Football rosters & more are in this week’s paper
by Lisa Hinton-Valdrighi
Northumberland is the real deal.
Lots of skeptics were proven wrong last year after the Indians posted their most successful season in 10 years with a post-season run that ended with them as the Region 1A runner-up to Essex on a muddy mess of field in Claraville last November.
For a decade or more, Northumberland had been picked by area coaches in the preseason polls to finish near the bottom of league standings. That was the thinking last year too. But Aaron Lewis and his crew of assistants showed the naysayers, posting an 11-2 record, earning a second-seed in the regional playoffs and upsetting Essex during the regular season.
But the Indians have lost a lot of talent with its graduated seniors, including losing the district’s co-offensive player of the year in all-everything Delvin Palmer. He claimed four spots on the district’s first team and seldom left the field for the Indians, with 33 receptions for 679 yards during the regular season and 17 touchdowns. Among other losses were decorated receiver Collin Saunders and running back Keon Redmond.
But Lewis has just reloaded.
“Usually when you lose a lot of seniors, especially the ones we lost, people expect you to be in a rebuilding year. But that’s not the case,” he said. “Coaches in the district know what I’m bringing up and we’re going to be even faster and deeper this year than last year.
“The talent in my sophomores and freshmen is ridiculous,” he added. “I believe I have the best freshman class in all of 1A.”
Northumberland’s junior varsity football team only lost one game last year and Lewis’s roster includes 12 sophomores and freshmen, most of whom played JV last year.
“There’s obviously a lot of pressure,” said Lewis, who knows a deep postseason team usually wears a bull’s eye on its back the next season. “A lot of people are expecting us to be rebuilding so we may surprise some folks.”
The only drawback to putting young talent on the field is they’re untested at the varsity level.
“We have a lot of freshmen starting so this first game I’m expecting a lot of mistakes and some mental errors,” said Lewis. “It’s going to happen.”
Northumberland will hit the field on the road August 30 against Surry without a preseason scrimmage.
So he’ll look to his veteran team leaders—seniors Mason Adams and Dionte Kelley and junior Nick Mothershead—to do their jobs.
“They’ve stepped up to this leadership role. Mason is a vocal leader. They know what I expect from them and how I want things done.”
Adams returns to his role under center. He was a transfer last year and joined the team late in the practice season but played in every game. He’ll get relief from back-up, sophomore Denzel Palmer.
Lewis said the Indians are 10 guys deep on the offensive line and deep at running back, despite Delvin Palmer’s loss.
He’ll call on a group of four to carry the ball including sophomore Kevin Edwards, freshman Antwan Mills, junior Levar Churchill and senior Keyvone Crockett.
Freshman Cameron Seldon and Kelley will start at wide receiver with senior Derrick Smith and Denzel Palmer also catching the ball.
Junior Parker Deihl will start at tight end.
Mothershead returns to snap the ball and is surrounded on the line by tackles senior Deauntre Wise and freshman Joseph Jett and guards senior Jamal Pugh and freshman Khyshawn Blue.
Lewis only returns two starters to his defense including defensive backs Kelley and senior Devin White.
“But again, I have so much talent in the young guys and we’re even a little bit faster than last year,” he said. “I expect the defense to be strong but experience will be the question and mentally, how they’re going to react.”
Starting on the line at various times will be Crockett, Jett, Wise, junior Trent Line and senior Sevon Noel.
Lewis will pull from several defensive backs including Denzel Palmer, White, Kelley, junior Levar Churchill and freshmen Christian Newton and Antwan Mills.
Edwards, Mothershead and sophomore Bradley Viers will play linebacker.
Returning to score PATs and field goals is all-district senior kicker Harry Lee. Senior Joe Schindler will punt.