CMA at North Central
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m.
Records: CMA: 1-0; NC: 1-2
Series record: NC leads, 2-0
Last meeting: NC, 34-7, in 2013
Radio: StarTime 1590 AM, kool1027.com beginning with the pre-game show at 7 p.m.
The Skinny: Tonight marks Homecoming at North Central … In addition to being the headmaster at Camden Military Academy, Eric Boland serves as the Spartans’ offensive coordinator. Before overseeing the operation of CMA, Boland was the academy’s head football coach and athletic director … There are plenty of ties to Camden High School and retired Bulldogs head coach Billy Ammons in this game. CMA defensive coach Jeff Jordan both played and coached under Ammons while at Camden High. CMA assistant coach Speedy Johnson was also a member of Ammons’ staff at CHS. Spartans assistant coach Griff Beckham played at CHS under Jimmy Neal while his father, Buster Beckham, was Ammons’ teammate on the ’64 team while also working alongside his high school teammate as an assistant coach. On the North Central sidelines, head coach Louis Clyburn and Knight assistant coaches Robbie Cash and Chris Martin all played under Ammons while NC assistant coach Guy Eckenroth was a longtime assistant coach under Ammons for the Bulldogs including being on the staff for the 1990 AAA state championship season.
When Camden Military headed to North Central last season, it was a trip into the great unknown for the visitors who were playing with an almost totally revamped roster and without a game under its belt.
Tonight, the Spartans travel to Boonetown for the Knights’ homecoming with more of an idea as to what things work and what things don’t following last Friday’s season-opening 32-0 win over an outmanned North Myrtle Beach Christian School.
What the host Knights don’t know about CMA, after watching the film of Will Rice’s squad’s win last week, is what the guests will do in the passing game. All 325 of the Spartans’ total yardage last week came on the ground as the guests did not attempt a pass.
For NC head coach Louis Clyburn and his staff, they have played the guessing game in practice as to which routes the Spartans may run when they go up top.
“We have limited video on them and we just have to assume that they run certain plays,” Clyburn said. “They run a pro-style offense, kind of like we do. We’ve gotten away from the spread and have gone more to a pro-style offense where we get under center with a fullback and a tailback.
“You can only assume that when their coaches get together and look at things that they can do in that offense, that they’re coming up with some of the same basic plays that we do in ours. That is what we’ve been working on in practice this week saying, ‘Everybody likes the flat curl. Everybody likes the slant.’ Those are the kind of things you do in practice to prepare for this week.”
The challenge for the Spartans is making sure their starters are prepared to play a full four quarters. When the score got out of hand last week, Rice pulled his first string in the second quarter. While it is always nice to get your reserves ample playing time, the CMA boss said it comes with a price when it happens so early in the season for a team which is only in its third week of practice.
An addition to concerns about his players’ conditioning, Rice said the Spartans have other obstacles in their path tonight.
“First of all,” Rice said, “it’s a huge step up in competition from Myrtle Beach Christian to North Central; going from a small private school to a AA school which runs a fast-paced offense. It’s going to be a huge hurdle for us to get over.”
At least, though, Rice said that he has a feel for his team coming into this game as opposed to a year ago when a cancelled scheduled opener left CMA kicking off its campaign at North Central.
“Obviously, it’s good to get out there and have that game experience, even if the starters weren’t out there too much,” Rice said of having a game under his team’s belt. “It’s good to get out there on that field, get some penalties called on you and tojust go through some game-like situations, which is a plus.
“We did some good things last week. We blocked pretty well and got to the ball on defense, at times. But consistency is one of the major things we need to work on this week.”
Consistency has been the buzzword in Boonetown for a Knight unit which broke into the win column with a 28-6 win over East Clarendon last Friday. As he and his staff have worked hard in shuffling an injury plagued offensive line, Clyburn hopes that unit will be as close to healthy as they have since game one tonight.
“This week,” said the NC boss, “we have worked on gaining consistency in a few more positions, maintaining blocks and tackling better. With the talented players Camden Military has, we’ll have to tackle better. Each and every week, we have to continue improving on the things that we do and the things that our football team are trying to accomplish each and every week.”
The Knights have had their way against CMA in the first two meetings in this series. But with the Spartans being fortified by transfers such as two-way lineman and USC signee Dexter Wideman, linebacker Joshua Miller from Northwestern and tailback Nyann Pate from McBee, Clyburn expects a four-quarter battle come this evening.
“I think the one thing you would expect when you are playing a military academy and one of the reasons why it was attractive for us to get them on our schedule was because of their toughness,” Clyburn said. “We want a tough football game and a quality opponent and that’s certainly, what they bring to the table. They have a couple players who certainly stand out and have experience at other places. Their players are there to help make themselves better and that’s something you have to appreciate.
“Coach Rice and their other coaches do a great job of melding them together into a football team in a short amount of time. You can see that in the tape. They made a lot of big plays last week and went up early. We’ve preached to our kids all week that this is going to be a tough football game and could be one that goes either way, which is a challenge.”
Rice said his defense will be put to a stern test by the Knights and their stable of skill position players which include running backs William Jenkins, Cedric Cunningham, Jay Parks and quarterback John Bowers.
“They have playmakers all over the field and they have the athletes who can break one on any given play,” Rice said of an explosive North Central set of players. “They’re very well-coached.
“We have our work cut out for us but we’re going to do what we do. We’ve game-planned, a little bit, but we haven’t really seen them do anything we run. We have to have some contingency plans for what we may see from them on offense and have to adjust on the fly.”