School: Spencer High
2013 record: 5-5
Key players: Joshua Hall, Chris Baker, Ervin Davis, Daymeonta White, Jayson Sims, Tyrie Wicker
Key game: vs. Kendrick, Oct. 31 at Memorial Stadium
Outlook: Spencer could have been thrilled with its 5-5 record a season ago. After all, the Greenwave had totaled five wins just one time (2007) since 1993. A win against Kendrick in the final game of the season would have given Spencer its first winning record since 1977.
It was that close.
Instead, it lost the game, 28-8, falling just outside the playoffs and watched as Kendrick earned its first winning record since 1995. Returning players were understandably underwhelmed with the finish.
“It was like getting punched in the stomach,” running back Jayson Sims said. “You get your hopes up and then you just get let down. Coming into the season, I feel like everyone’s more focused. Everyone’s hungry.”
Fellow running back Tyrie Wicker mimed getting punched in the stomach as Sims spoke.
“That’s how I felt when we lost,” he said. “There were tears, seniors were crying. That’s not a good feeling. We’re trying to make the playoffs. That’s what we’re working for.”
Flash forward to this summer. Key players like quarterback Tarvaraska Davis and running back Damarkus Robins have graduated, but a number of strong athletes remain.
And then there is the secret weapon, one coach Calvin Arnold didn’t want to elaborate on just yet. It is Jason Gibson, head coach of the Columbus Lions, who is volunteering as a community coach for Spencer this season. He’ll fill the role of offensive coordinator, and, for good reason, has inspired confidence in the new high-tempo offensive attack.
“It’s a fast-paced offense,” Sims said. “We’ve been doing a lot of conditioning for it. We’ve got a lot of speed on our team. It’s wide open. We got — well, I’m not going to tell you much about it. I don’t want to give it away, but it’s something new. It’s fun.”
Spoken like a true disciple of Arnold, who said he’s excited but was also unwilling to give away too many wrinkles in the new scheme.
“I don’t want to give away too much,” he said with a laugh, though he did talk about senior transfer Joshua Hall. Hall will be running the offense at quarterback, and Arnold said he’s confident in his abilities.
He’s not relying on just one guy to fill the void left by Davis, Robins and others, though.
“They’re tough to replace,” he said. “I don’t think you can rely on just one guy to replace them. We’re relying on everybody.”
It’s a new region and classification for Spencer, which will play in Region 2-AAA. It is still too early to tell where it will fit in with teams like Peach County, Jackson, Rutland, Kendrick and others.
The excitement level should be as high as it has been in years, though. It is coming off one of its best seasons in more than three decades and seems to have the right pieces in place to make some noise.