Playing a football game after a four and a half-hour bus ride is hardly the optimal situation for football players. Nonetheless, Camden Military Academy came out blazing in last week’s game at Trinity Academy in Gray, Tenn.
After opening the game by getting a pair of James Sampson touchdown runs to even things at 14 at halftime, the Spartans fell victim to self-inflicted wounds in the second half of a 33-14 road league loss last Friday.
After the hosts went on top, 20-14, early in the third quarter, CMA was knocking at the door by driving to the Knights’ three only to have an errant shotgun snap back the Spartans up to their 20 while squashing the threat. Later, trailing 27-14, CMA had an open receiver in the end zone who was unable to come up with catch which would have made it a one-touchdown game in the fourth quarter.
“We had our chances. We just shot ourselves in the foot too much,” said CMA head coach Will Rice of the setback which left his team with a 1-5 record.
The loss evened CMA’s conference mark at 1-1 with one league game left to be played next Saturday against the Carolina Wildcats. The defeat in Tennessee, Rice said, was a tough pill to swallow given how well his team played at the start of the contest.
“It was tough and we got some guys banged up in that game, too. That was the double-whammy we got out of that game,” he said while adding he will know the status of at least one injured starter until game time tonight when the Spartans head to meet McBee.
Tailback James Sampson scored both Spartans touchdowns. He capped the first drive with a five-yard touchdown run before going on a 65-yard scoring jaunt to even things at 14. Thanks in large part to Sampson, CMA found success on the ground against the Knights.
“We gashed them up the middle at times,” Rice said. “We also capitalized on some turnovers but they were also able to get to the outside when we lost containment. That was probably our Achilles heel.”
Tonight, CMA takes on a McBee squad which carries a 1-7 record into the contest after having played for the class A Upper State title in each of the past three seasons. Charlie Poole’s troops are in a rebuilding mode and picked up their first win of the season a week ago in knocking off Great Falls, 42-14.
The Panthers have been porous on defense, allowing opponents to score nearly 40 points per game. Rice, whose team has lost to High School League members Dixie and Green Sea-Floyds this season, said McBee is better than what its record indicates.
“It will be a big challenge for us,” he said. “McBee is talented, as they always are. They’re extremely fast.”
The hosts have a big-play threat in tailback Tyrece Wright who, Rice said, “is a threat every time he touches the ball.” Against Lewisville, Wright went for 102 yards on the ground while catching a pass for another 15 yards. The Spartan defense must keep tabs on him throughout the evening.
The Spartans will see a little bit of everything when the Panthers have the football. MHS has the ability to line up in the wishbone, the double-wing as well as the spread formation.
“They like to mix it up,” Rice said. “We just have to make sure that we’re lined up correctly on defense. We can’t let them get to the sideline because with their speed, once they get to the sideline, they’re gone.”
Defensively, the Panthers operate out of a four-man front and have enough athletes to track down ball carriers and are able to turn what looks to be a big play into a short gain. “They’re big and they’re fast and they’re physical,” Rice said of the Panthers’ defensive unit.
With this being a non-conference game and with next week’s game --- which could well decide the Spartans’ postseason fate --- on deck, Rice said he would like for his team to come out of this game healthy and be hitting on all cylinders for the regular season finale next Saturday in the annual homecoming contest for CMA.
“It’s extremely important,” Rice said of coming home from tonight’s contest without sustaining any major injuries. “Next week is the game that will determine if we go to the playoffs or not, so it’s important that we’re healthy for next week.
“It doesn’t hold anything for us as far as the postseason but it will be a challenge because they’re a good football team,” he said of tonight’s pairing in Chesterfield County.