Coming into the season, Lima Senior head coach Andre Griffin knew a quick start would go a long way to gaining confidence for a relatively young squad and his upstart Spartans have responded with two big wins to open the season.
The Spartans made some big offensive plays to take out Lima Central Catholic, 49-45, in the season opener and then backed that up with a strong defensive showing to upend Piqua, 17-14, in week two.
Now Griffin would like to see that winning attitude and momentum continue as the Spartans prepare for a trip to Painsville Riverside Friday, Lima Seniors final tune-up before entering the always competitive Three Rivers Athletic Conference (TRAC).
“Getting that first win was big against Lima Central Catholic especially after last year. We needed a win,” Griffin said. “It didn’t matter who we were playing. Obviously the LCC game was the biggest game around this community since the state championship some 20 years ago. It was fun but it was stressful at the same time.”
Last season the Spartans got off to an 0-2 start and never really got into a groove for the rest of the season so beginning with back-to-back victories has given the young Spartans confidence and Griffin said it was how they won the games that he is excited about.
“I thought we had a little let down against Piqua but what I was happy with the kids is that we overcame adversity again in a tough battle and won it at the end,” Griffin said. “We made some plays in the fourth quarter that was great and we are coming together than I have seen from our program in a while so hopefully we can keep doing that.”
Griffin said from week one to two he saw the defense really step up its game. Against the highly explosive LCC squad, the Spartans gave up 45 points, however, against Piqua, the defense yielded 14 points.
The Spartan defense gave up 230 total yards to Piqua. Against LCC the Spartan defense gave up 462 yards.
It was a big defensive play by Jermaine Daniels, who was hurt and did not play in week one, that sealed the deal for the Spartan when the Lima Senior defensive back made a key interception late in the game.
While Daniels pick was instrumental in the win, Griffin said one improvement he saw was the play of the defensive line that provided constant pressure on Piqua in the running and passing games.
Senior Brandon Taylor anchors the line and Griffin said after the win over Piqua that moving Caymien Durr from end to middle linebacker was a big key in the defense’s performance.
“I honestly believe our defensive line is one of the best in the area first of all and in the TRAC,” Griffin said. “Our defensive ends have quickness and power and we have some young guys who are coming along very well.”
Griffin credits coach Biggie Townsend for his work in rotating defensive players in and out.
Offensively, Griffin has seen growth as well.
Lima Senior’s run game has been a major reason for the offense’s success. Against LCC, the Spartans rolled up 223 rushing yards with Jawan Anderson gaining 181 yards. Anderson, who was banged up a little against Piqua, garnered 59 yards.
Benefiting from the running game has been quarterback E.J. Cameron. The junior signal caller tossed for more than 300 yards against LCC and while he did not match those numbers against Piqua, passing for 174 yards with one touchdown and one interception, he did show poise down the stretch.
“He is learning the game of football and I think for us we have great coaching,” Griffin said. “Obviously knowing the offense and knowing the double reads and triple reads is good and he gives the slots and the receivers confidence that he is going to get them the ball throughout the game.”
Griffin added that Piqua did somethings that they did not do in the first game and said the offense took what the defense gave them and did not force the issue.
“Our game goes a lot of with our run game,” Griffin said. “Jawan was a little slower last week because of his ankle so he didn’t have the burst so once he gets his big play ability back, and our offensive line keeps doing the right things, that will open up the passing game.”
Not to be overlooked was the play of the special teams that Griffin said was another factor in the win over Piqua. The special teams have provided clutch field goals and got a 97-yard return from Daniels that accounted for one of the two Spartan touchdowns.
The team makes its first road trip when they travel across the state to play Painesville Riverside and Griffin will again be looking to see continued progress on both sides of the ball as well as how his team plays on the road.
Riverside is 0-2 on the season after losing their opener to Perry 63-54 and then followed it up by dropping a 28-7 decision to Kirtland.
Griffin expects another tough battle against Riverside.
“This is our first time travelling and it is real travel game because we are going to the Cleveland area so I think we can come together as a true business trip,” Griffin said. “We can’t turn ball over in different situations and we have to understand different situations meaning when we are ahead we can’t make mistakes which I think we did last week.”
Griffin added that this team is learning how to win and more importantly learning how to finish and said this is important because he expects the Spartans to be in a lot of close games.
“’Never give up. Never give in.’ That is what I say a lot,” Griffin said. “Hopefully it keeps going. You never know. It is still early in the season and we still have a lot of improvements. But the players are doing a lot of positive things and doing positive stuff.”