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Spartans prepared to take next step up

Posted: September 19, 2013 10:01 a.m.
Updated: September 20, 2013 1:00 a.m.

There was almost a sense of relief in Will Rice’s voice as he talked about Camden Military Academy’s game with visiting East Clarendon this afternoon at Spartan Field.
Rice, the Spartans’ head coach, was no so much exhaling about today’s 4 p.m. contest as much as he was glad that his team was finally able to get a game under their belt. After having its scheduled opener cancelled, CMA lost its debut to North Central, 34-7, last Friday in Boonetown.
Now, Rice said, the challenge is for his team to learn from their mistakes and build on the good things they did against the Knights.
“The old saying is that you make your greatest improvement from the first to the second game so, we’re hoping that’s going to happen here,” he said.
CMA came out of its first game with a few bumps and bruises, while starting linebacker/running back Brandon Crandall sustained a dislocated right elbow which he was icing in a bucket during Tuesday’s practice. His playing status for the pairing with the Wolverines is questionable, at best. But Rice said he is hopeful that will be the extent of his team’s injury list.
“We’re a little banged-up,” he said. “North Central is a big, physical team and that took its toll on us with our low numbers. We hope to have most everybody back by Friday.”
With a full game under their belt, the Spartan coaching staff was able to see what worked and what still needs tweaking. As for this week, Rice and company were able to expand the offensive playbook. A few new plays and/or schemes may be in store for this afternoon.
Quarterback Max Bryant, playing his first game for the Spartans, had a solid day under center and Rice expects his improvement to continue through this week. Bryant completed six of his nine passes last Friday.
“He did some good things last week,” Rice said of Bryant’s performance. “He was very good when he moved out of the pocket. We still need to work on some things when he stays in the pocket. When he rolled out, though, he did a very good job. He’ll get better once he gets used to playing with our receivers.
“We’ll throw some wrinkles in this week just because of the simple fact that we only had three weeks to get ready for last week’s game. We’ll put more in as the season goes on.”
Rice also anticipates his team’s conditioning to be improved this week as the Spartans host a 1-2 Wolverine squad which comes off a 30-10 win over Hannah-Pamplico a week ago. In that game, the EC defense was forced to change its planned approach when H-P decided to run the ball rather than line up in the shotgun and throw the ball as much as it had in its first two games.
Count Rice as those impressed with the Wolverine defense.
“On defense, we’re going to see either a three- or a five-man front. Their linebackers are good and they play downhill. They get to the ball quick,” Rice said. “They have a lot of speed.”
Dwayne Howell’s offense centers around junior quarterback Jared Hair.  The guests also have a speedy wide out in William Ard with Savontai Hall and Adam Lowder getting the bulk of the carries. That group performs behind an experienced front line.
Rice said slowing down Hair is job one for the CMA defense.
“Their quarterback is really good at running the read option,” he said. “He’ll stick that foot in the ground and, he’s gone. He’s a north-to-south runner. We have to be able to contain him. We also can’t let their receivers get behind us. That’s going to be key this week.”
One area which Rice said his team needs to shore up is their communication. Without the benefit of having had even a scrimmage to work out some of the kinks, the Knights went into last week’s game having to work that part of the game out on the fly.
“We had some breakdowns in communication, which was to be expected, last week,” Rice said. “The communication part is big, especially on defense and knowing what your assignment is if you’re switching. On offense, we had some guys getting hurt and we didn’t have the proper people in the game. Hopefully, that will be better this week.”

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