By Mike Cipolla and Breyon Gaddy
The football team at Bishop Sullivan went into the 2015 season with high expectations. But it was not to be. Preseason predictions had the team winning the Tidewater Conference of Independent Schools (TCIS) and being competitive for a Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association (VISAA) Division 2 state championship. However, the TCIS was won by Nansemond-Suffolk Academy from Suffolk and the VISAA D2 state championship was won by Trinity Episcopal from Richmond for the second straight year.
Meanwhile the Crusaders finished with a record of 4-6, which was good enough for the fourth seed in a playoff bracket that includes just four teams. With a loss in the first round to Trinity the overall disappointing season ended.
The 2016 season will look very different for the Crusader football team. Chris Scott will take over as Head Coach and he brings with him a lot of experience and success. Coach Scott was the Heach Coach at Ocean Lakes High School in Virginia Beach and led the Dolphins to the 6A state championship.
“Deciding to leave Ocean Lakes was a very difficult decision. I attended Ocean Lakes for four years and then returned to teach and coach for another 13 years. However, the opportunities at Bishop Sullivan are everything I would want in my dream job, which is mentoring and leading students athletes through faith, which is something that I have always done,” said Coach Scott.
At Ocean Lakes he also coached many players who now play in the National Football League (NFL) and for major college football programs. These young men include Justin Hunter (University of Tennessee/ Tennessee Titans), Eli Harold (University of Virginia/ San Francisco 49ers), Shamarko Thomas (Syracuse University/ Pittsburgh Steelers), Sage Harold (James Madison University/ Washington Redskins), Derrick Nnadi (Florida State University), Jahvoni Simmons (University of Virginia), Demetri McGill (East Carolina University) and Jason Lewis (Arizona State University).
Along with Coach Scott coming to Bishop Sullivan will be junior running back Khalan Laborn who has scholarship offers from Florida State, Alabama, Virginia Tech and many more. Mr. Laborn is ranked as the number one player in the state of Virginia for the class of 2017 by 24/7sports.com.
Many other high profile players with scholarship offers are expected to follow Mr. Laborn and Coach Scott to Bishop Sullivan from Ocean Lakes and other schools in the Tidewater area to build a national football powerhouse. Noah Knapp, an All-State rising senior offensive lineman may be one of the players that follows Coach Scott to become a Crusader. But he is not just interested in the football aspects of the transfer.
“The academics are very rigorous at Bishop Sullivan. My family and I are looking for the best education to prepare me for college. I also play football, so I feel like it would be a good opportunity to show my talent,” said Mr. Knapp.
While at Ocean Lakes, Coach Scott built a national football powerhouse. Ocean Lakes was ranked number six in the nation by MaxPreps.com last season, and they won the 2013 Virginia 6A state championship.
Coming to a private school it will be easier to sustain a program of national prominence because anybody from any city can go to Bishop Sullivan as long as they qualify and go through the application process.
“I truly believe that Bishop Sullivan can and will achieve national prominence. Actually it already has! Bishop Sullivan has multiple programs that rank nationally. The Blue Crab has ranked nationally in recent years and will do so again this year. Bishop Sullivan and its students rank nationally regarding test scores and other overall academic achievements. To be a Bishop Sullivan Crusader is to be elite, and we will have the same purpose as a football team, and that is to be the best in the country!” said Coach Scott.
It is likely Bishop Sullivan will be ranked in the MaxPreps.com top 25 in the preseason and may even play a nationally televised game on ESPN down the road.
“I think Coach Scott will lead us to a good season this year even though we will be participating in a harder division,” Mr. Knapp said regarding the upcoming season.
Rising junior quarterback Tyler Hemelt is optimistic about the changes coming next year.
“I am excited about Coach Scott coming because it brings a great opportunity for our players to build a good, strong program and get noticed by colleges,” said Mr. Hemelt.
Players from high schools all around the 757 are putting in applications to come play football and improve their educational opportunities at Bishop Sullivan. Coach Scott plans to implement much more than just a great football team at the school.
Mr. Knapp describes Coach Scott as one of his role models when asked what it is like to play for Coach Scott.
“He is definitely different from your average high school football coach. He emphasises that his job is not just to teach the Xs and Os but to create great men in the world because football doesn’t last forever,” said Mr Knapp.
Faith is another big part of Bishop Sullivan and Coach Scott plans to incorporate it into the football program as well.
“ Faith is something that will be a part of our program everyday. We will open our meetings, practices, and games with prayer. We will have chapel before every game. We will have retreats and team building activities that will involve fellowship as well as embody a moral or lesson centered around a scripture. Team dinners, breakfast, and meetings will involve players and assistant coaches with a reading and or biblical reference to ensure that our actions embody the tenets of Christianity. These activities will remind us and equip us with the strength and purpose that our talents are used to carry out God’s will,” said Coach Scott.
This is a very exciting time for the Bishop Sullivan community. Everyone from alumni, teachers, students, and media are buzzing about the new hire of Coach Scott as the football coach. Coach Scott’s vision is clear: Bishop Sullivan will be not only one of the top football programs in the nation, but also will produce great men of faith to go on and achieve success after high school as well as excelling in the classroom.
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