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Spartans looking ahead after season-opening loss to Dixie

Posted: September 7, 2016 2:22 p.m.
Updated: September 9, 2016 1:00 a.m.

With his team having had less than two weeks of preparation for Saturday’s season-opener against Dixie, Camden Military Academy head coach Will Rice knew his squad would battle fatigue as the afternoon went along. How his players reacted when that adversity struckwas what the Spartan boss wanted to see.

The results which Rice got were positive in spite of a 31-6 loss to the host Hornets in Due West in a game moved back a day due inclement weather on Friday.

“We got tired, you could tell that,” Rice said. “We battled the entire game, though. There was not a lack of effort on our guys’ part. They just wore us down.

“It’s about what we expected for our first game. Dixie has a pretty good football team and they are a lot better than they were when we played them a couple years ago. Coach (Vic) Lollis does a good job over there.”

The guests snapped the Dixie (2-1) shutout bid when a five-yard Joshua Sims run midway through the fourth quarter made it 31-6. The scoring jaunt capped a 60-yard march which was set up by Kimani Fletcher’s reception of a long pass. “After that catch,” Rice said, “we pounded the ball at them at the end of the drive.”

The Hornets held a slim 7-0 lead after a first quarter in which the Spartans hurt themselves with a penalty which short-circuited what was shaping up to be a promising opening drive of the season. 

With the CMA defense focused on trying to slow down Dixie tailback Jared Hagood and stacking the box, the Hornets were successful in loosening up the Spartan defense with a series of short passes.

“We were so intent on stopping the run that they hit a couple play-action passes over us for scores,” rice said of Dixie’s change in its plan of attack.

“(Hagood) did not hurt us until later in the game. We were so intent on stopping him … our safeties were flying up which made us vulnerable to the play-action pass. Their fullback is really big and very strong and he hurt us running up the middle.”

The Spartans ran a fairly simple offense while rotating quarterbacks Cade Sanders and Josiah Taylor. As anticipated, CMA also interchanged its running backs behind a veteran offensive line. There were few passes thrown by an offense which is still opening pages to their playbook.

“We ran the ball a lot because our passing game is not up to snuff, yet. It will evolve,” Rice said. “It’s all about timing and getting your protection down but we want to be physical running the ball, first and foremost.”

While the offensive line is the strong suit for the Spartans, Rice said even that unit will not be immune from changes which could be coming in several other spots on the field in the coming days and weeks.

“I thought we did well. Every position made mistakes. The offensive line is only going to get better and better,” he said of that veteran unit.

“There are a lot of jobs on the defensive side that are still open. Tailback is by committee, still. We may move some people around on the offensive line. The defensive line is wide open. We have to get more pressure on the quarterback and we may have to move some guys in our secondary to linebacker so, we’ll be looking for more defensive backs this week.”

On the positive side, Rice said he liked what he saw from his special teams, a group which played well given their condensed practice time. 

For a team which has several players who played their first high school game and some not knowing how to put their pads on properly just two weeks before, the opening contest is one from which the Spartans can move forward.

“Everything we do here is a process. It’s going to take time; time to get in shape, learn the playbook when you don’t have many returning players,” he said. “It’s just a process and unfortunately, some years it takes longer than it does other years.

 “Overall, our attitude was pretty good. Nobody likes to lose but you have to look at the bigger picture as far as character-building is concerned. It’s going to take a little while.”

 

Spartans head to Fayetteville: After opening with a game in the far reaches of the Palmetto State, CMA will hit the bus tonight for a trip to Fayetteville, N.C., to take on the Sandhills Titans, a club team made up of players who are home schooled, attend an alternative school or, whose high school does not offer football.

The Titans sport a 1-2 record; having a 44-8 win over the Cabarrus Stallions sandwiched between losses to Red Springs and Fayetteville Christian last week.

What the Titans did in their win in game two and how they goabout their business on offense concerns Rice.

“They’re quick,” said the CMA head coach of the hosts. “They have a wide receiver and a running back who are both super quick. We definitely have to contain their tailback but either one of those two cats can go the distance on any play if they get an opening.”

Rice said he expects the Titans to try and spread the Spartan defense across the field and use a series of jet sweeps to loosen things up for an explosive running game. “We have to stay in our lanes; our run fits have to be there,” he said.

On defense, Sandhills operates out of a four-man front and will challenge the CMA receivers by playing man-to-man coverage in the secondary as the Spartans look to add more wrinkles to the offense.

After a solid first outing, Rice said he expects his team to step things up to the next level tonight in the Tar Heel State.

“There’s an old adage that goes, ‘You improve the most from the first game to the second game than at any other time.’ We hope that’s the case for us,” he said.

 “We’re sorting through players and just because they were starters in the first game doesn’t mean they will be starters in the second game. We’re still shaking out our roster and seeing who can play and who steps up to the plate for us.”

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