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Injury bug bites Spartans

Posted: October 17, 2013 2:17 p.m.
Updated: October 18, 2013 5:00 a.m.

This is, literally, adding injury to insult.
As if an 0-4 start to the season was not bad enough, on Tuesday, two significant members of the Camden Military Academy football team watched practice from the team bench with season-ending injuries. It was hardly the scene which CMA head coach Will Rice envisioned as his troops prepared for Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. game against visiting New Covenant.
That duo, however, were not the only ones who were dinged up. On the practice field, were two other starters nursing bumps and bruises. It led to Rice simply shaking his head in trying to plug the holes in his team’s offense and defense.
“We’re out here in shoulder pads and helmets today because we can’t afford to get anybody else hurt,” Rice said while taking in the start of practice. “We’re working on our technique this week and trying to get healthy.”
Brandon Crandall, a linebacker/running back, returned from an elbow injury only to re-injure himself in last Saturday’s 18-0 loss to the Carolina Wildcats. In that same contest, lineman Quin Armstrong went down with a broken wrist. Both will miss the season’s final three games.
“We have to get healthy,” Rice said of his team’s primary goal. “We have two guys who are gone for the year in Brandon Crandall and Quin Armstrong. Kendred Jones (a starting wide receiver and defensive back) is hurt, but we hope to get him back. Daquan Battle (a starting defensive back) is battling an ankle issue and we hope to get him back this week.
“We’re like the walking wounded, right now,” Rice said of his team’s injury list.
With so many players either out or nicked up, it has allowed other Spartan players to take their place in the starting unit or, to get in line to receive extended playing time come Saturday afternoon. That has also led to the pace of practices being slowed down as these players get accustomed to their new digs.
“We’re going to have to find a right tackle,” Rice said of his team’s most pressing need in finding a new starter along the offensive line.
“It’s going to give some of our other guys the chance to step up and earn some playing time. It’s ‘the next man, in’ for us.”
Making things even tougher this week is the fact that New Covenant, a team from out of Charlotte, is a bit of a mystery to the Spartans. Rice and company have no film to work from in assessing the visitors. All Rice knows about them is what he learned after having talked with the head coach whose team played the Knights last week.
“They have athletes all over the field,” Rice said of his findings. “They like to throw deep and they like to run the sweeps. They will jump into the ‘I’ some. They’ll present a challenge to us just because of their speed.”
Speed is also the calling card of a New Covenant defense which, Rice said, is not afraid to both stunt and blitz out of their four-man front.
Rice said, for his offense to be successful on Saturday afternoon, they need to do a better job of hanging onto the football after making an uncharacteristic number of miscues last Saturday on their home field.
A week ago, the Spartans were their own worst enemy as four lost fumbles and an interception squashed five CMA marches. Working on ball security was stressed in practice throughout the week.
“Not turn the ball over,” Rice responded when asked what was the mission for the CMA offense coming into this game.
“We moved the ball pretty well on the ground last week. We had some pretty nice running plays; then we’d shoot ourselves in the foot with fumbles. We have to shore that up this week.”
Defensively, Rice said, if Jones is unable to play, his team will have to move somebody into his place in the secondary. And the loss of Armstrong takes another player out of the defensive rotation.
Still, compared to the offense, the CMA defensive unit is not in too bad of shape.
“Unless something else happens this week,” Rice said. “We’re fairly healthy on defense. Hopefully, we’ll still be pretty good on defense.”
After having been shut out eight days ago, Rice said the best remedy for a beleaguered team is to get the early lead and keep it until the final horn sounds.
“You’re dealing with teenagers. We (coaches) want to get off to a good start and they do, too,” Rice said. “Success breeds confidence and that is something that we’re striving to get to … be successful early.”

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