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Spencer County Bears Head Coach Mike Marksbury and his staff went into last Friday’s scrimmage with Nelson County not concerned with the final score, but saw it as an opportunity to get several of his younger players some much-needed experience.
The scoreboard wasn’t kind to the Bears as they were behind 40-12 when both teams began pulling their starters, but Marksbury said his eyes weren’t on the score, but on the development of his team.
“I just told our kids going into the scrimmage that I wasn’t worried about the outcome,” he said. “That may sound crazy, but I know what our team needs to improve on.”
On offense, the Bears will be starting a sophomore whose snaps under center Friday were his first as a varsity player. Jacob DeRudder showed a good, strong arm and improved his decision making as the night went on.
“It was his first live action and a chance for him to get a lot of looks and make some plays, make some mistakes and the outcome didn’t matter,” Marksbury said. “I know he is a competitor and he is extremely hard on himself, but he got better. He has all the tools to be a very good quarterback and the team supports him.”
He’ll also have a very dangerous weapon in Kynan Smith as a wide receiver. Smith is tall, fast and can be a instant playmaker. DeRudder looked to him often Friday night and the scrimmage gave the Bears ample opportunity to work on a passing game that was somewhat limited last season.
“There is no secret we have to complete more passes this season, but I won’t say our offense is going to change a lot,” Marksbury said. “We will throw it more this year, but our bread is buttered with our running game with Logan Holbrook and Shawn Boykin and others.” Both had a few good runs Friday night, including a 50-plus-yard touchdown run by Holbrook just before halftime. If the Bears can add a potent passing attack to their running game, Marksbury hopes they’ll pose a lot of problems for defenses this season.
Of course, whether they move the ball on the ground or through the air, the success all starts up front on the offensive line. The Bears lost four starters from the line last season, so it’s a new group, but it’s one Marksbury has confidence in.
“I saw some good things in the scrimmage on their pass protection Friday,” he said. “I feel that our line is really suited for the offense that we run.”
He said there may be a few growing pains early, but expects this squad to be like past teams and improve as the season goes on.
They will be anchored by senior All-District center, Tyler Eldridge.
Last season, the defense was consistently solid, and at times it was stellar. Despite the Bears losing 17 seniors from last year’s team, a number of them who starred on defense, Marksbury expects the defense to be the strength of the team again.
“Several of the starters will be tough to replace, but the guys that were behind them were also getting better and now it is their chance to step in and continue what we started,” Marksbury said.
The defense struggled a bit Friday against Nelson County’s unorthodox spread offense, but Marksbury said that’s an offense they probably won’t see much during the season. What he does expect to see is continued improvement from his team that he described as “young on experience.”
The defense may well be led by the linebackers as seniors Michael Fowler and Trenton Bryant hope to repeat on last year’s success.
Another noticeable improvement on Friday night’s sidelines was just the sheer number of blue helmets on the Spencer sideline. Marksbury said there are 66 players on the current roster, which is a great number. He said the kids work hard all year round and the continued interest and commitment by players, parents and the community signal that the program’s future continues to be bright.
That future, however, starts Friday night as the Bears will travel back to Bardstown to take on Thomas Nelson High School. Marksbury said the expectations for this season are to keep the program moving forward and hopefully learn from last season’s disappointing second-round playoff exit.