he said. “The juniors are practicing and playing with a senior mentality and tenacity. And the seniors are leading by example. The classes are mixing like a vegetable soup, and things are smelling mmm, mmmm, good!”

Parker expects his team this season to focus on one opponent and one game at a time.

“We will respect everyone, but fear no one,” he said. “Our goals for this season are straightforward and intended to complete our mission of a state title.”

He listed the goals as follows:

1.) Win and repeat as the Tri-Rivers District champions;

2.) Win in the regular season to earn the No. 1 seed in Region 2A;

3.) Win the first-round playoff game, which has not been done in a while at SHS;

4.) Win the Region 2A championship;

5.) Win and play in Salem for the state title on Dec. 9; and

6.) Last, but not least, continue to help more of our football players to go to the next level (college) to play football.

“If you don’t have goals, you don’t have a mission,” Parker said.

Among the players he is looking to for on-field leadership this year, he highlighted five seniors.

“Kashawn Marrow will be the backbone of our offensive line as the only returning starter,” Parker said.

The coach noted that Marrow already has garnered college attention.

Next, Parker highlighted linebacker/fullback Christopher Blue.

“Christopher Blue will be utilized as a two-way starter this season, and he is answering the bell with his work ethic,” the coach said. “He is planning to dominate.”

Parker expects wide receiver/defensive back Tremir Roberts and tight end/defensive back Carl Phillips to anchor Southampton’s secondary.

“They have put in the work in the offseason to position themselves to do some great things,” the coach said.

Levintae Brown returns at linebacker and running back.

“Levintae Brown is expected to be all over the field, doing his job of tackling and making plays even better than he did last year at linebacker,” Parker said, adding that Brown had a great season last year.

The coach also took a moment to highlight an important special teams player on his roster — the punter.

“Aaron Braid has the opportunity to bring excitement to the punt team because you want to actually see how far he will punt the ball this time,” Parker said. “It is a great asset to have a punter to ‘flip’ the field when needed.”

The coach pointed out some games on the schedule that will be key to understanding who the 2023 Indians are.

“The season opener against Poquoson is always a great litmus test,” he said. “Poquoson is consistently in the postseason, so our performance against them will bring valuable information to us going forward no matter the result.”

Southampton opens the season Friday, Aug. 25, on the road against Poquoson High School at 7 p.m. The game will be played at Poquoson Middle School.

“Our performance against the other three non-district teams — who are (Class 3) schools — will inform us of everything we need to know going into district play and the (Class 2) postseason,” Parker said.

Those three Class 3 non-district teams on the schedule include Petersburg High School (Sept. 8), Colonial Heights High School (Sept. 15) and Lakeland High School (Sept. 22).

Though these are games that stand out for various reasons, Parker made a point to underscore the importance of every single game on the schedule.

“Every game we play has championship implications,” he said. “This is our mentality.”