08/19/10 — FOOTBALL TAB -- Spring Creek preview

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FOOTBALL TAB -- Spring Creek preview

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on August 19, 2010 2:23 PM

In 2009, the Carolina 1-A Conference title basically came down to two teams -- eventual champ Goldsboro and surprising Princeton.

The six-team league could be more topsy-turvy this season.

Exactly where does Spring Creek factor into the hunt?

"I think if things go our way, we'll be right there in the mix battling it out," said third-year Gators head coach and alum Aaron Sanders. "In the past, we've kind of gone out there, put on our pads and knew a little bit about the outcome (before kickoff).

"I think this year we'll be able to go out and play with some of the teams in our conference."

Sanders welcomed back his entire offensive line and 13 starters off last year's team that compiled a 1-10 worksheet in "The Swamp." An experienced group of seniors, youth at skill positions and a good offseason in the weight room have the staff thinking about a productive 2010.

That's not all that leads to the optimism.

One-third of the team attended Wingate's football camp this summer. Players are viewing videotape from last season, learning from their mistakes and soaking up football knowledge like a sponge.

"It's exciting ... something we haven't had in the past," said Sanders.

Spring Creek snapped a 32-game losing streak with a Homecoming victory over Dixon last September. Sanders' teams have yet to knock off a conference opponent in 10 tries.

A difficult non-conference schedule, heavy with traditionally-strong Tri-County 1-A teams, awaits Sanders' club this season. The Gators play three of their five league games at home, and hope they can reach the postseason for the first time since 2008.

"We were in some ballgames last year and I hope with that experience we bring back this year, we can get another 'W' or two," said Sanders. "I have kids in my program who want to win football games ... have been committed to the program for three years.

"Those kids, their (body) frame is ready for it. They've spent time in the weight room and done the offseason work they've needed to do. We've got some kids who are willing to compete and win some football games."

Ricky Brayboy will direct the team's flex offense package with Sean Stallings and Will Janning in the slot positions. Those three, along with A.J. Gills, will see duty on the defensive side of the ball as well.

Unlike previous seasons, Sanders has seen more preseason productivity from his offseason and defensive lines. Gone are the days when Sanders and his staff had to drill fundamentals -- even in week 11 of the regular season.

"In my first year, I was dealing with 10 seniors who had never played football or maybe just one year," said Sanders. "You're constantly going over the basics ... strictly fundamentals and I was still critiquing stances 10 weeks into the season.

"Now, I can work on other things at practice and we can adjust to our personnel. The teaching aspect has really changed and you're able to be more advanced now."

Sanders said depth is an issue.

The offensive and defensive lines have some depth, but there will be numerous two-way starters at the skill positions. Six seniors will need to provide leadership in a program that's experienced just one .500 season in its 10-year existence.

"I want to put a team on the field that works hard, does the little things and plays hard ... our ultimate goal," said Sanders. "If you give me a kid going 100 percent, that's all I can ask from them and that's what I want to see this year out of my football team."