Playoff prep features mix of new and old

Published 10:08 am Thursday, November 9, 2017

Cumberland County High School’s varsity football team will face a familiar opponent Friday in the first round of the Class 1 Region B playoffs, but it will do so with different leaders on and off the field.

Cumberland Athletic Director Alfonso Bell will be handling coaching duties this week in place of Edgar Knapp as the team prepares to take on Central Lunenburg High School.

“I’m just finishing the season out,” Bell said, pointing to the interim nature of his role as head coach.

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Prior to becoming athletic director, Bell served as head varsity football coach at Cumberland from 2000-09.

The Dukes (0-10) hold the No. 6 seed in Region 1B and will travel to face the No. 3 Chargers (4-6) at 7 p.m.

Bell said he watched the game film Tuesday night of Cumberland’s Sept. 22 regular season meeting with Central which ended in a 47-0 victory for the Chargers.

“It may have been one of our worst games of the season,” he said. “… We were all out of sync, and it was just one of our all-around bad games.”

That contest proved to be a turning point in the season for Central, initiating a four-game winning streak that pushed the Chargers to .500 before they closed the season with contests against standout James River District foes Amelia County High School and Nottoway High School.

Despite its loss to the now-7-3 Raiders, Central showed it could score on one of the district’s best by producing 49 points in defeat.

“You know what Central’s going to do,” Bell said. “They’re going to come at you with their wing offense … They try to take you out early.”

He complimented the abilities of Central Head Coach Will Thomas and his staff, and he highlighted the mentality they instill in their players that is demonstrated on the field.

“They’re going to come at you offensively and defensively, aggressively,” Bell said, “and you have to put up a fight if you want to stay in the game, because they’re definitely well-coached, and their offense is hard to stop. So, we’ve got to figure out a way how to try to slow that offense down and also put points on the board…”

He indicated that there is not necessarily a particular Chargers offensive player to focus on.

“All of their running backs are solid,” he said. “The quarterback doesn’t make any mistakes,” carrying out his fakes and running the show on the field.

The Chargers’ quarterback is junior Jackson Dalton, and their run game features junior Dontae Crowder and sophomore T’zion Wilkerson, with growing contributions from sophomore Darrien Jones.

“They don’t really have a whole lot of superstars,” Bell said. “They’ve got all-around good players all across the board. So whoever runs the ball can take it the distance any time.”

Dukes senior starting quarterback Darius Kyle will not play against Central.

“Ziahir Berry, the backup, will be the quarterback on Friday,” Bell said, adding that freshman Ramir Parker, the Cumberland junior varsity team’s quarterback, will serve as Berry’s backup.