Norfolk Academy Head Coach Steve Monninger (Photo: Andy Hilton/recruit757)
Norfolk Academy is the only local VISAA Division I school
by Andy Hilton, recruit757
Norfolk Academy hosted a small 7-on-7 tournament on Wednesday night, and that gave us a chance to catch up with the Bulldogs and Head Coach Steve Monninger.
Last season, NA finished the season at 8-2, but that wasn’t good enough to earn a playoff berth in VISAA Division I, where only four teams make the postseason. Norfolk Academy’s only losses were to St. Christopher’s and Collegiate of Richmond. Both those teams made the playoff.
This year, Norfolk Academy has approached scheduling differently.
“Our schedule is much harder. We’re playing a lot more Division I teams. The TCIS has been undergoing some changes. Our first game, we travel to the Potomac School, outside of DC. We also play Fork Union Military Academy, along with our usual Richmond foes: Trinity, St. Chris, and Collegiate,” Monninger explained.
The changes in the TCIS will condense the conference schedule for the Bulldogs. Greenbrier Christian and HRA have moved on to playing 8-man football, leaving two immediate holes that needed to be filled. While Norfolk Christian won those games easily last year, the schedule change will result in more power points if they can pull out wins. An 8-2 record this fall may give them a shot at the post-season.
Facilities have been upgraded at Norfolk Academy. 2017 was the first season for the team to play under the lights in a true “stadium” atmosphere. The home side of the stadium is impressive and the team now plays on artificial turf.
“Last year was our first year under the lights for a Friday night lights game. It has affected the Norfolk Academy community in a great way. It’s been a really special thing. We’re so blessed to have a stadium with locker rooms underneath, and lights, and a beautiful turf field. We’re just a blessed football program,” said Monninger.
Personnel changes have had an effect, as they do with every program. Most notably, the Bulldogs graduated quarterback Christian Randolph, but they return key play makers in Jacob Saffold (2020 RB/DB 5-9 180) and David Byler (2019 TE/LB 6-2 220). Saffold is getting serious looks from high academic Power Five programs like Northwestern and Notre Dame while Byler is fielding interest from the likes of Richmond, Elon, Hampden-Sydney and Sewannee.
“We are very athletic at the skill positions. We have some guys that can carry the ball with good speed and shake,” the coach said. “Our defense is athletic as well, and if we continue to put emphasis on turnovers, we can hopefully set up our offense.”
New play makers bubble to the surface every season. If Norfolk Academy can make the progression with a tougher schedule, a postseason berth is certainly a possibility.
– Andy Hilton
You can see photos from the Norfolk Academy 7-on-7 in our photo gallery here on recruit757.com.
Steve Monninger on Norfolk Academy: