08/21/08 — Football preview: Spring Creek

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Football preview: Spring Creek

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on August 21, 2008 1:35 PM

As the opening snap of the 2008 football season is just 24 hours away, anticipation continues to build within the Spring Creek Gator football program.

There are multiple reasons to be optimistic.

First-year head coach Aaron Sanders has run a clean camp. He's implemented new offensive and defensive schemes. And with improved numbers from a disastrous 2007 campaign, hope abounds in the swamp.

"It has been a lot of fun so far, just seeing how the kids come together as a team," grinned Sanders. "The schedule with getting ready for school to start and running the team has been pretty hectic, but it's all fun."

The former Gator player and assistant coach admitted that there are many responsibilities that a head coach must handle that go unrecognized outside of the program.

"My job is to make sure that Fridays go as smoothly as possible," said Sanders. "Making sure everything goes as planned, before the game, during and after."

Sanders inherits a program that is coming off an 0-11 campaign and saw its roster depleted by injuries. It's a trend that the long-time assistant hopes to turn around by filling more uniforms to start the year.

"We have averaged 27 guys at practice thus far," said Sanders. "We have a strong group of seniors and a large group of up-and-coming freshmen, which bodes well for our talent level.

"There are only three juniors on the roster, and a slim number of sophomores. But within those groups, we have quality that makes up for lacking quantity."

Among the strengths of this year's Spring Creek squad will be the offensive line. It's a group that includes two of the Gators' most-experienced players.

"Paul Hayes will be at center, and he's a three-year starter that gives us a lot of experience and leadership," said Sanders. "At guard, we will have John Mozingo, a two-year starter ... another guy that works hard."

The Gators will need the offensive line to anchor a newly-implemented spread offense. Directing the offense will be Nick Hatem, a quarterback that has earned Sanders' confidence.

"Nick is a fast guy, quick on his feet and with a big arm to throw the ball all around the field," said Sanders. "He needs to focus on making good decisions at this point, and knowing what he can and can't do."

Sophomore Noah Hinson challenged Hatem at quarterback. But a freak injury has sidelined Hinson for the season. During the first night of full-contact practice, Hinston took a hit to the back which ruptured his kidney.

Sanders has turned the defense over to coordinator Brandon Proctor.

"I wanted to run a standard 3-5 system, but Brandon came to me and told me what he wanted to do and I told him to get started," said Sanders. "It's way to early for me to say whether or not the system is working, but our guys are going to know it, and they are going to have opportunities to be successful."

Spring Creek will look to make waves in the Carolina 1-A Conference, but Sanders tempers his expectations with realism.

"It would be ridiculous to expect an undefeated season or anything like that," said Sanders. "But this year the conference is pretty much wide open, so we hope to go out and compete and win some games."

The Gators open the season at home Friday against South Lenoir.