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Spartans kick off home season on Friday

Posted: September 15, 2016 10:02 a.m.
Updated: September 16, 2016 1:00 a.m.

t was all about minimizing and maximizing at Camden Military Academy this week.

Following a 35-0 loss to the Sandhills Titans last Friday, Spartans head coach Will Rice and his staff preached about eliminating the mistakes and turnovers which could have made a major difference in the final score, if not the outcome, of that contest.

Looking ahead, CMA is hoping that not having to hop onto a bus for a lengthy  ride to an away game will help as the Spartans host The Asheville School today in a 4 p.m. start at Spartan Field on the East Camden campus.

A week ago in Fayetteville, N.C., CMA shot itself in the foot in coming away empty on two first half trips to the Titans’ five yard line. Not only did the visitors not score a touchdown but they lost seven points as the Titans recovered the second of the two fumbles and returned the loose ball for a 95-yard touchdown.

“We should have led, 14-7, going into the half,” Rice said of his team’s offensive struggles in the red zone. “We had too many turnovers and too many mistakes to have been as competitive as we needed to be.”

Offensively, the hosts featured a speedy tailback who gave the CMA defense fits in trying to track him down. But in other areas, the Spartan defense showed improvement from the previous week’s season-opening 31-6 loss at Dixie High School.

“We did some good things, too, last week,” Rice said. “We blocked a punt, we held them a couple times on defense and had an interception and a fumble recovery. But those two fumbles inside the five really hurt us.”

Offensively, the Spartans looked to be headed for another scoring threat on a long pass connection only for the play to be negated by a holding call. “We hit some passes,” Rice said of opening up the offensive playbook. “We had a 45-yard pass down the middle of the field that got called back by a holding penalty. It was one of those nights.

“We just had too many penalties and we had some low and high snaps which hurt us and disrupted our offensive timing. We also gave up a couple big plays on defense.”

Rather than sulk, Rice said his team returned to the practice field looking to correct the miscues which plagued them as the Spartans fell to 0-2 on the season. Rice said he is hoping his players will bounce back and get things going in the right direction.

 “It definitely wasn’t what we wanted but we’re looking at it from the point of view that you learn from your mistakes and move on,” he said of the setback at the hands of the Titans. “Hopefully, we’ll correct those and move on to this week.”

CMA has home opener: After having faced a pair of well-oiled offenses in their first two games, the Spartans will welcome The Asheville School to town this afternoon in CMA’s lone Friday afternoon game of the season.

The Blues opened the season with a 30-8 win over the Tennessee Silverbacks two weeks ago before improving to 2-0 last Friday with a 41-22 victory over the Asheville Saints.

Asheville features a balanced offensive attack with quarterback Ahmad Gilmore (6-4, 172) having thrown for 148 yards and two touchdowns in two games. Gilmore has also run for three touchdowns. On the ground, Fisher Howard (5-8, 165) has rushed for 168 of the Blues’ 264 yards while having scored two touchdowns.

 “They’re a spread team and they’re going to throw it around. They’re also going to run some option,” Rice said of this afternoon’s guests. “They have a big bowling ball type of kid (Howard) at running back who is a handful to bring down.

“They do a lot of things well on offense. We have to line up properly on defense.”

Rice said if the CMA defense can make the Blues one-dimensional on offense, the Spartans will give themselves a better chance at coming away with their first win of the season.

“They’re pretty balanced but if we can make them into a strictly passing team then that will be to our benefit,” he said of his team’s defensive game plan.

Defensively, the Blues feature Paul Hill (6-4, 215) at one end. The junior has two sacks with four tackles for loss and is a disruptive force on the perimeter.

“They run a 3-5-3 defense and they’re well-coached. We need to be disciplined on offense,” Rice said. “(Hill) is a handful at defensive end.

“On offense, we have to execute and run the ball effectively and be able to pass the ball when we need to and play great special teams.”

One thing which will be in the Spartans’ favor is that they do not have to load the buses for a lengthy road trip. For a squad loaded with young players, playing in front of the CMA student body should benefit the hosts.

 “We hope it will be a big advantage for us,” Rice said of playing at home. “We don’t have to get on the bus and ride two hours-plus. Hopefully, we’ll come out and be fired up for our first home game in front of our crowd. We’re hoping that will be a big plus for us.”


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