By Mike Moore
Springport — On Friday night, the Springport and Concord football teams will meet on the gridiron, per usual.
And it will be unlike anything else to happen before
“I think everything about this game is awesome,” Concord coach Max Clark said late Thursday night. “It’s new to our community and players and team, to be in this situation and have the chances in front of us that we’ve do.”
“This is what small-town football is all about,” Springport coach Matt Schwartzkopf said of his team’s home game with the Yellowjackets. “This is two towns who have communities that center around the football teams, especially when they are doing well. This is going to be a cool atmosphere that I think all the kids are going to love being a part of.”
The meeting will be the 58th all-time between the schools, which are separated by a roughly 20-minute drive.
But never before have the teams entered the game this late in the season with each having as strong a record as they do.
Concord comes in 5-0 overall and 4-0 in the Big 8, while Springport is 4-1 overall and 3-1 in the Big 8.
“Discipline on our part is so key,” Clark said when asked about the keys to winning. “They are always good, always well coached. They are tougher then heck.”
Clark, and Concord for that matter, hasn’t had much success against the Spartans.
Springport has won six in a row and 11 of the past 12 meetings.
But that only tells part of the story.
In the past four years, Springport’s wins have come by a total of 19 points, and two of those four games were decided in overtime.
“I don’t think it’s something that’s come up,” Schwartzkopf said about Springport’s success in the series. “We have a group of guys that know nothing but close wins. I think, one way or the other, our guys don’t have a sense of what Concord was before Max turned them around. They know Concord as a hard-nosed team that’s tough to play against. And we have to be ready for that again.”
It was just a few years ago the Yellowjackets were suffering through three 1-8 seasons in four years.
Clark, though, has taken the expectations of a downtrodden program and done a complete 180.
Concord has a chance to clinch a playoff spot Friday for the second year in a row, something the program has done just once in program history.
“That is one of our goals, to make the playoffs,” Clark said. “One of the things we talked about, though, was that not being our only goal. I think we learned that lesson last year. So, we have a lot of goals this year, and making the playoffs is one of them, for sure. … It’s a huge deal for us. To have that chance is very exciting.”
While Concord has a fairly balanced attack — Austin Hoxie tossed four touchdowns last week — there’s no secret to how the Yellowjackets want to operate.
Running back Tony Brooks Jr. has been virtually unstoppable this year.
In last week’s 33-27 victory against Athens, he rushed for a program-record 298 yards on 32 carries.
“Have to stop their running game, that’s for sure,” Schwartzkopf said when asked about his team’s keys. “We have to keep him corralled somehow. His yards after contact have to be kept in check.”
Springport was perfect on the year before falling to Homer 28-26 last Friday.
“Our guys are ready to bounce back,” Schwartzkopf said. “We’re not dwelling on anything. They are ready to go.”
The game will air on JTV and jtv.tv Saturday at 3:30pm and 9:30pm and on Sunday at 9:30pm. (file photo above)
Mike Moore is a play-by-play commentator and Sports Writer for JTV Sports. You can reach him at email@example.com. He’s also the author of ‘Love, Defined; A Dedication to the Love, Sacrifice, and Magic of Motherhood.’
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