ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — For the last few years, North Cross has been in the conversation for a state championship in the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association, winning the VISAA Division II title in 2019 and finishing as a state runner-up in 2021.

“Everybody’s been grinding all summer and we got that loss in the back of our heads so I feel like we can come out stronger this year,” junior running back Cam Johnson said.

Last season, the Raiders lost to Atlantic Shores Christian by ten points in the final. But this year, North Cross comes back reloaded with talent in multiple position groups, including the return of wide receiver Ian Cann from a collarbone injury.

“”I think right now it’s a mental game because everybody is out working out and I think it’s just we gotta hunker down and focus on the little things now,” Cann said. “Instead of who can lift the most, who can lift the heaviest weight, who can run the fastest, it’s just doing the little things right at the moment.

And as the Raiders prepare for their opening game against Nansemond-Suffolk Academy on August 26, they have their sights set on returning to the state final.

“I would say in my 12 years, this is the best offseason in terms of strength and conditioning that we’ve had with kids with tremendous personal gains but the buy-in from the program has been really good,” head coach Stephen Alexander said. “We’re a small school which means we’ve got a lot of multi-sport athletes. We have track champions and lacrosse champions this year that are part of the football team. But collectively we did a great job preparing ourselves physically for this upcoming season. So I hope to see that pay off.”