Thanks to Cornavirus, 2020 was a challenging season for every team, however for squads with new coaches, like South Spencer, the adversity really took it's tool.
"The only thing that I think would have been tougher is if I would have been a first year head coach," says South Spencer head coach Jeff Daming.
With ten years of experience on the sidelines, Jeff Daming returned to his alma mater to turn around. He couldn't picked a tougher year to start the ressurrection, as Coronavirus thwarted his attempt to install his gameplan.
"The term I always use, when you have a restaurant," says Daming, "you have a soft grand opening. Basically the whole season was like that. Very shortened preseason. Were into the second week of the season, I'm still learning freshman and sophomores names. And I think it took a while for us to gel. I think that trust, that bond had to be built."
The results reflected that, as the Rebels stumbled out to a 1 and 6 start, their lone victory coming against winless Pike Central. However, the light at the end of the tunnel came on the final night of the regular season, a road win against a surprisingly good Tell City squad.
"The one time we came together as a team was against Tell City," says South Spencer running back/linebacker Haden Durnil. "I think we saw a little glimpse of what we can be and what we should be. And this year I think we can proceed to be like that."
"We all were fired up and ready to go and everything came together for that one game," says South Spencer senior offensive lineman John Brown. "And I think that's carrying over to this season."
"The whole game was emotional from start to finish," says Dming. "If you had to hang your hat on something, not necessarily the way the game was played or anything, but kust the emotion. I felt like the kids gave us everything they had. We finally got complete buy-in from everybody. You look back at that one. We played pretty well that night."
Now the goal is to build on that emotion. Daming finally has a full training camp to mold the Rebels, beginning on offense. Gone is quarterback Kobe Bartlett, who passed for ten touchdowns and rushed for four more.The gameplan was to start Nathan Hurt under center, but living up to his surname, the junior signal caller is recovering from a broken leg suffered during the baseball season, leaving an interesting QB Derby.
"We have two kids that were kind of going to be that guy," says Daming. "Jackson Raaf, who's been a three year starter, He said "Coach, I want the job". Jackson's been a wide receiver, a DB. But then Garin Kenney is a sophomore, who was our jv quarterback all last year. And it's been a really nice rivalry between those two kids, good-natured fund, work hard at practice. So going into the first couple of weeks, it's going to be those two guys. And then we look for Nate to hopefully be ready probably by week three."
As for the rest of the offense, senior Haden Durnil and junior James Vaughn will team up in the backfield, running behind a line that will be the heart of the South Spencer attack.
"Four of those kids are starters from last year," says Daming, "and at that other spot, Isacc Wittman, who's coming in, who started towards the end of the season. Jed Ambs, John Brown, Addison Barnett, then we'll have a little competition between Cage Beatty and Dalen Kennedy over that last left tackle spot. That will be the heart of our football team. It'll start right there. Every good football team starts with the offensive line."
"Our o-line is really good," says Brown. "We're solid. We've got Jed, our right tackle. Big dude, one of the best lineman I've ever played with."
"I see a whole lot of spread," Durnil. "Where we're all communicating. We're getting together more. Last year, we were kind of slowly kind of getting in, because obviously due to COVID, we couldn't see each other until about June. Now we're getting better."
The defense will look to improve on a unit that gave up more than 36 points per game in 2020, bolstered by an experienced linebacking corps with familiar names.
"It starts with our linebackers, Haden, James Vaughn, Rylan Davis, Jackson Raaf," says Daming. "We're going to have some younger kids playing DB. Up front, we're going to a myriad of kids. All five guys from the offensive line will rotate in and out. And then a few younger kids hopefully will get some reps as we go on."
The Rebels open up the 2021 campaign on the road at North Posey.