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Tim Gillespie enters his first season as Sparkman’s head coach looking to instill a winning culture into the Senators’ football program.
Gillespie said Sparkman would need to become a more physical team to help make that happen.
“We’ve never had a reputation for being pretty physical,” said Gillespie, who coached the last two seasons at Holt High in Tuscaloosa.
Sparkman endured its third straight 2-8 season in 2011 and finished 1-6 in Class 6A Region 8 play. The Senators’ last winning season came in 2006 when they posted a school-best 102 mark.
“We need improvement in all areas,” Gillespie pointed out.
Gillespie said that Sparkman has some talented players on each side of the line of scrimmage.
“I think our skill positions are really good,” Gillespie said.
Juniors Brandon Fike and DeVon Johnson will start at flanker and split end, respectively.
Gillespie named junior Danny Johnson as the starting quarterback. Danny and DeVon are twins. Lorenzo James and Blake Chapman will start at the running back. Chapman will also line up at receiver.
Chapman “is a great skilled player,” Gillespie said. “He leads by example.”
Gillespie expects the linebacking corps to be a strong point of the defense. “They’ve got some depth, size and a touch of nastiness,” he said.
Gillespie called linebacker Melik Watkins, Chris Alexander and defensive lineman Josh Cross, all seniors, Sparkman’s defensive leaders.
“You can count on them for their intensity and work ethic every day,” Gillespie said.
Sparkman will travel to former Region 8 rival Huntsville Friday to open the 2012 season. Huntsville will be in Region 7 in 2012. The Senators lost at home to Huntsville 49-17 last season and post a 1-12 mark all-time against the Panthers, who finished second in Region 8 in 2011.
Gillespie said that he expects to face a Huntsville team that is sound in all phases of the game.
“You can’t rely on (Huntsville) making any mistakes.”
The rest of Sparkman’s schedule will also be challenging. Region opponents Bob Jones, Hazel Green and Decatur were playoff teams last season. Austin, which rejoins Region 8 after two years in Region 7, also made the playoffs. Florence won seven games but missed out on the postseason by losing the tie breaker with Hazel Green and Decatur. Non-region opponent Athens reached the 5A playoffs.
“When you play in 6A there’s no such thing as an easy game,” Gillespie said. “Our schedule is extremely challenging. We will prepare one game at a time.”