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Well-rested Spartans eyeing first win of season

Posted: October 3, 2013 8:45 a.m.
Updated: October 4, 2013 5:00 a.m.

Just when it looked like the Camden Military Academy football team was beginning to put the pieces together, they, temporarily, had the rug pulled from under their feet.
Two weeks ago, the Spartans battled back and had a chance to send the game into overtime only to come out on the short end of a 20-18 loss to visiting East Clarendon. That setback came on the heels of a season-opening loss to North Central.
Will Rice’s troops’ improvement was stunted by having last week off as the school had its fall break.
When the Spartans (0-2) returned to practice on Monday for Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. home game with the Q Foundation, it was almost as if they were back to the start of pre-season drills as the CMA staff wanted to make sure their players got back into playing condition after the vacation.
“We were sucking wind after a week off,” Rice said with a smile. “We did a lot of running (Monday and Tuesday) to try and knock the rust off. Luckily, we have an extra day of practice because the game’s on Saturday, which is good.
“Hopefully, though, we didn’t lose too much from that week off, as far as conditioning goes.”
While the Spartans were put on the fast track in terms of getting back into game shape, Rice was encouraged by the team’s mental approach. Little, if anything, was lost as the offense, especially, picked up where it left off and was ready to take the next step in having more items added to the playbook.
“Mentally, we’re probably about where we were as far as offense,” Rice said. “We put in a few new wrinkles on Monday. We didn’t do a lot of hitting on Monday, we did some on Tuesday to kind of knock the rust off; blocking, tackling … basic fundamentals.”
One of the keys for Saturday will be the CMA offensive line’s ability to protect starting quarterback Max Bryan. While that is always a goal, this week it is even more important since back-up quarterback Ricky Thornley did not return to campus and will attend public school in the Lowcountry.
What Bryant will see come Saturday is a Q Foundation defense which likes to gamble and loves to blitz from all angles on the field. “Defensively, they like to bring the house a lot and put pressure on your quarterback,” Rice said.
On offense, the Fighting Falcons, who won for the first time in five outings this season with a 22-16 victory over Atkins (N.C.) High School last week, average nearly 18 points per game. Stopping the guests’ quarterback, Rice said, is priority 1, 2 and 3 for an improving CMA defense which will see the I formation along with the spread, toss sweeps and short passes.
But the Fighting Falcons’ offensive game plan begins and ends with the man under center.
“Their best athlete is the quarterback, which is what they normally do with their offense; they put their best player at quarterback,” Rice said. “He can take a game over if you let him scramble. If you don’t tackle him in open space, you’re going to be in trouble.
“If their quarterback is not contained, he will definitely hurt us. They’ll look to throw and if it’s not there, their quarterback will take off with the ball. He’s hard to contain.”
Rice characterized the Q Foundation, as a whole, as being tall and athletic with playmakers on each side of the football. That, the CMA head coach said, means his team must be disciplined on both offense and defense.
With just one player back from last season’s team --- due to Thornley’s transferring --- this is an almost entirely new CMA roster. They have little if any ties with the past and are out to create their own identity.
As he looked back to the near-miss against East Clarendon, Rice said that effort spoke volumes about his team and its heart. He told them as much on Monday when they returned to the practice field for the first time after the layoff.
“We’ve been telling them from the beginning that it’s a process. We’ve been working behind the 8-ball as it is because we start so late,” Rice said of his team’s development.
“Like I told them on Monday, I like this team because they don’t quit. We got down against East Clarendon with three minutes left in the game, but we came back down and had a chance to tie it in the final minute. Then, we had an opportunity to get the onside kick, but it just didn’t work out.
“This team just doesn’t quit. That’s what I love about them.”

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