This is the 14th in a series previewing high school football teams in the Bi-City area. Coming Saturday: Smiths Station
By DAVID MITCHELL
When Calvin Arnold took over as coach at Spencer High, he saw talent and athleticism.
What he didn't see was discipline.
The team lacked fundamentals, proper technique and the right attitude.
"When I got here, I saw a lot of kids that had potential," Arnold said. "I watched every game they played last year, and I could see where they were making a lot of their mistakes, and I could see where they were really costing themselves. A lot of games they lost were because they lined up wrong.
"A lot of kids can play but don't pay attention to the small details. They'd line up wrong. They had a lot of bad habits. We just had to break that."
That was job No. 1 in Arnold's mind. From now on, the team would not lose because it wasn't doing the small things correctly and putting in the necessary time.
"We want to hold kids accountable for every action," he said. "We want to make sure they understand they can win if they put in the work."
The players gave resounding approval to the changes Arnold has made.
"The discipline has improved a ton," junior receiver Blaze Coaxum said. "That's what we were missing before. We've got the talent. Now, with discipline, we look and play a lot more like a team."
Quarterback Tarvaraska Davis agrees.
"It's changed a lot," he said. "Some guys didn't even know what to do before. He's showing us the right way to play."
It's the right way to play but also the right way to live, Coaxum indicated.
Coaxum said that Arnold stresses the discipline as much off the field as on and believes that a complete overhaul will help them in both places in the long run.
"It's changed our attitude a lot in the classroom, too," he said. "He's big on the field, and he's just as big in the school. He sees us in the hallways, and he makes us go to class on time. He's just big all around."
Arnold, who was the defensive coordinator and assistant head coach at Troup High, can see the progress.
He likes what he has in Davis at quarterback, he said. The third-year starter has a good arm and is smart when it comes to making decisions on the field.
"He's one of the smarter quarterbacks I've had," Arnold said. "He picks up the game quick."
Davis will be tossing the ball to wide receivers Coaxum and Deondre Hubbert, both seniors, who have a good rapport with their quarterback.
"I'm relying heavily on those three guys to get things started," Arnold said.
Defensively, the team is very young. Arnold said there would be one senior, linebacker Quanderious Williams, who was a starter a year ago.
Still, though, Arnold said the offense wouldn't be doing all the heavy lifting.
"Everybody is going to have to depend on each other," he said. "I won't say the offense has to carry the defense or the defense has to carry the offense. Everyone has to depend on each other, because this is new for everyone."
The team has a strong freshman class, and Arnold plans for plenty of them to see the field.
"They're hungry, and I believe in playing freshmen if they're ready to play," he said. "If you can play, I'm going to put you out on the field."
In the end, he's hoping to see development across the board, from his seniors down to his freshmen.
If that means more wins, then great. But, more than anything, he is focused on improvement.
"I expect to see, every game, improvement," he said. "I want to see improvement from last year, I want to see improvement from last week. I'm not going to say that I expect you to do this and do this. I just expect them to get better every game. And, if they do that, the wins will take care of themselves."
The first opportunity for that on the field will be against Carver, a difficult task, of course.
But Hubbert said he wants to show everyone things have changed from last year.
"We're just trying to show that we got better," he said. "We're not going to back down from them."
David Mitchell, 706-571-8571
Head coach: Calvin Arnold
Region: Region 5-AA
Last season's record: 2-8, 1-6 in Region 5-AA
Last season's playoff record: 0-0
Aug. 31 Carver (M) 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 7 at Randolph-Clay 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 14 at Manchester 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 21 Jordan (M) 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 28 at Temple 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 12 at Bremen 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 19 Bowdon (K) 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 26 at Chatt. Co. 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 2 at Heard Co. 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 9 Kendrick (M) 7:30 p.m.