Last season, the Spring Creek football team faced the tall task of replacing an army of graduating seniors. This year, coach Joel Jund hopes his players learned from the challenge.
“We struggled and went 2-7,” Jund said. “Obviously, we’re trying to turn that around.”
“We’ve turned the page and we’re trying to move ahead,” he added.
The Spartans welcome back a number of contributors on both sides of the ball this season.
Junior Dillon Draper will start at quarterback for Spring Creek after seeing some time at the position last season. Jund said “he’s practiced well” in the preseason and will be prepared to lead the Spartan attack.
Adding to the experience in skill positions for Spring Creek will be running back Braxton Williams, who found the end zone through the air and on the ground last season. Fullbacks Jacob Boulette and Sheldon Davis will join him in the backfield as the Spartans look to punish teams with what Jund expects to be a “run-oriented” attack.
Paving the way for that run attack will be the offensive line, a unit that returns a considerable amount of talent but is still looking for more contributors.
“We have some experience in the line,” Jund said. “We’re trying to work on our depth.”
Spring Creek’s offensive line returners include Jake Roumanos, Mark Carroll and twins Jared and Tyler Hanson, all of whom spent last season with the varsity squad after collecting JV experience.
Jund is still looking at options to compete for time at wide receiver, but said that Mike Smith has stood out during practices thanks to his speed, something Jund looks to use as a team strength on offense.
“We might not be the biggest team, but we feel like we’ve got some guys who can run, so we’re going to try to utilize that as a strength,” Jund said.
A year after losing all 11 starters and a defensive coordinator, the Spring Creek defense will enjoy more stability this season with some returning standouts.
Williams will key the team’s defense from the inside linebacker position, according to Jund. Thomas Covert will join him at inside linebacker and also see some carries on offense.
The Spartans will look to a number of contributors on the defensive line, including Chris Reyes, a player Jund called a standout during the first week of practices.
“Chris Reyes has really practiced well,” Jund said. “He’s really shined in offseason workouts.”
Austin Campbell, Payden Shafer and Mike Smith will see time in the Spartan secondary this season, another unit Jund hopes will use its speed to outmatch opponents.
After a season of players learning new roles, Jund hopes the Spring Creek defense can build on its growing confidence and keep opposing offenses honest.
“Defensively, we’re going to be aggressive,” Jund said.
Although Spring Creek boasts more returning talent this season than last year, Jund is still getting a feel for where his team stands with the season opener a week away.
“We’re trying to address all areas of the game,” Jund said. “We’re trying to figure out what we have and evaluate our players.”
Another focus for the Spartans will be to stay competitive against tough opponents, and finding a way to win close games, Jund said. The Spartans lost their final two games of last season by an average of six points.
“We want to improve each week and give ourselves a chance to win games,” Jund said. “Hopefully, we win some of those tight ones and get on a roll.”
“If we can win some tight ones, we can have a great year,” he added.
While Jund expects to see improvement from his team, he anticipates a very challenging conference slate will test the Spartans this season.
“It’s going to be a very tough league,” Jund said. “As we well know from last year, we have no easy games.”
Jund expects difficult games in particular against defending state champion Truckee and Elko, saying he believes the Indians will be one of the league’s top teams. However, he was quick to point out that the Northern I-A has a number of very good teams.
“We’re going to have to be ready each week,” he said.
The Spring Creek coaching staff will also look to experiment with playcalling and strategy to help the Spartans compete throughout the season.
“We’ve got a few wrinkles we’ll unveil at some opportune times,” Jund said, adding that he didn’t want to give away too much or offer opposing teams any extra motivation.
“We’ll keep most of that under our hat,” he said.
Spring Creek’s coaching staff got an early look at the team last Saturday as the Spartans welcomed Battle Mountain and defending Division III champions Lovelock for a scrimmage at the Spring Creek football field.
The Spartans open their season at Dayton on Sept. 6, and host Sparks in their home opener on Sept. 13. Spring Creek’s regular season ends when it hosts the yearly rivalry game against Elko on Nov. 1, a game the Spartans lost by only eight on the road last season.
While Jund wants to compete with the top of the conference and win more close games this season, he emphasized that his main goal for his team is to work and compete as hard as they can.
“Our goal is to be the best that we can be,” he said.