Young Southampton Raiders bring added physicality

Published 5:02 pm Monday, September 4, 2023

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The young 2023 Southampton Academy varsity football team is focused on the process of becoming great, and it got its season off to a great start Thursday, Aug. 24.

Hosting Quantico High School in their opener, the Raiders built a 44-0 advantage by halftime, leading to a running clock in the second half on the way to a 50-0 victory.

“It was good for the boys to get that kind of win underneath their belt,” Southampton Head Coach Cole Heiderich said. “Both of our victories last year were pretty close, so to come out and just from start to finish play really well and play with intensity and make plays, it’s a great way to start the season. And the crowd atmosphere was tremendous — couldn’t ask for anything better.”

The Raiders have played eight-man football for more than a decade and currently compete in the Virginia Eight-Man Football League.

Last season, Southampton finished 2-7 overall, falling short of qualifying for the playoffs.

“Last year I think I started five freshmen, two sophomores and one senior most of the season,” Heiderich said. “It was a growing year.”

The Raiders featured a roster of 15 players. They have lost three members from that team due to graduation but have since gained three, resulting in a roster of 15 for the 2023 season as well.

Youth still abounds, as Heiderich noted that a majority of the team is made up of sophomores, but the roster has been hard at work in preparation for the year.

“The boys had a really good offseason and put on quite a bit of weight in the weight room, which helps,” the coach said. “Last year, I think our starting center — he only weighed 120 pounds; starting quarterback — just a little bit more than that; tailback — 120 pounds. So just being able to physically play the game makes it more enjoyable and obviously gives you more of a chance to win. 

“But in terms of expectations, we take it week by week and try to focus on the process of becoming great and not worry about anything else,” he said.

Players Heiderich is counting on to help lead in that process this year include the team’s lone senior, Sam Sawyer. He is starting on offense at guard and serving as a linebacker on defense.

“And then our quarterback, Grant Applewhite,” the coach said. “He’s just sort of a natural leader, and it showed last Thursday.”

Applewhite, a sophomore, carried the ball 16 times against Quantico, running for 207 yards, which translates into nearly 13 yards per carry.

Other sophomores that Heiderich is counting on include tailbacks Ethan Webb and Jake Holland, and then on the defensive side of the ball, defensive end Ashton Whitehead has notably distinguished himself thus far.

The 2023 schedule features nine regular season games, including several to make special note of.

“I think our upcoming game against Brunswick Academy at home, that’s a very big rivalry,” Heiderich said, referencing a Thursday, Sept. 14, showdown. “Our two schools have battled for decades, and it’s heating up even more so currently.”

He noted that any time Southampton plays Kenston Forest School, it’s a big game, and the teams face each other Friday, Sept. 22, in Blackstone.

“And then our very last game of the season (against) Blessed Sacrament, hopefully we put ourselves in a position to secure a playoff spot and hopefully a higher playoff seed,” Heiderich said. “So that game would mean quite a bit to the season.”

Southampton (2-0) visited Rappahannock County High School on Friday, Sept. 1, and edged out the Panthers for a 42-40 victory. The Panthers (0-2) had opened their season with a 30-6 road loss to Blessed Sacrament Huguenot Catholic School on Friday, Aug. 25.

Southampton Academy Raiders Schedule

Aug. 24: Quantico – at home – 6 p.m.

Sept. 1: Rappahannock County – away – 7 p.m.

Sept. 7: Chincoteague – at home – 6 p.m.

Sept. 14: Brunswick Academy – at home – 7 p.m.

Sept. 22: Kenston Forest – away – 7 p.m.

Sept. 30: Richmond Christian – away – 4 p.m.

Oct. 6: Bye

Oct. 12: Fuqua – away – 7 p.m.

Oct. 19: Broadwater – at home – 6 p.m.

Oct. 26: Blessed Sacrament-Huguenot – at home – 6 p.m.