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Bears football wrap-up

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By John Shindlebower

Spencer County Head Football Coach Mike Marksbury has mostly positive reflections of the just-completed 2013 campaign and an even brighter outlook for the future as the Bears already begin work on next season.
The Bears finished the season with a 6-5 record on the year and a first-round loss to Nelson County in the playoffs, but instead of focusing on the wins and losses, Marksbury said he was proud that his team made week to week improvements in nearly all aspects of the game.
“As a team we generally show improvement from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. We learned some things about our team as the season went along and we made some adjustments.”
The willingness to learn and improve helped a relatively young team become dangerously competitive and should translate to even more potential next season. A big part of the improvement came in increased depth which allowed more players to see the field and required fewer players having to exert themselves on both sides of the ball. Marksbury said having key players on the field for a lot of snaps on both offense and defense created some fatigue early on, especially during an early season matchup against Shelby County on a very hot night. As more players began to contribute, Marksbury was able to rest key players and the team as a whole had more energy.
One area of concern that plagued the Bears at critical moments during the season was turnovers. He said in four of the Bears’ five losses, Spencer County lost the turnover battle and some of those came at critical times when the game could have turned on better ball security.
On offense, Spencer County has long been known for it’s smash-mouth running attack and this season was no different. Both Logan Holbrook and Shawn Boykin gained over 1,000 yards rushing on the year. Marksbury was happy for the senior Boykin to get that milestone in his final season, and is excited for Holbrook who will be returning for his junior season in 2014.
“Both those guys are talented but none of that would have been possible without the improvement of the offensive line,” said Marksbury. The Bears had to replace four seniors on that line from last year and it took a while for the new guys to mesh. Around mid-season, Marksbury said the guys began playing pretty solid and helped the Bears put together more sustained drives.
Marksbury had hoped to pass the ball more and knows a lot of fans want to see the ball in the air. However, the Bears went with a sophomore quarterback in Jacob DeRudder who was seeing his first varsity action. They tried to open up the offense early on with some success, but DeRudder got banged up and was less than 100 percent for four or five games that limited the passing game to a great extent. DeRudder will return next year with a season of experience under his belt and a senior receiving threat in Kynan Smith.
On defense, the Bears again proved to be an opponent’s nightmare more often than not.
“Defensively, this may have been one of our better years. We pride ourselves in stopping the run and we basically did that except for the Bullitt East game.”
The Bears also improved vastly in their pass defense and most teams simply had a hard time moving the ball against Spencer County. Collins, who is attempting to earn a second straight trip to the 4A title game, has been held to 21 or fewer points only twice this season, and once was against the Bears.
Marksbury said he has built his program on solid defense and his players have learned to take it personally when they give up points. “We have one of the top defenses in 4A, and as long as you continue to play defense you will give your chance to win.”
“One thing our kids understand is that when you come into our program you will play defense. We start spring practice and focus on fundamentals of tackling and giving maximum effort on every play. If you don’t play defense, you cannot advance and cannot just go out and outscore people.”
On special teams, Marksbury was pleased for the most part with return teams and coverage teams. Senior kicker Derek Clemens was pretty consistent on extra points, had a strong enough leg to be a field-goal threat, and did a great job of pinning the opponent deep in their own territory on a number of punts.
A second consecutive winning season has led to a new motto among the team, which now abides by the “not on my watch” philosophy of keeping the positive momentum alive for the program.
“No one wants to be the senior class that slows that momentum down,” he said.
Next season, they will have around 8 starters on each side of the ball returning, but he said that alone won’t guarantee success. He said that comes from the hard work the players are currently being asked to do in the offseason.
“We need to be bigger, faster and stronger to keep this thing going. We have had great leadership from our senior class on how things are supposed to be done. When that weight room was open, they were there and putting the time in.”
Marksbury said winning seasons are not enough to keep him happy however.
“I am extremely excited about what the future holds. I’m proud of the winning seasons, but our program needs to take the next step and make deeper runs in the playoffs.”
Ending the season, Marksbury wanted to again thank and recognize the seniors who have helped the program continue their march toward success. This year’s seniors were: Shawn Boykin, Trenton Bryant, Derek Clemens, Tyler Eldridge, Michael Fowler, Aaron French, Gage Gedling, Braxton Leff, Cody Nevitt and Zack Smith. Also mentioned were senior managers Krysten Barlow, Taylor Brian, MacKenzie Myers and Lyric Rogers.