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Spartans hoping for a return to winning ways

Posted: October 11, 2018 8:22 a.m.
Updated: October 12, 2018 1:00 a.m.

Will Rice knows only too well just how long a trip which Trinity Academy has to make in getting to the Camden Military Academy campus from the Knights’ home base in Gray, Tenn.

Last year, Rice and his CMA football team made the four-hour-plus bus ride, not to mention the inevitable traffic snarl outside of Asheville, N.C., when the Spartans left Trinity with a 33-14 loss as the Knights used that victory to help win the conference crown.

Plenty has changed since that game for the Spartans. 

The team which Rice took to Tennessee a season ago was young and raw, football-wise, and was still in search of their first win. The one which will wait on the Knights’ arrival for Saturday’s 2 p.m. game at Spartan Field is one which opened the year with three straight victories before falling to Great Falls, 44-22, two Fridays ago.

Having had last weekend off for the school’s annual fall break, the Spartans hope to shake off the rust from being away from campus in time for Saturday’s pairing. What Rice and company still have are some of the same question marks which they took with them to Great Falls.

“We’re still banged up,” Rice said. “We still have several players missing from practice.”

Included in that group are defensive back/wide out Justin Wilson (knee), tailback Alex Renken (knee), lineman Ryan Neel (knee) and leading rusher Malcolm Hyppolite (back.) Rice is hopeful most, if not all, will be given the green light to play on Saturday but has adopted a next man up philosophy, just the same.

Another thing not having played a week ago --- which was CMA’s second open week in three weeks --- did was to let rust accumulate. Rice said he is concerned about that but said the chief worry is the lost conditioning from the week of inactivity.

“I guess we’ll see how that works on Saturday,” he said of whether the week off was a blessing or, curse for his 3-1 squad.

Rice is hoping to have his full complement of players in uniform for what could well be the Spartans’ toughest test to date. The visitors (2-5) are a run-first, run-second and run-third offensive team which has rushed for an average of 211 yards per game while passing for a little more than 51 yards an outing.

Leading the ground attack for the visitors is Austin Tedder, a 6-1, 230-pound back who has rushed for 748 yards and six touchdowns. He lines up behind Titus Brooks, a 6-0, 185-pound quarterback who has carried the ball for 334 yards and a pair of touchdowns while attempting just 18 passes --- completing 11 --- for 187 yards with four interceptions in seven games.

“They run the ball real well. (Tedder) is a load to bring down,” Rice said. “They also have a good quarterback who is big. 

“We have to be able to stop the run, first and foremost. Our defense has to be ready to play good, assignment football Saturday.”

The Knights have allowed opponents to score 30 points per game which is almost the figure which the Spartans average scoring through four contests. Rice said the guests will line up in a four-man front and will walk a linebacker to the line of scrimmage to give the impression of a five-man line.

“Their linemen are pretty big. They were pretty big when we played them last year and most of those players are back for them,” Rice said. “They really come off the ball against you. They just have a really good football team.”

Since Trinity has a long bus ride ahead of it, Rice hopes his team can take some wind from the Knights’ sails and have fatigue become a factor by the Spartans’ getting off to a quick start and making the guests play from behind and have to stray from their comfort zone.

Should Hyppolite be a go on Saturday, it will enhance the CMA rushing attack. Should the hosts be able to get on track with the ground game, this could be a rather quick contest given what both offenses set out to do.

“With the way we’ve been playing and like to play,” Rice said, “we’re going to try and keep the ball away from them and their offense. They will be trying to do the same thing, too. It should be interesting.”

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