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Rice, Spartans have high hopes for 2014

Posted: September 4, 2014 2:03 p.m.
Updated: September 5, 2014 5:00 a.m.
C-I photo by Tom Didato/

JOSHUA MILLER, A TRANSFER from Northwestern, will help anchor a new-look Camden Military Academy defense.

On a hot Tuesday afternoon, Will Rice was putting his Camden Military Academy football team through the paces in preparation for tonight’s season-opener at North Myrtle Beach Christian School (NMBCS) while looking down a clipboard and a piece of paper with the names of his players written in pen.
While Rice and his staff were busy teaching the Spartans formations and plays, the head coach was trying to see just who was on the practice field and what jersey number they were wearing.
“Right now,” Rice said with a smile, “after less than two weeks before our first game, we’re still learning names. It is what it is. We’ll line it up Friday, kick it off and do our best.”
A season ago, the Spartans snapped a 20-game winless skid with a 38-0 victory over New Covenant Christian School. On the eve of the 2014 campaign, Rice is feeling good about his team which returns several familiar faces and some interesting newcomers.
“We have a little more experience this year and not quite as many new guys,” he said as he took another glance at his roster.
“We’re looking forward to this season. We know that, as usual, we’re behind the 8-ball when it comes to starting late. It’s a process. It takes us a little longer to get going than other (teams.)  But the expectation and our goal to always have a winning season, that doesn’t change.”
There are several reasons for the Spartans to be optimistic heading into this season. The return of starting linebacker and running back Ian Benton gives CMA a hard-nosed, experienced player on both sides of the football. But it is the arrival of several other players which could make this a special season in East Camden.
No transfer to the program is more-heralded that defensive lineman and USC signee Dexter Wideman. The 6-foot-4, 275-pound Saluda High graduate and four-star prospect who originally committed to Florida State before changing course and signing with the Gamecocks on national signing day, gives CMA a notable and sizeable presence in the trenches.
On the second line of defense is Joshua Miller. The 6-foot-1, 230-pound linebacker was a member of Northwestern High School’s 2013 4A state championship squad. In addition to playing defense, the hard-hitting Miller could also see time running the football.
Their presence alone automatically helps improve CMA’s defense. “They will definitely help us on defense,” Rice said.
The Spartans were also on the receiving end of another unexpected present when West Virginia resident Raeshawn Breckenridge transferred into CMA. With the unexpected loss of last year’s starting quarterback not returning to campus, the arrival of Breckenridge could be an omen of luck swinging in the Spartans’ favor.
Another transfer, Nayan Pate from McBee, gives CMA an experienced tailback who will also start in the secondary. While Rice said the running backs will be manned by a committee until one back separates himself from the rest, the case is far different at wide receiver as the trio of Tyler Dodson, Cody Auburger and Alex Newton boasts talent and experience.
Along the interior, things are hardly set in stone. Yannick den Boer and third-year starter Ryan Figlow have established themselves as fixtures along the offensive front but the other three line spots are in flux. “It’s a revolving door, right now,” Rice said of the offensive line. “It’s not set … it’s a work in progress.”
For better or for worse, Rice said neither side of the football has been able to separate itself from the other after the first few days of practice. Given that scenario, he does not expect the defense to have to carry the offense in the early going or, vice-versa.
“It depends on what day it is,” Rice said when asked if one area is ahead of the other. “One day, the defense will look good and the next day, the offense will look good. It’s so early that it’s going to be that way. It’s just a lack of consistency, right now.”
While saying that playing a game with less than two weeks of preparation is hardly the ideal scenario, Rice said as the head coach and athletic director at the school, he had little choice but to schedule an early opener to help get his team’s feet wet before traveling to meet North Central next Friday night.
“It’s either play after two weeks or, not get a game. And we’d rather play a game,” he said. “It’s almost like a scrimmage for anybody else in the High School League, but it’s going to be our first game. We’re going to make mistakes and we’ll learn from them and move on.”
While this is the season debut for the Spartans, tonight’s hosts suffered a loss to the Providence Athletic Club last Friday night. The Stallions dressed out 13 players last week and it could be a battle of attrition in tonight’s pairing in Longs.
Still, with so many unanswered questions surrounding his own team, Rice is hardly ready to chalk this one up in the win column. With size and numbers on his team’s side, though, the CMA boss is hoping his team will be able to outflank the Stallions and their ironman system of football.
“That would be the hope,” Rice said when asked if his team would be able to overpower NMBCA. “But the best-laid plans sometimes get ruined. We’d like to come out and run our basic plays and get out of there injury free.
“We’ll be playing ourselves into game shape. Our goal for this first game is to get out of there with no injuries, get a game under our belt and learn from our mistakes.”

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