SPENCER — There's a renewed energy coursing through spring football workouts at Star Spencer.
It's not a familiar feeling for the players, because none of them were there in the fall of 2009, when the Bobcats were on top of the world as the Class 4A champions.
No, these players have been at Star for multiple coaching changes, back-to-back one-win seasons, and finally last year, a little bit of a breakthrough.
The Bobcats finished 5-5 and lost in the first round of the playoffs.
But they were in the playoffs with a team made up considerably of freshmen and sophomores. Last fall, those young players thought they could be a good team. Now, they know it.
“We're ready, because we know how big this can be,” said running back Jerome Smith, who will be a junior in the fall. “Experiencing the playoffs, it makes scrimmages or practice feel like it's light work, because you know what the road ahead is.”
The class of players who will graduate this month were the last ones around from the 2009 title team, and they left a legacy with the current players.
“That group of guys that just left, I learned a lot from them,” said quarterback Marshawn Reid II, one of only a couple players who will be seniors. “They taught us about not giving up. Two years ago, when we were 1-9, we were down 40-0 and we were still pushing hard. And we just kept pushing, and last year we went 5-5 and made it to the playoffs.
“You can't give up, and that's what they always taught us.”
Star has benefitted from continuity at the coaching position, too. James Harding was the third coach in as many seasons when he was hired in 2011, but now, he'll be going into his third season.
“Coach Harding has developed different ways to make us better,” said junior-to-be Milon Smith, who has played the last two seasons at linebacker while helping at receiver and running back. “We're doing more on offense, doing different things on defense. It's been really good, because we all understand things.”
The biggest benefit of the continuity shows in the young players who have been in Harding's system — many of them starting — since they were freshmen.
“When I came in, I started a lot of freshmen,” Harding said. “These kids have that playoff experience, and they know what it takes to get there. Those young guys matured a lot. I haven't had to be telling them to get in the weight room. They know to go do it.”
Added Jerome Smith: “A lot of players at other schools don't even get the chance to start until their junior year, but we have a lot of guys here who have been starting since we were freshmen. We have that experience and we're on a different level now. We're just ready to come out here and showcase our talent.
“It's time to get gold. And we will.”