The Strathmore High School Spartans Football Team (1-3) showed signs of life on defense in a 26-14 defeat to the W.H Croxford Cavaliers on Friday. After giving up 44 in a loss to the Cougars and 38 in a loss to the Mustangs, the defense has shown steady signs of improvement on clamping down on opposing offenses.
"I thought the defense actually played their best game of the year. They just had one bad little 3 minute stretch where they gave up a couple quick touchdowns. Other than that, they were rock solid, especially considering the fact our offense was really struggling," Head Coach Danny Warrack said.
Warrack said the defense kept the game close, as it was only 3-0 for the Cavaliers with 3:00 minutes left to play in the second quarter. But a quick touchdown, followed by a Spartans 2-and-out, and another Cavaliers TD in that span made it a 19-0 game. He added one of the touchdowns was when the Spartans' offense had a turnover on their own 2-yard line, so the defense was put in an incredibly difficult situation to make a stop.
With special teams also playing well and showing improvement, Warrack pointed to the offense as the biggest area of the team that needs to show improvement to earn wins. With the offense floundering, we could see a new look team by next week's game.
"I'm planning on some big changes this week for personnel. The guys we got, they aren't getting it done. So maybe a few little tweaks here and there, so we can see if that helps."
One of the biggest changes could be at quarterback. Warrack said the current starting QB, Brady Johansen, is a very talented athlete that could help the team anywhere on offense, and the backup QB Dylan Elliot looked good when he was on the field last game, so this may be a change that could get the offense jumpstarted.
The offense's struggles can't be pinned down on one guy though; Warrack said the team struggles to pass protect, and the lack of a solid running game puts a ton of pressure on the QB. To work around this, Warrack is looking to shake up his play calling to put his players in a position to succeed.
"We don't run the ball well, so we kind of got to live and die by the pass. Short pass game, screen game, stuff like that. More screen passes, more short passes. So try to get the ball into some athlete's hand in space best we can."
While three straight losses with a struggling offense is never fun, Warrack explained the Spartans are facing a gauntlet of tough teams, which will help prepare the team for the following season so they can see what it takes to get to the next level.
"We booked a tougher schedule on purpose this year to get these guys some experience playing tough games. Because if you do have a team that's got a shot to go to provincials and get into that playoff, you gotta play some tough games to know what it's like. Because they're all going to be tough at that level."
As the Spartans go through this year, Warrack emphasized that the players returning next year have to take the offseason seriously, as that's what separates teams and gets them to where they have to be.
The Spartans will be back on the field this Wednesday at 4:00 PM for their Jr. Varsity Game against High River, where many of the grade 10s and 11s will be featured. Following that, they're back to their regular schedule on Saturday at 1:30 PM in Strathmore, where they'll face another tough challenge in the Bert Church High School Chargers.
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