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Well-, maybe too well, rested Spartans host Wildcats Saturday

Posted: October 8, 2015 2:06 p.m.
Updated: October 9, 2015 1:00 a.m.

What was supposed to be a bye week followed by fall break turned into a bona fide vacation for the Camden Military Academy football team.

The Spartans were scheduled to play the Peculiar Generation Lions on Sept. 25 but rain postponed that game until November. CMA did not have a game scheduled last weekend as the school was closed for its annual fall vacation. When the weather in Kershaw County turned ugly this past weekend, it led to less than a third of the student body being on campus for the start of classes on Monday.

The CMA football team was not spared from the temporary absentees as when the team convened to begin practice for Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. game against the visiting Carolina Wildcats, head coach Will Rice and his staff had only 13 available players. To make matters worse, the weekend’s heavy rains left puddles on the team’s practice/playing field, which was still soggy on Tuesday, led to Monday’s practice wbeing moved into the gym.

After what will have been 22 days between games, Saturday’s contest has an opening day feel to it.

“It does,” Rice admitted. “The only positive to not having played the last two weeks is that we get some of these (injured) guys back. In all my years as a head coach, I’ve never seen as many injuries as we have had. Hopefully, we can get at least half of these guys, if not all of them, back healthy this week.”

On Tuesday, starting quarterback Reggie Currie, starting tailback Blake Roberts and starting linebacker/tailback Ryheem Watson were all included among the Spartans still not back at school. The trio missed either all or part of the team’s previous game, a 25-12 loss to East Clarendon on Sept. 18. The setback gave CMA a 1-1 record.

As Rice was telling his players that Tuesday’s practice would be held on the baseball field, one of his players informed him that another varsity player had just returned to campus and was unpacking and would be a few minutes late for practice. It was a scene which Rice felt would be repeated over the next few days.

“We can only do what we can do with the weather and with kids being from all parts of the country and getting them back here,” he said. “Hopefully, we will have them all back here (Tuesday.) My goal is to have everybody back for practice on Wednesday.”

Once all the Spartans return, then the biggest task will be getting back into the football-playing mode after the extended layoff. One of the chief concerns for Rice is how well his players listened to the pleas of the coaching staff to stay in shape during the break. Conditioning, he said, could play a factor in the latter stages of this afternoon game. 

“It’s a big concern with the break. We preach to them about staying active and you hope they did. But even if they stayed active, it’s not like practicing and doing our conditioning,” he said.

“We haven’t played in three weeks so, I’m sure we’re going to have some rust on Saturday, as well.”

Even if Currie rebounds from a knee injury sustained against East Clarendon, Roberts from an ankle injury and Watson an elbow ailment suffered in the season-opener against the Sandhills Titans, Rice said that his team’s offensive game plan will be a stripped-down version of what it was before the days off.

“I think we’re going to have to alter it regardless,” Rice said of his team’s game plan. “But if we get some players back from their injuries, it will give us more flexibility.”

The visiting Carolina Wildcats, a team made up of players from private, public and home-schooled players, will come to town sporting a 3-3 record and are coming off a bye week themselves following 26-16 loss to Trinity Academy out of Tennessee on Sept. 25.

The Wildcats average better than 24 points per game in an offense designed to confuse the opposition.

“They’re going to give you 30 to 40 formations; they’re going to formation us to death,” Rice said. “We have to be able to line up properly, know our responsibilities and probably have to adjust on the fly because they are probably going to show us some formations that we haven’t seen before. 

“We have to be flexible, make sure we have our run fits and be in our proper coverages.”

Defensively, the Wildcats have allowed the opposition to score at a 36.2 point-per-game clip. Rice expects his offense to see players coming from all over the field which Mark Knight’s defensive unit has done in the past against the Spartans.

“Coach Knight loves to bring pressure so they are going to shoot the gaps,” Rice said. “Our offensive line has to be able to pick up the blitzes and seal them off.”

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