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Spartans ready to kick off season, again

Posted: September 10, 2015 10:06 a.m.
Updated: September 11, 2015 1:00 a.m.

All the prep work had been done. And, figuratively, the horse was in the starting gate only for the race to have been scratched at the last minute.

Essentially, that was the scene last week at the Camden Military Academy as the Spartans were sitting on go and ready to hit somebody other than themselves in preparation for last Saturday’s scheduled season opener against visiting Grace Crossing. Everything changed, though, a day before the game.

Receiving a call from Grace Crossing head coach Jim Mallos, CMA head coach Will Rice was informed that the Fighting Christians would have to bow out of the contest due to a lack of available players as several team members quit following a 71-6 loss to Metrolina the previous weekend.

It was hardly the news which Rice and company wanted to hear.

“The coaches, the players and everybody were disappointed,” Rice said of last week’s cancellation. “I think we were ready and eager to see what we could do. There’s no substitute for game experience.

 “We’re champing at the bit to play on Friday.”

Barring any last-minute change of plans, the Spartans will kick off their season this afternoon when the Sandhills Titans come to Spartan Field for a 4 p.m. contest.

The additional week of practice, albeit without a game, did allow the hosts more time to get in better shape after not having opened pre-season practice until Aug. 17. But Grace Crossing’s cancelling the game did little to help prepare CMA for the test they will see from the visitors  made up of home school students and players whose high school does not have a football team from the Fayetteville, N.C., area.

The Titans have played three games this season and will come to town after having scored consecutive victories including a 25-0 win over the Peculiar Generation Lions last week. Sandhills opened the season with a 52-6 loss to Red Hill (N.C.) High School on Aug. 21.

Rice said that game experience could play a role in how this contest develops as the Titans have already worked through many of the problems associated with a first game. Rice is concerned about his team’s getting past those opening game jitters, something which the guests have had three games to get out of their system.

That being said, the CMA boss said his team’s being able to get out to a quick and successful start in the early stages of the game should help as they seek to open a season with a victory for the second time in as many years.

“It will be crucial,” Rice said of the importance of having success early in the contest. “We want to start fast and it will be important whether we’re on offense or defense, whoever is on the field first, to get us going. If we’re on defense, we have to get some stops and if we’re on offense, we need to get first downs and score.”

The Spartan offense will be in the hands of Reggie Curry, a transfer from New Jersey. The left-handed throwing quarterback arrived at CMA for his first practice last Monday. Now, after two weeks of practice with his new teammates, the post-grad player has had time to adjust to his new surroundings and teammates.

“He’s in week two now. He’s looking good out there,” Rice said of Curry who will have Blake Roberts behind him at running back.

That unit is expected to see a four-man front from the Titans who are expected to employ a cover-two or, cover-four look in the secondary.

The CMA defense features Wendell Bing, a 6-foot-4, 280-pounder anchoring the line while Ryheem Dawson is a linebacker who can go from sideline to sideline in tracking down a ball carrier or, covering a receiver.

That group will face a Titans’ offense which has put up 70 points in its last two outings.

“On defense,” Rice said of Sandhills’ offensive scheme, “we’ll see some spread, some I (formation) and some offset I from them. “They’re going to try to throw the ball but I think that we’ll mostly see them run the ball more than pass it.”

Rice and his staff know what to expect from Sandhills after having seen game films of the Titans. What worries the CMA boss as much as the game on the field is what the weather may have in store on Friday. On Wednesday, Rice was concerned about the possibility of thunderstorms this afternoon which could affect the contest in one way or, another.

What Rice did know is that it will probably be warm on Friday and for a team playing its first game, the issue of players cramping up and staying hydrated before and during the game, were as important to the hosts as the scoreboard.

“The conditioning is going to be a factor with this being an afternoon game,” Rice said. “We’ll probably play a lot of guys in this game because of the heat.”

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