Sometimes, Camden County head coach Bob Sphire will differ to anecdotes in lieu to the typical football cliches that coaches use when preparing for the week’s opponent.
The seasoned coach sure can tell a story.
Friday morning, Sphire got into his truck to head to his office. His neighbor, who’s worked non-stop as a first responder with the Camden County Sheriff’s Office, tapped on his window. The two men talked, not about Hurricane Irma fallout, but about football.
After some small talk, Sphire asked a question.
“I asked him, ‘You’re a first responder. … What’s your thoughts on us playing?’” Sphire said.
Sphire’s neighbor thought back to 2002 when the mill owned by Durango-Georgia Paper Co. closed, laying off roughly 900 employees. The community bonded over the Wildcats’ football program that finished 10-0 in the regular season and advanced to the state finals.
He said the 2017 Wildcats, some whose possessions and homes were damaged by wind and water, need some normalcy and a return to routine.
“It runs the whole gambit,” Sphire said. “There’s a certain percentage who basically lost everything and others who had little or no impact. Everything is being done in a way, if you have things to do with family, that trumps everything from a football standpoint.”
But there will be football. Brunswick High and Camden County will play at 3 p.m. Saturday at Chris Gilman Stadium in Kingsland. It’s the first game for either program in two weeks.
Gates will open at 2 p.m. and tickets are $5 per person. Ther will be no concessions open during the game, but fans are allowed to bring food and only bottled water.
Both Brunswick and Camden County won their previous games. The Wildcats (2-1) topped the 2016 AAA state runner up Fitzgerald on Sept. 1, 24-21, and the Pirates (1-1) thrashed Cook 53-7 in a rain-shortened game on Aug. 31. Including the opening weekend matchup against Coffee, The Pirates have played just one-and-a-half games this season.
“We need to play this game,” said head coach Sean Pender. “We need to play as much as we can before region play.”
From a football standpoint, preparation for Saturday’s game is challenging for both sides with regards to the time spent and the low percentage of players present.
Pender’s primary concern Friday afternoon was stockpiling enough bottled water to hydrate his team for the afternoon kickoff. Brunswick received some bottled water donations and Pender said he planned to spend booster club funds to buy more on Friday, but he was still concerned about access to drinking water if presuming water restrictions are still in effect.
Pender said the majority of his varsity starters practiced for the first time in over one week Thursday. Some injured players, including Jaylen Trimmings and T.J. Carmena, could see game action Saturday.
Sphire expects some inexperienced players will have more opportunities than usual, and players will have to apply their football knowledge to playing different positions, particularly on special teams.
“I’m a big believer that you only get one shot to be a high school football player,” Sphire said. “You’re only guaranteed 10 games and in a hurricane area you’re not necessarily guaranteed 10.
“It’s going to also test us to see how good as a staff we’ve done to make some of our concepts universal.”
It’s perhaps ironic the game that perhaps signals some post-Irma normalcy for Coastal Georgia communities will be anything but normal on the field. While both defense are preparing for spread offenses, similar to their own schemes, both teams had roughly two days to get back in shape and install some sort of game plan.
“When it comes to game planning, this is going to be abnormal,” Pender said. “This is going to look like a scrimmage game, when you working on getting better at what you do.
“It’s a real game, it counts. But for us it’s more playing experience.”