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Asheville gives Spartans a case of the Blues

Posted: September 19, 2016 4:04 p.m.
Updated: September 20, 2016 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I photo/

CMA LINEBACKER ZACH IRTENKAUF prepares to sack Asheville quarterback Ahmad Gilmore in first quarter action from Friday’s 28-6 Asheville victory.

There was plenty going against the Camden Military Academy football team even before the Asheville School turned a game-opening pooch kick into a one-play scoring drive on Friday in upending the host Spartans, 28-6 at Spartan Field.

Having had just three full weeks of practice, CMA (0-3) is just getting to the point to which most teams are opening their seasons. Throw in the fact that many of his players never played the game competitively before this season and Will Rice was not all too frustrated by the loss to the visiting Blues from North Carolina.

“It’s a work in progress,” Rice said after the contest played in the warm afternoon sun. “We’re still not in shape. Right now, we’re about where most people would be playing their first game. It is what it is and we’ll keep working at it.”

Things started on a sour note for the hosts as Asheville’s Rashad Morrison pounced on Hank Boyd’s game-opening pooch kick to give the guests a first down at the CMA 28. It took just one play for the visitors to hit the scoreboard as quarterback Ahmad Gilmore found Morrison with a fade pass in the end zone for a 7-0 lead after just 11 ticks had come off the game clock.

Things looked even worse when after a bad snap on CMS’s first punt, the loose ball was recovered by the Blues at the Spartans’ 41. The visitors would move the ball to the five but thanks to a Zack Irtenkauf sack on second down and an incompletion on fourth down, Asheville was forced to attempt a 28-yard field goal which was low and never had a chance as the hosts took over from their own 20 with 5:48 left in the first quarter.

Staying solely on the ground, the Spartans churned out yardage. An eight-yard Barrett Sullivan run gave them a first down at their own 36 before the drive stalled forcing a punt on fourth and 12 from the 38. A roughing the kicker penalty re-ignited the drive with CMA getting the ball back at its own 46.

Sticking with the ground game in the Power I backfield, Sullivan went for runs of eight and nine yards as CMA ran out the first quarter clock with 10 consecutive runs behind its experience front line.

Rice and company did not stray from their game plan in feeding the ball to Sullivan along with Kimani Fletcher and Brice Fleming, whose three-yard carry gave the Spartans a first and goal from the Asheville eight. On fourth and goal from the five, Fletcher got the call and found his way over the goal line for the touchdown to cap an exhausting, 23-play, 80-yard march which ate up more than 14 minutes of the game clock as CMA closed the gap to 7-6.

With his line being the most experienced group on his team, Rice said his offense rode the backs of that unit. “That drive is the way we want it every time,” Rice said. 

Getting the ball back at their own 41 with 3:30 left in the opening half, the Blues went on a march of their own and used the combination of the option running game along with Gilmore’s arm to march 59 yards on six plays in a drive capped by Morrison taking the pitch from Gilmore on the jet sweep for an 18-yard touchdown and a 14-6 lead with 1:19 left in the second quarter.

The Blues continued to have success with the option game and used it four times in opening the second half with a seven-play, 65-yard march which ended with Gilmore finding Morrison with a scoring toss on first and goal from the three.

Rice said his defense was on the spot for the option but too often ran past the ball carrier.

“The pitch hurt us and when we got there,” he said, “we overran it. When we made some adjustments in the second half, they went to the dump passes because we were in a cover two. It was choose your poison for us. They’re good offensively.”

After having run for 94 yards on 25 first half carries, the CMA offense hit a wall in the second 24 minutes in being held to 54 yards in offense on 19 snaps as the Blues took control of the contest.

Even when things looked bad for the Blues, they turned out good. Morrison’s 55-yard punt return for a touchdown was called back by a block in the back as Asheville took over from the CMA 44. Three plays later, Gilmore went up top and found a streaking Morrison for a 40-yard touchdown pass and the 28-6 lead with 6:15 left in the third quarter.

CMA had one more scoring threat and marched 48 yards from its own 30 to the Blues’ 22 before the guests stuffed a fourth and four carry. Before that, Joshua Sims had a 20-yard carry for the Spartans who were led by Sullivan rushing for 58 yards on 17 carries while Fletcher and Fleming added 29 yards each for a CMA offense which rushed for all 146 of their yards.

The Spartans attempted and misfired on both their pass attempts. Rice said until the passing game gets clicking, opposing defenses will continue do what Asheville’s did on Friday.

“They were just stacking the box against us and it hurt us,” he said. “Until we get better at throwing the ball, that’s what we’re going to see.”


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