by Lisa Hinton-Valdrighi
The Indians are playing with attitude.
“They seem to have a chip on their shoulder in practice,” said second year head coach Aaron Lewis. “People aren’t expecting us to do that well. And that’s got them fired up.”
The Northumberland High School varsity football team was fired up for a 37-7 win out of the gate over Surry last Saturday.
It was Northumberland’s first time on the field since the Indians didn’t have a pre-season scrimmage.
“Since we didn’t have a scrimmage, people don’t know what we have,” said Lewis. “So they put us low in the pre-season poll.”
According to Lewis, who led NHS last year to its best finish since 2011, the Indians are loaded.
And they already have an advantage over teams struggling with low turnout, lots of depth, especially in the backfield.
“We’re able to have fresh legs in there,” said Lewis. “And that’s huge.”
The key to winning is not beating themselves, said Lewis. Eliminating mistakes and playing smart football is what will carry them back to a post-season berth.
A camp standout for Lewis is his new quarterback, junior Qwashaw Williams, who was slated to play junior varsity last season but was injured early in the season.
“He’s looking great in camp. He has a big, strong arm and is accurate,” said Lewis. “He’s going to be our secret weapon.”
Although he’s mobile, Williams is really a pocket quarterback, said Lewis, and he’ll switch off with senior returner Delvin Palmer when the Indians need to run out of that position.
Palmer started under center the last two years but will make a switch to running back this season. A jack-of-all-trades, Palmer will also play wide receiver and defensive back. He won’t see a lot of down time on the sidelines, according to Lewis.
“We have a loaded backfield this year with four great running backs, who can start anywhere in the district,” said Lewis.
Senior Jerquist Morris will lead the rotation of ball carriers. A three-sport athlete, Morris “has built up a lot of muscle” in the off-season, said Lewis.
Palmer, of course, will see a lot of totes. As QB last year, he accounted for 1,500 yards of offense with 28 touchdowns.
Senior Keon Redmond and junior speedster Derrick Smith will also carry the ball.
“The good thing is we are so deep we really don’t need that one workhorse,” said Lewis. “We won’t have to rely on one person to do all the work.”
He also says his receiving unit is loaded with talent. Returning to slot is senior receiver Collin Saunders. Also receiving will be wideouts senior newcomer Phillip Bingham and senior Kobe Wiggins and junior Dionte Kelley. Kelley played quarterback some last year and “was explosive. He led us when Palmer was hurt,” said Lewis.
Playing across the line are senior guards Bo Rodgers and Caleb Davis and senior tackle Tristian O’Bier and junior tackle Deauntre Wise. Snapping will be sophomore returning center Nick Mothershead.
“We came into the season wondering about how I was going to replace three seniors [on the line] but I think we might actually be better there this year,” said Lewis. “We’re faster and we can pull quicker.”
Davis is the only lineman pulling double duty and will start at an end opposite seniors Elijah McLean or Jaheim Owens. Senior CJ Johnson will play tackle.
Morris, a returning all-district linebacker, will anchor that unit. Joining him are linebackers Redmond, Rodgers and senior Blake Edwards.
Palmer, who had seven interceptions last year, will play safety along with Smith.
Kelley and Saunders lead the four corners. Kelley is a returner in that spot and Saunders led the district in interceptions last season with nine.
Also playing cornerback will be Wiggins and Devon White.
Junior Harry Lee returns as placekicker and senior Brandon Kent will punt. Returning kicks and punts are Morris and Palmer.