The road to the playoffs won’t be easy for Camden County’s football team.
The Wildcats, 3-3, play in Region 1-7A — without question the toughest in the state. They start of region play Friday against sixth-ranked Colquitt, 6-1. Later this season, they also have to face No. 2 Lowndes and No. 4 Tift County, both currently undefeated.
During the off week, Camden coach Bob Sphire said seniors on the team volunteered at the Salvation Army as a way to repay the community for its support during their time on the team.
“You have an opportunity to give back to the community,” he said. “Everybody doesn’t get a chance to be a football player.”
Players worked at a warehouse, where they helped reorganize the building and unload a large truckload of food.
“It took two hours (to unload the truck) in what would have been an all-day project,” he said. “The kids had an awesome time.”
The community service project is not likely going to help the team win games, but it did help strengthen an already strong bond between players.
As for the underclassmen, they worked on fundamentals while the seniors volunteered.
“We had a chance to see what the team will look like for next spring’s practice,” he said. “It was a good eye opener for the staff.”
One thing they learned is some positions lack depth and some players may be moved to a different position next season rather than sit on the bench.
“We’ve got to share guys and get players on the field,” he said.
Sphire, who took over the program this season, said the goal has been for improvement each day in the weight room and on the field.
“There have been starts and stops,” he said. “There have been times when we looked like a car with water in the tank. We’ve sputtered and sputtered.”
He said the 35-3 loss to Venice earlier this season was frustrating because his team played better than the final score looked. The only game where he was disappointed the 38-13 loss to McEachern.
“They lost faith. They lost hope. That was disappointing,” he said.
It was also a learning experience once he showed game film to the players.
The focus for the upcoming game has to remain on the Camden players and the team itself, rather than on facing a one of the top high school football programs in the nation.
“This is not the time for the program to focus on any of that,” he said. “We have no control over what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. For us, to be the program we want to be, it’s got to be about us.”
Players on the Colquitt team have full accountability if they don’t perform, Sphire said while Camden’s players are still learning a new system.
“The plan is the plan and it will be successful if it’s executed properly,” he said.
His only complaint is the configuration of the region with some of the best teams in the state in one region. Potentially, a team that could go deep in the playoffs won’t qualify because only the top three teams go on to post-season play.
“Geographically, this region is not like the rest of Georgia,” he said. “It’s a bad plan.”
Some Atlanta-area teams with winning records will qualify for the state playoffs against lesser competition than the games played in Region 1, where every game is like a playoff.
“I know those teams up there,” he said. “They will get some wins that look really good. It’s not equitable. If we had more big teams in the South, we wouldn’t have this situation.”
Looking forward, Sphire said he will continue to help players improve each day as they make a playoff run.
“We’ve got four games to play; three in the region and one against Glynn Academy, one of our top rivals,” he said.
He knows it will be a tough challenge to beat Colquitt at Chris Gilman Stadium on Friday, but not impossible.
“I recognize the quality of their program,” he said. “But who knows? That’s why we play the game.”