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Plant City Observer Friday, Aug. 25, 2017 1 year ago

Game of the Week: Spoto at Strawberry Crest

The Chargers are looking to snap their regular-season losing streak against the Spartans tonight.
by: Justin Kline Sports/Associate Editor

After his Strawberry Crest Chargers defeated Seminole, 13-7, Ron Hawn was a happy man. It seemed the wave of students spilling onto the field felt the same way, if not more elated. But Crest’s head coach wasn’t quite sure why a preseason win, however rare wins may be for the Chargers, would inspire anyone to rush the field.

“This is awesome, but act like you’ve been there before,” Hawn said he thought at the time.

Several hours later, poring over game film, something about that moment clicked for the coach.

“It’s hard to win a game,” Hawn said. “It just is. But I didn’t realize until about 2:30, 2:40 in the morning, I’m sitting in here watching film and I started doing the math. The last time Strawberry Crest won a home game was before anybody at this school, student-wise, was at this school.”

That last home win was Oct. 18, 2013. The reason no one could bring themselves to act like they had “been there before” is because none of the students had ever been there before. It was the first time Strawberry Crest won a home game since the school’s current seniors were in the eighth grade.

“I got kind of emotional, a little teary-eyed, because it’s like a big change coming from losing, losing, losing,” senior defensive lineman Kisean Ruth said. “Even though it’s a preseason game, that feeling of winning — it’s a good feeling.”

Hawn said the Chargers played faster than he’d ever seen the team play before. Crest was able to limit mistakes, avoid penalties and, most importantly, win the battle for field position thanks to punter Dylan Rogers.

Though the Chargers gave up a touchdown in the second half, Crest was immediately able to punch back. On the first play from scrimmage after receiving possession, senior wideout Jamar Hart put the home team on the scoreboard with a 60-yard play. The defense was able to keep the Warhawks’ offense out of the end zone for the rest of the game and give the offense the chance to score once again, setting the 13-7 final.

Though Spoto only won one more game (two) in 2016 than Seminole (one), the Spartans look to increase the difficulty heading into tonight’s game through its speed and ability to work with broken plays.

“If they get you in space they can make a back yard play as good as anybody,” Hawn said. “Kind of reminds me of back when I was in Pinellas County and playing Gibbs … they fumble the ball and there’s a good chance they’re going to pick it up and go do something weird with it because it gets everybody out of position. Spoto isn’t quite like that but they definitely have some kids that can scoot. They’re scary in that regard.”

But the Chargers are now more confident in themselves than they’ve been in years. This week’s matchup presents the opportunity to work on two of their biggest goals.

First there’s the matter of getting the support of their fellow students, which appears doable through winning.

“It’s starting to change a little bit,” Ruth said. “Now they’re opening their eyes like, ‘OK, our team’s actually trying to do something good. Maybe we should start trying to support them more.’ It’s getting up there. It’s still not where I’d like it to be, but it’s changing.”

Last, but not least, there’s the matter of ending the team’s other losing streak — the one that matters most. No one in the program has forgotten that the team hasn’t won a regular-season game since Sept. 19, 2014. Winning a preseason game is good for the Chargers’ self-esteem but, in the grand scheme of the season, it’s otherwise meaningless.

Winning a regular-season game would allow the Chargers to finally put the past behind them.

“My expectations are to come out with a win … to really, officially, break our streak,” Ruth said.

Justin Kline is the Sports/Associate Editor at the Plant City Observer. He has been covering all things sports-related in the Winter Strawberry Capital of the World since 2013.

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