Crimson Wave gearing up for 2018 behind several returners on defense, Bailey, Scott and White on offense
PETERSBURG – Petersburg Football's 2017 season ended on a tough note.
The team's loss in its regular season finale to Matoaca solidified its record at 4-6 - one game shy of a playoff berth.
Since that defeat in November, the Crimson Wave has been working out to get ready for the 2018 season.
“We needed to steal a couple of games at the end of the (2017) season," Petersburg Football head coach Mike Scott said. "We got one against Meadowbrook. Then we came up against Matoaca and we just didn’t play well.”
Despite that 38-22 loss and not reaching the playoffs, the Crimson Wave matched their 2016 season (4-7) in wins. This past season (2017) was also their first year in a new, more competitive grouping with the elimination of conference play.
Coach Scott is looking to prepare his team that has lost three starters on defense and six on offense. The Wave took losses in skilled positions, including wide receivers Antoine Brown Jr. and Nashawn Reid-Carlos. Both players earned all-region honors, and Brown is set to play at Chowan University, while Reid-Carlos will play at Virginia State University.
“First I had to understand is that I can’t replace them, because each team has its own specific makeup,” Scott said. “Instead of being sad about it, I just go on to the next group of guys. I had the same issue going into this stage of last season. I lost an all-state linebacker (in Fred Raspberry), first-team all-state. We also lost eight guys that made all-conference. I have to move on to this next group.”
Another one of his biggest losses on the field was Chris Jones, who is attending UVA on an academic scholarship. Jones rounded out his 4.2 GPA by picking up the team MVP award for the 2017 season. He was a constant leader on the field.
“The team really looked up to Chris, he was an intelligent kid," Scott said. "He wasn’t a big guy - maybe 5’9” and 186 lbs. - but he played like a giant. He got hurt in the second game of the season and you could see we weren’t the same team without him.”
Despite the losses, the Wave is returning sophomore quarterback Meziah Scott and junior wide receiver Zyshawn White. Both are tremendously gifted, and both are already starting to talk to colleges about their futures.
Scott threw for 1441 yards his freshman season. He is about 6 feet tall and 196 pounds, and he finished 7th in the region for passing yards as a freshman in the 2017 season.
“One: I’m lucky to have him,” Coach Scott said. “Not everyone has a quarterback like him on their team. He’s not real flashy, like a Michael Vick type style of quarterback. He just has quarterback skills and he’s well-polished compared to other quarterbacks on the schedule.”
White is the only returning receiver on the team. He is a 6-foot, 150-pound player with blazing speed. He also runs track, competing in the 100m and 200m events. Scott referred to him as “the best receiver that you haven’t heard of yet.”
White is currently suffering from a sprained Patellar Tendon he endured during track season. He should be ready for the start of 2018 football.
The Crimson Wave has a more complete set of returning players on the defensive side of the ball. The defensive line features junior Rashaad Moore, senior Kayreign Lundy, Demonte Briggs and Travon Tucker.
Senior linebacker Davion Tribbey is also returning in the secondary.
“I’ve played varsity for four years and I haven’t seen our team as bonded as this team,” Tribbey said. “We have some people transferring from different places. We’ve played together since we were 4 or 5 years old. The bonding and chemistry right now is just better than it was in the past few years.”
One glaring problem facing the team’s upcoming season is the sheer number of players. Petersburg played with 43 players last season, but routinely went into games with around 13 injuries.
This season, Petersburg expects to have around 30 players. A similar number of injuries this season would put the team’s numbers below 22.
“I’d rather have this team that we have - a small group of us that knows we’re going to put everything out onto the field that we have than a team that isn’t going to ride with us the way we need it to," Tribbey said. "That Petersburg pride thing isn’t a joke. It’s really in the players on this team and the hearts of this team."
Several of the players are already taking on both sides of the ball.
Junior Upton Bailey will look to be one of these versatile leaders from his running back, receiver and cornerback positions. The six-foot, 188 lb. standout in 2017 delivered a sophomore season to remember, carrying the ball 125 times for 849 yards, making 20 catches for 303 yards and scoring 13 touchdowns.
All 14 returning starters play more than one position.
“They don’t even notice the numbers,” Coach Scott said. “These kids don’t back down from anyone. They’re tough, they’re hard and they’re going to give you all they can. If they don’t win, they’re disappointed. They believe they can beat anyone they come up against.”
The Crimson Wave will open their season against John Marshall on Saturday, Sept. 1.
Nick Vandeloecht contributed to this report.