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CMA has its work cut out in trying to derail Panthers

Posted: October 22, 2015 1:16 p.m.
Updated: October 23, 2015 1:00 a.m.

BLAKE ROBERTS SCORED THREE touchdowns in CMA’s loss to Gray Collegiate.

In most of their games this season, the McBee football team has put up numbers which the school’s basketball team would kill to score on a nightly basis.

Already this year, the state’s top-ranked class A squad has hit the 84-point twice, including last week’s shutout over Great Falls. The Panthers also hung up 67 points on East Clarendon in one of their three shutouts this campaign in which Charlie Poole’s squad is averaging better than 56 points per outing in what has been a 7-0 start.

Trying to slow down that attack while trying to disrupt a McBee defense which has surrendered less than 10 points a game is the task facing the Camden Military Academy which heads to Chesterfield County for tonight’s 7:30 p.m. start in what will be homecoming at MHS.

As he watched the Panthers on film, CMA head coach Will Rice said the voters have it right in making the Panthers the number one team in class A football.

“There’s a reason why they’re number one in the state,” he said. “Coach Poole has done a great job of building that program up. They’re big, they’re fast and well-coached.”

The Spartans carry a 2-2 record to McBee tonight and are coming off last Saturday’s 60-34 loss to Gray Collegiate Academy. The point total was a season high for Rice and company who know points will be harder to come by against a stingy Panther defense.

Rather than try and trade haymakers with the hosts, though, Rice will be content if his offense throws jabs and picks up several yards at a time, control the football and the clock and cash in on their offensive opportunities.

“They are going to load the box and man up on your receivers. They’re going to bring pressure on you,” Rice said of the MHS defensive strategy.

“We need to get some five- or six-minute drives and shorten the game. That would be huge if we could do that and build on the success we had last week in running the ball.”

While CMA would like to take its time and keep its offense on the field, the key to that will be stopping a three-headed monster of Panther running backs who line up in the wishbone. In last week’s romp, MHS was able to utilize the big play in scoring more than 50 points in the opening half.

 “We would like to eliminate the big plays on defense and that’s something which we’ve been working on,” Rice said of the quick-strike Panthers. “If they get to the sideline or, if they get a crease, they can go to the house any time. We’d like to stop their big plays and make them work for whatever they get.”

That task will be even harder tonight given the fact that the guests will be without safety Noah Woody, the leader of the Spartans’ defense. Woody injured his Achilles earlier in the week and was on crutches Tuesday.

“Woody is one of our surest tacklers,” Rice said. “He’s tough and won’t back down from anybody. He sticks his nose in there and makes tackles.”

Without Woody, CMA must find someone to fill his shoes while devising a game plan to try and slow down McBee. What the Spartans will not do is to stray far from their defensive scheme and try and come up with a new formation in the span of a few days.

“They’ve probably seen every defense that they can see being thrown at them and they still don’t miss a beat,” Rice said. “If those backs get any kind of opening, they can go to the house on, literally, any play.”

Rice said from what he has seen on film, McBee has not shown a weakness on the offensive side of the football. “They’ve scored 84 points twice already this year; that’s prolific,” he said. “We just have to be in the right position and we have to tackle them. Those backs are big and strong and they really do a good job of blocking for each other.”

While some coaches will sometimes make an excuse and not show their players film of an opponent that has been this dominant, Rice and his staff have dissected the Panthers’ game tapes along with their players. The Spartans, Rice said, know the task they have staring them in the face tonight.

“They’ve seen them on film and they know McBee is good,” he said. “We talk about embracing the challenge. We told them they may be looking at a state championship team and when they get older and have kids and grandkids, they can tell them that they played against a state championship team.

“We know it’s going to be a challenge. They are an extremely good football team. We just have to do what we do and make adjustments to what they do.”

Gray Collegiate gets past CMA: Playing for the first time in 29 days, what Rice worried about in his team’s 60-34 loss to Gray Collegiate Academy came true in the second half of a game which the visiting Eagles led, 28-20, at halftime.

The Spartans received a four-yard scoring run from quarterback Reggie Currie and touchdowns runs of eight and five yards from tailback Blake Roberts, with Currie running in the two-point conversion after the second, to jump to a 20-14 lead over the guests.

But Gray Collegiate returned a CMA fumble for a touchdown which helped the visitors to the eight-point advantage at the break.

Rice admitted to it being a frustrating first 24 minutes of play for his team.

“It was 28-20 at the half and it should have or, could have been tied but those are the breaks of the game,” Rice said.

A 75-yard touchdown run from Ryheem Watson and Roberts going over with the two-point run drew the hosts to within 42-28 in the third quart with a three-yard Roberts scoring run making it 48-34.

But the Spartans were unable to keep up with the Eagles’ pass-first spread set with quarterback Brice Fields throwing for 307 yards and five touchdowns.

Rice said his team’s lack of game and conditioning time showed up in the Spartans’ second half play in trying to keep up with the Eagles’ high-powered offensive scheme.

“They’re really good at it. It was the best spread team that we’ve seen or that we will see this year,” Rice said.

 “They’re just really good on offense. In the first half, we were really competitive and still had our legs. In the second half, not having played a game in a month, the rust and conditioning from our not having played in so long set in. They wore us down in the second half and they hit some big plays and the score got lopsided.”

In spite of the final outcome, Rice said there were several bright spots for his team including getting three touchdowns from Roberts and scoring runs from Currie and Watson. In addition, Rice said his team played hard for the full 48 minutes.

“We never quit and kept battling,” he said. “We did some good things. We ran the ball at them. The ground game was working well for us. And we got some stops on defense but we had some breakdowns in coverages and with tackling; there again, we hadn’t played in a month so that was part of it.”


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