Oscar Smith vs. Indian River (Photo: Lance Hinton/recruit757)
Oscar Smith is the King of the Hill in Chesapeake
by Andy Hilton, recruit757
It’s a shame we don’t get a ten-game season. Then again, it’s a shame we didn’t play in the fall and it’s a shame that Suffolk has pulled out of Southeastern District competition.
We’ll try not to talk of what could have been, but it would have been great to see Oscar Smith try to run the full 15-game season (including playoffs) and finally get the best of Westfield or some other Northern powerhouse. Oscar Smith fans sure would love to have their first state championship since 2011 and not win it with an asterisk.
The Chesapeake schools are playing each other this year, so each program will get a six-game season. Any team that advances on to a state title game will get a ten-game season since the playoffs have been shortened to four games.
Oscar Smith (13-2 in 2019)
There’s no Highland Springs game for the Tigers this year. There’s plenty of firepower returning, including junior quarterback Ethan Vasko. Vasko passed for 3074 yards and 52 touchdowns in 2019. The Tigers were electric, and there’s no reason to expect anything different in this spring season.
Head coach Chris Scott calls this year’s squad “one of the most talented teams I’ve been a part of.”
The starting lineup includes no less than eight seniors, many of whom could play on both sides of the ball. Keep an eye out for Tae’ron Richardson, Marquez Young, Maurice Freeman, Tyvon Norfleet, Jahke Hilliard, Marquise Kimble, and transfers Kole Jones (Great Bridge) and Dre Hodges (I.C. Norcom). All of those guys are seniors. Other junior studs include Maarten Woudsma, Caleb Jones, and Sherrod Covil. There’s a ton of big-game experience on the roster.
at Hickory Monday 2/22 6:30 p.m.
at Great Bridge Saturday 2/27 1:00 p.m.
vs. Western Branch Friday 3/5 6:15 p.m.
vs. Deep Creek Friday 3/19 6:15 p.m.
at Grassfield Friday 3/26 6:15 p.m.
vs. Indian River Friday 4/2 6:15 p.m.
Indian River (8-3 in 2019)
One thing is for certain, the Indian River coaching staff and the returning players want to get the taste of last season’s first-round playoff loss out of their mouths. The Braves were cruising late in the season and qualified for a home game in the Region 5A playoff. Perhaps they were looking forward to a rematch with Maury High School. The Commodores knocked Indian River out of the 2018 playoffs. That game would never come. Indian River fell to Nansemond River while Maury went on to win the Class 5 state championship.
This season will allow Indian River to focus on cross-town rivalries. They’ll do it with a freshman quarterback in Tyler Allison (2024 QB 6-1 170). Anchoring the lines will be ODU commit Stephon Dubose (2021 OL/DL 6-4 290). Last year’s quarterback, Zakai Minggia (2022 WR/DB 5-8 160), will move to wide receiver and defensive back.
Indian River will also carry a chip on their shoulder for a September 28 loss to Oscar Smith. The rivalry runs hot, and this year the game is scheduled for a Friday night for the first time in many years. Attendance will be extremely limited this season, so it will be interesting to see who lines up outside the fence to watch the game.
vs. Deep Creek Saturday 2/27 1:00 p.m.
at Grassfield Friday 3/5 6:15 p.m.
vs. Hickory Friday 3/12 6:15 p.m.
at Great Bridge 3/19 6:15 p.m.
vs. Western Branch 3/26 6:15 p.m.
at Oscar Smith Friday 4/2 6:15
Deep Creek (7-4 in 2019)
The Hornets have been resurgent since the arrival of head coach Andre Twine several years ago. The change in culture has turned the Hornets football program into a winner.
You could say that Deep Creek won every game they should have last year. Their only losses were to Maury, Oscar Smith, Indian River and Nansemond River. The Nansemond River loss was a hotly contested affair in the final week of the regular season.
Tony Barnes will lead the offense this spring, and he’ll have Josh Jack (2021 RB/LB 5-10 185) and Jalen Jones (2021 WR/DB 6-0 170) getting the primary touches in the offense.
The run game will be supported by road graders up front in Ryan Nolan (2022 OG/DT 6-3 300), Walter Barnett (2022 6-4 280) and Kuwait Armstrong (2023 OG 6-5 335).
vs. Grassfield Monday 2/22 6:15 p.m.
at Indian River Saturday 2/27 1:00 p.m.
vs. Great Bridge Friday 3/12 6:15 p.m.
at Oscar Smith Friday 3/19 6:15 p.m.
vs. Hickory Friday 3/26 6:15 p.m.
at Western Branch 4/2 6:15 p.m.
Grassfield (5-6 in 2019)
The Grizzlies had been down for a few years, but in 2019 they rebounded and made it to the playoffs. They were rewarded with a road trip to Richmond and a loss to Thomas Dale, but Grassfield showed something last season.
Grassfield is led by multi-purpose senior athlete Anthony Smith, Jr. In 2019, he passed for 519 yards and five touchdowns while racking up 30 receptions and 378 receiving yards. He also managed two INT and 60 tackles on the defensive side of the ball and had an impact in the return game.
“Anthony is a great leader with a strong arm and good field awareness,” said Grassfield head coach Martin Asprey. “We have had great numbers during the winter and spring.”
Brother Stephen Smith will be one of Anthony’s main targets in the passing game. At 6-1 and 205 pounds, the younger Smith shows good promise as a scholarship athlete (much like Anthony). Another “Swiss Army Knife” for Asprey will be Demani Ward, who has played quarterback, wide receiver, running back and strong safety. He’s expected to do much the same this spring.
Asprey can count eight seniors on the offensive side of the ball and no less than six seniors on the starting defense. If they’ve prepared well this winter, Grassfield could come out hot and surprise some of their neighbors.
at Deep Creek Monday 2/22 6:15 p.m.
at Indian River Friday 3/5 6:15 p.m.
vs. Western Branch Friday 3/12 6:15 p.m.
at Hickory Friday 3/19 6:15 p.m.
at Oscar Smith 3/26 6:15 p.m.
at Great Bridge 4/2 6:15 p.m.
Western Branch (4-7 in 2019)
The Rashad Cook era starts at Western Branch. Cook comes back home to coach his alma mater with hopes of guiding them back to glory.
As a senior in 1997, Cook was a member of the Bruin football team that went undefeated in the regular season. Lew Johnston was the head coach of that team, and Johnston now consults with Cook to help with the program.
“As a staff we are bringing a positive and empowering championship attitude based on pride for the school and accountability. While good schemes, play design, good players, etc. can win you games and bring short-term success, a great culture is the key to sustained success on and off the field,” Coach Cook explained. “Our biggest strength, in my opinion, is our depth at WR and DB and LB. We are young but seasoned with playing time. We have a lot of kids there that will make a lot of plays for us. I also feel very good about our offensive system and its ability to adapt to fit our personnel and what the opposing defense gives us.”
There will certainly be no shortage of talent at the skill positions as running back Shimique Blizzard (2023 RB 5-7 180) returns as a threat to eat up huge chunks of yardage. Paul Billups (2023 WR 6-2 175) will extend the defense as a deep threat, and C.J. Fraiser (2023 CB 5-11 180) returns as a shutdown corner. Add the coach’s son, Desmond Cook (2022 TE/LB 6-1 217) into the mix along with his younger brother Devin (2024 WR/DB 5-8 150) and there’s a chance you’ll see electric playmaking even if the team is one of the youngest in the district overall.
vs. Great Bridge Monday 2/22 6:15 p.m.
vs. Hickory Friday 2/26 6:15 p.m.
at Oscar Smith Friday 3/5 6:15 p.m.
at Grassfield Friday 3/12 6:15 p.m.
at Indian River Friday 3/26 6:15 p.m.
at Deep Creek Friday 4/2 6:15 p.m.
Great Bridge (3-8 in 2019)
The Wildcats steadied themselves in 2019, winning three games and challenging Lake Taylor in their playoff opener before succumbing to the Titans. Coach Brian Boerboom’s son Nathan committed to play his college football at UCF over the offseason, and it looks likely that Nate won’t play his senior season at Great Bridge.
So it may feel like a rebuilding season for the Wildcats. Senior Landon Swanson (2021 QB 5-11 175) will split quarterbacking duties with Zion Frink (2023 QB 5-10 170).
“We’ll have smart, selfless players who work hard. We’ll present multiple motions, multiple formations and change tempo on offense,” Coach Boerboom said. “Defensively, we’ll be very disruptive and also present multiple looks.”
at Western Branch Monday 2/22 6:15 p.m.
vs. Oscar Smith Saturday 2/27 1:00 p.m.
at Hickory Friday 3/5 6:15 p.m.
at Deep Creek Friday 3/12 6:15 p.m.
vs. Indian River Friday 3/19 6:15 p.m.
vs. Grassfield Friday 4/2 6:15 p.m.
Hickory (3-7 in 2019)
Hickory was experiencing a resurgence in 2019 as they ran their record to 3-4 before dropping their last three games and missing the Class 5 playoffs. The Hawks haven’t made the post-season in over 20 years and they haven’t had a winning record since the playoff field was expanded nearly a decade ago.
Head Coach Donnell Brown will call on a new quarterback, Kobe Wettstein (2021 ATH 5-9 155), who played slot last season. Tight end Matt Bohannon (2022 TE 6-4 250) will be a tall target in the passing game and the offensive line does have enough experience to buy time for Wettstein.
“We have an experienced offensive line with some playmakers at the skill positions,” Brown said. “Our biggest concern is dealing with an offseason like no other. Can we get the offense to get on the same page and execute at the high level needed in the Southeastern District?”
Hickory gets no break from the schedule makers as they start their season with a home opener against Oscar Smith.
vs. Oscar Smith Monday 2/22 6:15 p.m.
at Western Branch Friday 2/26 6:15 p.m.
vs. Great Bridge Friday 3/5 6:15 p.m.
at Indian River Friday 3/12 6:15 p.m.
vs. Grassfield Friday 3/19 6:15 p.m.
at Deep Creek Friday 3/26 6:15 p.m.
– Andy Hilton