Change spreads through Wildcat football

Many lessons take place within the walls of Camden County High each school day. The same holds true for spring football workouts at Chris Gilman Stadium.

The Wildcats opened practice last week under new head coach Bob Sphire, who arrived in Kingsland after 11 seasons at North Gwinnett. Looking ahead to a home scrimmage next Tuesday with Charlton, an ambitious summer agenda and a regular season that kicks off in three months, he understands the workload involved in his culture-changing approach and the crunched timeframe to get it ingrained.

Under the tutelage of Sphire and new offensive coordinator Shawn Jackson, the Wildcats are departing from the wing-T and installing the spread attack so popular with colleges and high schools. 

“I think the enthusiasm has been great,” Sphire said Monday. “I think the biggest thing is it’s going to take us this spring to actually teach them how we practice. There’s a lot going on.”

The rapid-fire philosophy is reflected in the program's mantra this season: stay loose, go reckless and score now. Playing fast means practicing fast, and stagnation is the enemy. 

“We’re trying to throw as much at them as we can, so we can rehearse it all summer,” said Sphire, who has 282 lifetime victories over time spent at NGHS and in his native Kentucky. “Right now, it’s learning overload. We want get as much as we can in, and not be so concerned necessarily how it looks right now.”

In other words, consistency may initially be elusive. Mistakes may be part of the learning curve, but so could be sparks of brilliance which can get players and fans excited.

With so many Wildcats in the fold, this is the time to see where they can contribute most effectively.

“We want to build depth, and we’ve got to take this spring to look at everybody, and see what everybody can do,” he said.

A Missouri native, Jackson was on Sphire's 2013 staff when North Gwinnett went 13-2 — beating Camden in the season opener — and was the Class 6A runner-up. He then joined Glynn Academy for a season, and was head coach at McCracken County in Kentucky the last two. Jackson also served as offensive coordinator at Lindenwood University in St. Louis, Mo.

Sphire praised Jackson's high energy and insight. “He’ll have his own ideas, too, and I’ve turned him loose,” the head Wildcat said.

“We’ve got a lot of teaching to do, just how to set up defenders when you’re running routes, how to release off jam coverages, just a lot of ball-skill things in the spread that we’ve got to teach,” Sphire said.

In today’s world, he believes implementing the spread will help the defense just as much. Now, when the Wildcats play teams that spread the field, “they will have practiced against it every day.” 

Piloting the defense is new coordinator David Shores, who had the same position at Lowndes the last two seasons and has prior head coaching experience. He also spent time at LSU and at Auburn.

Also joining the staff is special teams coordinator Drew Anthony, who has plenty of state-title memories from the last dozen years in the same job at powerhouse Buford. New strength coach Matt Mays comes with Sphire from North Gwinnett, and will coach the defensive line, too.

Over the summer, the 'Cats will stay busy with 7-on-7 workouts, including a national select event at Hoover, Ala., in July. They will have three two-day camps — two at Ware and one at Glynn — and are trying to bring other programs over for organized team activities.

“We’re going to get a lot of teaching done this summer,” Sphire said. “There’s a lot of football that goes on in the summer, and we need it.”

The regular-season opener will be Aug. 18 against Florida foe Oakleaf.

Times set for spring game

The Chris Gilman Stadium gates will open next Tuesday at 5 p.m. for Charlton's spring visit. The 2017 freshmen Wildcats will start the festivities at 6 p.m., followed by the varsity at 7:30. Admission will be $5 for everyone ages 5 and older.

Call the Camden County High athletic office at (912) 729-7042 for more information.

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